Israeli Peace Activist Visits Brisbane

by Megan Yarrow

Israeli peace activist Rotem Dan Mor spoke about his experiences as a conscientious objector and advocate of non-violence at Ahimsa House in Brisbane last Tuesday evening.  Rotem was joined by Paul Benedek from Green Left, who chaired the forum, and Halim Rane, academic and Fair go for Palestine activist, who has recently returned from a trip to Palestine.

Imagine having to allow in your planning that your 100 km trip from Brisbane to the Gold Coast may take five hours.  Halim related that the current situation with Israeli imposed checkpoints throughout Palestine is such that a trip of equal distance could take five hours (and that's on a good day!) “There can be no doubt of the effect these checkpoints have on the economy, not to mention morale of the Palestinian people,” he said, later adding that taking away people's rights always leads to conflict.  The  solution lies in our politicians adopting a position that supports human rights and international law.

At the age of 18, Rotem was conscripted and spent much of his time serving as a soldier-teacher.  Except in the rarest of circumstances, it is compulsory for all Israeli citizens to serve a period in the army.  He then registered as a conscientious objector and has organised seminars and non-violent protests throughout Israel.  Rotem spoke about his experiences within Israel with processes of conflict resolution and non-violent
resistance.  He has been imprisoned for his views, but isn't one to detail the daily inconveniences and injustices he faces as a conscientious objector.  However, he did indicate he has experienced police brutality and is regularly detained and searched.  On one occasion, Rotem's parents were also strip-searched.

When the forum was opened to questions and comment, a gentleman who had served in the  Middle East while in the Irish army, asked Rotem about the Israeli army training and particularly the killing of civilians (which he had witnessed in Southern Lebanon during the '80s).  In training “the enemy” are never mentioned as people, but as a “thing”, and it is common practice for Israeli soldiers to create a reaction by firing into Palestinian villages thereby starting a “justified” battle.

In Australia, politicians on “both sides” of the political fence  are supportive of the recent Israeli actions, even when our own citizens have been (and still are) caught in the cross-fire. The voice of the citizenry, human rights and the rule of law are not a priority in this country, which has become little more than a dictatorship and colonial outpost of the US/Israeli empire.
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