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Dear Soldiers, We’ve met with many of you in recent days, sometimes at gunpoint, sometimes in more relaxed settings when your guns weren’t aimed at us. Some of you, trained as snipers, have chosen to shoot over our heads. We think many of you join us in desiring to inflame passions for justice and peace […]

An Open Letter to Israeli Soldiers

by Kathy Kelly

Dear Soldiers,

We’ve met with many of you in recent days, sometimes at gunpoint, sometimes in more relaxed settings when your guns weren’t aimed at us. Some of you, trained as snipers, have chosen to shoot over our heads.

We think many of you join us in desiring to inflame passions for justice and peace rather than passions for hatred and war.

Many of you have told us that you don’t want to carry and use weapons, that you have no choice, that you are only doing your job, that you are only following orders. As we left the Jenin Camp, one of you called out, "It’s very comfortable for you to judge us from New York City." We don’t want to be the judges, but yes, there will be a judgement from Jenin, from Nuremberg.

Others of you have said that you must follow orders to kill and destroy because it is the only way to protect your country.

But the brutality of the devastation wreaked upon Jenin and other West Bank cities will never ease the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

We ask you please to consider Colin Powell’s statement made on September 11 after the second suicide attack on the World Trade Center. He said, "The people who perpetrated this barbarous act think that by killing people and destroying buildings you can achieve a political goal." And then he said, "They are always wrong." All who support or enact violent means, whether random or systematic, whether as leaders or followers, need to look into the mirror which is held up to us in that statement.

Presidents Sharon, Arafat, and Bush, along with Mr. Powell, share the attitude that it is they and their emissaries who alone can resolve the conflict by sitting down at negotiating tables. Certainly negotiation and dialogue are preferable to brute force as means to at least temporarily enforce a cease-fire and reinstate a peace process. But when we who are ordinary people emphasize negotiations by people in power, we disempower ourselves. The leadership on all sides has been empowered and enriched, but it is also exhausted and over-stretched. The leaders are not up to the potential of their own people.

So we are asking you not to follow those who would lead you toward more killing and more destruction. We’re asking you to find kindred spirits within your ranks and beyond who will lead in new directions, unarmed and reliant on focused nonviolent efforts to achieve peace.

Sincerely,

Kathy Kelly

Kathy Kelly is co-coordinator of Voices in the Wilderness, a campaign to end the economic sanctions against Iraq. They traveled to Israel /Palestine in response to calls from the International Solidarity Movement and other organizations working to reduce violence in the region and nonviolently resist Israeli Occupation of Palestine. She can be reached at: info@vitw.org