Don’t shoot, talk, ex-soldier says

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The IDF’s casualty rate is about 1/20th that of Palestinians, an eloquent reminder of the lopsidedness in lethality between the two sides.

Dateline: Montreal Gazette                                                        January 14, 2009

Former Golani Brigade sergeant deplores number of innocent casualties

By Irwin Block, The Gazette                                        

A former Israeli soldier says the Israeli military operation in Gaza is wrong and the country and its supporters should press ahead in the fight for peace.

Avichay Sharon, who served for three years as a first sergeant with the Golani Brigade in the Israeli Defence Forces, is travelling in North American and gave a half-hour talk to journalists that was sponsored by Independent Jewish Voices.

He denounced what he said was Israel’s “bloodthirsty policy” and said if called to serve – soldiers in the reserve outside the country have not been called – he would have refused.

A co-founder, with ex-Palestinian militants, of Combatants for Peace, Sharon declared his love for Israel and his home in Jerusalem, but decried Israel’s military operation instead of negotiating a truce with Hamas.

Hamas is “a terrible mistake, for my people and for their people even worse” but he warned the current operation may lead to a repeat of what happened following Operation Defensive Shield of 2002, when Israeli soldiers invaded major West Bank towns.

“What followed was three more years of bloody fighting, suicide bombings and attacks and today we’re exactly at the same point,” he said.

“Diplomatic initiatives are coming from left and right and we are refusing them.”

Sharon said he cannot accept what appears to be an unusually high rate – 40 to 45 per cent – of innocent casualties.

He expressed the fear that Israel’s moral and democratic values are being eroded by this operation.

Asked why Israel should negotiate with a group vowed to destroy it, Sharon said Israel and the United States insisted on elections and Hamas won.

“I don’t like it one bit, but that’s the reality. You negotiate with your enemy, you do not negotiate with your friends.”

And when he returns home and gets the call to serve in the reserves, Sharon said it will be a tough decision.

“If I had been called to take part in something like what is happening now I would definitely refuse, for moral, political and patriotic reasons.  “Sometimes you have to say no,” he said, even if the consequence often means going to jail.

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