Former soldier decides to live in West Bank as he 'hates Zionism'

A former Israeli soldier has renounced his citizenship in order to live in the West Bank as a Palestinian.

Andre Pshenichnikov, a 23 year-old Jewish immigrant from Tajikistan who recently left the IDF after four and a half years of service, was arrested on Thursday in the Deheishe refugee camp, near Bethlehem, on charges of living illegally in the Palestinian territories.

He told Israeli officials: "I have concluded that Israel is the representative of Western power interests in the Middle East, and that Zionism made cynical use of the Jewish faith … I hate Zionism".

Pshenichnikov also encouraged others to join him in opposing Israel: "I want to be part of the Palestinian resistance. I call for other Israelis who support the existence of a state of Palestine to do the same, to come live in the West Bank or Gaza as Palestinians."

After his discharge from the army in April, the ex-career soldier travelled straight to Bethlehem, where he participated in demonstrations and threw stones at Israeli soldiers. However, local suspicions were aroused when he was heard speaking Hebrew on the phone, and by the fact that he still possesses his military ID card.

Abdel Fatah Hamayel, the governor of Bethlehem, condemned Pshenichnikov's illicit entry, stating : "He wasn't supposed to come illegally. If people knew his true identity, there's no guarantee for his safety. He should have informed the Palestinian side with an official request and his request would be considered."

Pshenichnikov, who is fluent in Arabic, is currently travelling in Europe for two months, but hopes to settle permanently in the Palestinian territories when he returns.

Last updated: 4:07pm, June 19 2012