|Directed by:||Shiri Tsur||Rating:||TV-14|
|Release Date:||2005||Running Time:||64 mins|
|More Info:||First Run Icarus' overview of "On the Objection Front"||Category:||Israel|
An award-winning and highly controversial film that Time Out called “unflinching and moving!”, On The Objection Front shares shocking accounts of the Israeli army’s treatment of Palestinians from Israeli Defense Force soldiers who, in protest, refuse to serve.
“The army and the public gradually turn into an animal. And repression always goes on to the last minute,” says one soldier, explaining why he has refused to serve in the IDF. “French soldiers in Algeria, the whites in South Africa or there, where all comparisons are forbidden [Nazi, Germany]. When they did it none of them thought it was wrong. They really, really, really thought they were saving their people.”
In 2002, a group of Israeli Defense Force soldiers decided they’d had enough. Despite facing public ridicule and the possibility of jail time, they put out a public statement of announcing their refusal to serve in the occupied territories and fight in what they called the “War of the Settlements.” On The Objection Front tells the stories of these soldiers who formed the Courage to Refuse movement, watching as the controversy circling them develops and raising critical questions about national loyalty and personal ethics.
The debate over Courage to Refuse is heated. In a public statement, former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said, “What they did is very grave,” and Israeli newspaper headlines describe their actions as an “earthquake.” But the controversy reaches beyond politics to stirs tensions within families—brothers disagree and fathers are faced with unbearable disappointment when they think their sons are being disloyal to their country.
In Israel, where military pilots receive more respect than doctors, deep-rooted public support of the military only intensifies the antagonism faced by “refuseniks.” Members of Courage to Refuse are likely to be seen as shirking their responsibilities and encouraging anarchy. “Shame on you,” one man yells at a refusenik, calling him “a disgrace to the State of Israel! … You’re a friend to Arafat!” The strong backlash of aggression directed towards the refuseniks only adds to Israel’s heated politics.
But the horrifying stories that the former IDF soldiers who’ve joined Courage to Refuse share are hard to ignore. One man continues to be tortured by the fact that he watched his fellow soldiers beat a fourteen-year-old Palestinian shepherd boy until his body lay limp like a pile of rags. He speculates that the boy couldn’t have gone on to live for very long.
The refuseniks don’t only share disturbing stories of injustice, though. They also speak candidly about their personal struggles with the ambiguities of the political situation. “Why did I want to be a soldier hero as a boy?” the youngest of the refuseniks asks, recognizing that the army is associated with images of valiant heroism and justice. Another member of Courage to Refuse says even though he has abandoned the military, he’s not sure he’d want his now second-grader son to do the same. Even as a refusenik he still believes the army builds character that might one day help his son develop into a man.
On The Objection Front suggests that service isn’t just about following orders: it’s about acting as a representative of one’s nation. Regardless of what side of the debate one falls on, most would agree that soldiers, like all men and women, should act thoughtfully and quietly question their authorities before falling into line. “An officer with doubts is a good officer,” a senior officer lectures a room full of soldiers.
At the formation of the modern state of Israel, in fact, the first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion insisted that the nation’s success depended not only on its military but also its moral strength. On The Objection Front questions whether the country still has that moral strength on which to stand.