© Ryan Rodrick Beiler
Yonatan Shapira: defines conscience and bravery in speaking out against Israeli terror.
Yonatan Shapira was born on an Israeli military base the year before his father flew fighter jets in the October War of 1973
. Thirty years later, twelve of them spent as an air force pilot himself, Shapira rejected the military. In 2003, he wrote a letter
, pledging not to fly over the occupied West Bank
and Gaza Strip
Shapira is among the few Israelis to have declared support for the Palestinian-led call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS)
against Israel. He has also been attacked by the Israeli military
for attempting to sail towards and break the siege of Gaza.
He recently spoke to The Electronic Intifada contributor Ryan Rodrick Beiler.
Ryan Rodrick Beiler:
What was it like growing up in a military family?
The education I got was very much about peace, equality, freedom and a lot of socialist values — caring about the other, caring about the poor — but at the same time with a big wall of negligence of Palestine. The same time I was in class learning these beautiful values, the Israeli army was engaged in occupation, land grabs, settlements, massacres, deportation of Palestinian activists.
But I didn't know these things. I truly believed that I should defend my country. I wanted to be like my father. I wanted to be a pilot in the air force and it was my dream come true when I was accepted. I became a helicopter pilot and flew rescue missions and commando transport.
When did you begin to question the military's actions?
I realized something was rotten when the Israeli government started what was called the "assassination policy" in 2001-2003. Palestinian resistance failed to bring liberation and more extreme attitudes took place, such as suicide bombings and other [forms of] armed struggle. The government thought to assassinate everyone that has to do with armed resistance.