Avner Wishnitzer was born on Kibbutz Schiller near Rehovot. Where he grew up, serving in the army was considered not only a patriotic duty but also a personal test. As his conscription date approached, Avner chose to serve in the IDF’s special forces. He was admitted into a very prestigious unit, and was extraordinarily proud.
He had no contact with Palestinians during either his childhood or his service, and was not exposed in any way to the realities of military rule in the West Bank. Although Avner always opposed the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, it was almost a theoretical opposition. The whole affair seemed distant and only loosely connected to his life.
The second Intifada changed the way he perceived things: he felt that the impression it left in Israeli society was too simplistic, and that the story could not be so one-dimensional. Avner wanted to see the reality with his own eyes. He joined in political activities in the West Bank, and there he encountered the reality of military rule for the first time. He was no longer a passenger looking out of the vehicle window, or simply watching broken images on the news; this time, he had faces and names.
Up until this point, Avner was able to narrow down the Occupation to a cluster of small wrongdoings — such as the uprooting of olive trees. It was convenient to think of it as something done only by a few violent settlers.
However, at this point, realized that the Israeli occupation of the West Bank was an extensive system of oppression, dispossession and systematic settlement, which cannot be justified in security terms. It was only then that he started to understand that this system is not just run by settlers, but is a state enterprise. Therefore this oppression was his too, and he could no longer shake off his responsibility. Gradually, Avner came to the realization that he could not be part of this oppression. Alongside twelve other combatants from his unit, he refused to serve in the West Bank
At the same time, it was clear to him that his opposition to the Occupation was not enough, and that he must act in order to bring about its end. Together with friends, he took part in the series of meetings that were held in Bethlehem in 2005, and those meetings eventually led to the foundation of Combants for Peace. Ever since then, we have acted — Israelis and Palestinians together — to end the oppression, violence and dehumanization of the “other.” This is the only way to create a better future for both sides.