This article is based on a presentation given at the Jan. 21 International Assembly Against Imperialism in Solidarity with Palestine, held on the 100th anniversary of the death of Vladimir Lenin. Michael Kramer is a former member of the Israeli Occupation Forces who participated in the 1973 Arab-Israeli War and who became a supporter of Palestinian resistance. He’s now president of Veterans for Peace, New Jersey chapter 021.

Michael Kramer at Lenin Centennial, Jan. 21, 2024, New York City. (Credit: Joe Piette)

As an Israeli soldier, I took part in the occupation, not only of Palestine but of Syria and Egypt. I want to expand a bit today on our solidarity with the people of Syria, who continue to live — more than 60 years, since 1967 — in the Golan under a brutal occupation, which in many ways mirrors the occupation of Palestinian land, with expropriation, administrative detentions and unending imprisonment for decades.

So why don’t we give a round of applause to a people who, like the Palestinian people, are the definition of steadfastness, who refuse to give up their land in the Golan. 

The last few days, if you follow the news from Palestine and Israel, you’ll see there have been quite a few demonstrations called by Israelis. They’re called by different organizations, and they have different agendas. Some are for the release of civilian detainees. Others are for having elections and getting rid of Netanyahu’s government and bringing in a new government. 

Yesterday there was an interesting protest and this took place in Haifa. The maximum allowed by police was 700 people. I don’t know how many more would have gone, but it was very different from the others. We saw placards raised saying “Stop the genocide!.” 

The protest was a joint demonstration of Israelis and Palestinians under extremely difficult circumstances. They faced literally a police state with armed people all around them, both civilians and police. So we salute them, and we hope that is the beginning of a movement in Israel of uniting with Palestinian people.

Growing instability inside Zionist state

This is in a context now of growing instability. Things looked stable among Israelis right after October 7 — there was unity — but we see right now there are fights even within the Israeli cabinet. Ministers walked out yelling at each other. Recently the leadership of the Israeli military came out with a statement indicating that there is no victory over Hamas. 

This is not really a battle against Hamas, because Hamas is just one organization. It’s also a battle against the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the whole Palestinian people. 

The Zionist narrative tries to present the fighting as a war against Hamas. But it’s not. It’s a war against the Palestinian people, and it’s a war and an occupation that have been unending since the beginning of the 20th century.

Zionism — and I can speak from experience, particularly for young people — is like a cult. It’s very hard to break out of a cult, and some people never break out of a cult. But particularly for Israeli youth and youth here in the U.S., particularly Jewish youth in the U.S., it is a cult, and it has deep roots in the populations. 

But we’re starting to see that those roots are beginning to rot with all these demonstrations, particularly from Jewish communities. They’re rotting with the disease for which there is no antidote or medicine, and that disease is anti-Zionism; and more and more people are raising anti-Zionism in this struggle, and that is a good thing now.

The struggle against the occupation of Palestine has many fronts. There’s the economic struggle that’s been ongoing: Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS). There’s the military struggle, and then there’s a struggle that we recently got word of: A number of Israeli youth have refused conscription. We know of two so far, and I can tell you firsthand that these are truly heroic acts, so we recognize Sophia Orr — she’s 18 years old — and Tal Mitnik.

They didn’t just quietly refuse conscription, but they have gone public, and they have gone on the media — French networks, Al Jazeera, Democracy Now! — and have really made strong political statements and are trying to encourage other youth. This is something that we should definitely follow and monitor and support, because it is another front in the struggle against the occupation of Palestine.

‘Turn the guns around!’

Lastly, one of our speakers, Larry Holmes, First Secretary of Workers World Party, talked about Amílcar Cabral, the great African patriot who struggled in the Cape Verde Islands and Guinea-Bissau. A book was actually written by someone who is in our audience: “Turn the Guns Around,” by John Catalinotto. It’s a wonderful book for understanding mutinies and soldier revolts, which are not easy things when everybody’s got guns loaded all around you. 

Amílcar Cabral, who was killed by Portuguese agents on Jan. 20, 1973, about 51 years ago, had earlier issued a long message to the soldiers, sergeants and officers of the Portuguese colonial army. You can find it in Catalinotto’s book in the appendix, but I just want to read one paragraph.

Cabral was talking to the Portuguese soldiers: “Follow the example of your courageous comrades who refused to fight on our land, who revolted against the criminal orders of your leaders, who cooperate with our party or who abandoned the colonial army and found in our midst the best reception and fraternal aid!”

Personally, I want to say that, when I was first figuring things out as a recently discharged Israeli soldier and hadn’t yet crossed the total line to Palestinian solidarity, I was embraced by the Palestinian community here in New York City. I’ll always remember that. We look forward to solidarity between Israeli youth and the Palestinian people to overturn the occupation of Palestine and free Palestine — from the river to the sea.

“Turn the Guns Around: Mutinies, Soldier Revolts and Revolutions,” by John Catalinotto. World View Forum, New York, 2017.

Michael Kramer

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