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Sahar Vardi is a young Israeli woman who was conscripted to the country’s Defence Force at the age of eighteen but reused to serve because of her opposition to its military occupation of Palestinian land and was therefore imprisoned as a conscientious objector. She informed us that there was not really contact between Israeli Jews and Palestinians on the basis of common social intercourse, which is underlined by the fact that Palestinians working in Israel are for the most part confined to menial and manual work. ( In the occupied territories contact between the two is almost non-existent, except for the relationship of coloniser and colonised.)

Sahar stated, as is generally acknowledged, that Israel now has the most right-wing government since its creation in 1949. It is an indication of the strength of feeling of the general Israeli population against the Palestinians, she informed us, that opinion polls during the attack on Gaza two years ago registered 90% support for that attack.

 

Sahar described about how  Israelis are brainwashed from an early age into an acceptance of militarism in all spheres of life, starting with the schools and going on through the almost universal compulsory military conscription. The daily environment in which they move is rife with symbols of their military inventions and prowess.


She then spoke about the Israeli arms industry which is critical to its financial and industrial development and to achieving its political aims abroad. Israel is the fourth-biggest arms manufacturer in the world. It is a major exporter of arms. It seizes the opportunity to test newly manufactured ones on the Palestinians in the conflicts between the two sides, and this is highly valuable in promoting their sale through arms fairs etc.

 

Despite the wide support for military action against the people of Gaza there is an increasing stream of emigration from Israel. Most surprising is the fact that the chief destination for the emigrants is Berlin despite memories of the Holocaust. Sahar herself is a member of one of the small group of non-governmental organisations that opposes government policy against the Palestinians. When she was asked what people in Britain could do to help to change the situation in her country she said that pressure should be applied against the Israeli government through, for example, divestment from companies that do business with Israel. She thus seemed to be advocating the sort of action that we know as the BDS campaign – Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. The Israeli government is, however, tightening up on allowing foreigners into the country who transit to the West Bank to support the Palestinians in various ways.

 

Sahar concluded by making the rather surprising assertion that the situation of conflict between Israel and the Palestinians cannot last for ever – and that it could change quite quickly. We must hope that she is right – and of course continue and strengthen our actions in support of this objective.