Joe Hendren

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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Israeli tennis player enthusastic supporter of the military

As Israel's war on Gaza kills hundreds and injures thousands of Palestinian civilians, an Israeli tennis player is playing in the ASB Tennis Classic in Auckland this week. GPJA have written to the player and asked her to consider pulling out of the tournament.

To make matters worse, Shahar Peer, a top seed in the tournament, is enthusiastic about her involvement in the Israeli military.

While military service in Israel is mandatory, Peer would not have it any other way. "There was no question", she said. "All my friends were going and I wanted to be part of it. " "When I am home, I have to go. I want to do my part,"

From Shahar Peer's website
"Israeli citizens have mandatory army service at the age of 18. Shahar and her family strongly believe in the importance of contributing and giving back to the country. Shahar realized the importance of carrying out this service and felt it was her duty as an Israeli citizen. In Israel, there is a special program for outstanding athletes where the army helps the athlete continue their career while still assigning them a job in the army. As a member of this program, Shahar, like every other Israeli woman, had a required two-year period in the army. She did basic training for three weeks, then got an office job in a small unit. Starting in October 2005, every time she was home in Israel, Shahar attended her job in the army. She completed her army service in October 2007."

As part of a special programme for athletes Peer no doubt became part of the public relations machine of the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), directly or indirectly encouraging other young Israelis to take part. Some of those soliders are now likely to be involved in the Gaza invasion.

Peer completed her two year service in October 2007, and especially enjoyed her elementary combat training where she excelled in rifle marksmanship. "That was one of the best things in the basic training...I really liked it. It was special and I learned a lot". In the context of the Israeli army it is unlikely she was being trained to shoot rabbits.

Peer worked as an military administration secretary on a part time basis, spending 3 months a year in Israel. One wonders what details went past her desk. In essence she was a paper shuffler for an illegal occupation.

As is demonstrated by the growing number of athletes and entertainers in Israel who find ways to avoid military service, it is likely Peer could have been excused from this if she had asked. Braver still are the Israeli citizens who refuse to serve in the Israeli Defence Forces on the more principled grounds - the 'Refuseniks' oppose the polices of the Government as implemented by the IDF.

Peer will face a protest calling on her to withdraw as part of the launch of a sports boycott on Israel. GPJA have not received any response to their letter to Peer and will gather outside the ASB Tennis Classic at 9am. Please bring an old shoe.

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