Anyone who has had the good fortune to meet Yonatan Shapira will be particularly sickened at the reports that he was tasered in the heart and left screaming after he and the others on the Jewish boat to Gaza were stopped illegally. In person, Yonatan is friendly, likeable, and genuinely considerate of the opinions of others who do not agree with him.
Yonatan Shapira is also a moral giant. He is the Israeli pilot who condemned his own air force for violating human rights and who refused to fly any more missions. In 2003, he bravely confronted the air force commander, Lt. General Dan Halutz, about what are euphemistically called “targeted assassinations” — Israeli warplanes fired missiles at Hamas leaders in Gaza, also killing innocent bystanders, some of them children.
Yonatan asked General Halutz, What if a Hamas leader were located in Tel Aviv? Would you order our pilots to fire there, risking Israeli bystanders? Halutz said no. So you value Israelis over Palestinians, Yonatan responded. Get someone else to fly your aircraft.
Yonatan, who is now 38, vigorously supports BDS, pointing out that it is a nonviolent program of change that Palestinians themselves came up with. His outspokenness has attracted attention from the Israeli security agency, the Shin Bet.
Shmuel has reminded us of the teaching of the rabbis: “Where there are no men, try to be a man.” Some day, Yonatan Shapira will be in the history books. By name.