Photo: Meir Azulay
Yonathan Shapira
Photo: Meir Azulay
Yonathan Shapira: Israel the real 'refusenik' - of peace
Former pilot turned peace activist tells of experience at UN Palestinian rights committee meeting, says onus on Israel to bring change
Two Israelis, 'refusenik' ex-pilot Yonathan Shapira and B'Tselem representative Eitan Diament, participated in a special meeting held by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, despite the fact that the committee is boycotted by the Israeli government.


The meeting, which was held Thursday at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, marked "40 years of occupation by Israel of the Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem."


Israel objects to the committee based on the claim that "it is a wasteful body that exists to promote a Palestinian narrative and denigrate Israel. Its decisions have no jurisdiction. Real decisions are made by the UN Security Council and General Assembly."


Shapira, who represents the Israeli-Palestinian organization 'Combatants for Peace' - a group of former fighters from both sides of the conflict, is known for being the initiating signatory on a letter by former IDF pilots stating their refusal to carry out certain military orders in Gaza or the West Bank. 


Shapira, in the past and now, claims his actions are motivated by love for his country.  "I love my nation and my people. I told the committee my story, that through the suffering of the Israeli side, I discovered the suffering of the Palestinian side," he told Ynet.


According to Shapira, he spoke to the committee about the many Israeli social organizations working towards peace and against Israeli presence in the territories, saying such groups give him hope for a future solution. 


"If Israelis and Palestinians who fought each other and dealt in violence, if we can come together in order to bring an end to occupation and terror and violence, then anything is possible," he said.


Regardless of these social groups, Shapira placed the burden to bring about a new reality on the Israeli government. "We need to hope that the Israeli government will bring about a change. It is the real 'refusenik' - of peace."


He expressed his regret that a formal Israeli representative had not participated in the event, since "we discussed a just peace, an end to the conflict and Israeli security. There was no criticism or threat regarding Israel's existence.


Diament expressed similar sentiments, saying "the name of the committee creates the suspicion that there's a diversion and a lack of objectivity, but we decided to come and present a fuller picture.


"As expected, there was little mentioned about Israeli suffering," he conceded.


"I spoke of human rights violations of Palestinians at the hands of Israelis, but made sure to speak of violations of Palestinian rights at the hands of Palestinians and violations of the rights of Israeli citizens in the Gaza vicinity at the hands of Palestinians," he said.   


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