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(en) Le monde libertaire #1825: SIXTY TEENAGERS ANNOUNCE THEIR REFUSAL TO SERVE IN THE ISRAELI ARMY BY OREN ZIV (ca, de, it, fr, pt)[machine translation]

Date Fri, 12 Mar 2021 09:46:58 +0200

Where it is not a question of the SNU but of what young Israelis must go through. Hats off to the determination of these teens. (The Libertarian World) ---- Sixty Israeli teenagers on Tuesday (January 5th) published an open letter to senior Israeli officials declaring their refusal to serve in the military in protest against its policies of occupation and apartheid. ---- The so-called Shministim Letter (an initiative bearing the Hebrew nickname given to high school students) denounces Israeli military control over Palestinians in the occupied territories, calling the regime in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem a system of " apartheid "involving" two different legal systems; one for Palestinians and another for Jews ".

"It is our duty to oppose this destructive reality by uniting our struggles and refusing to serve these violent systems - including the military in chief ", reads the letter, which was addressed to Minister of Defense Benny Gantz, Education Minister Yoav Galant and IDF Chief of Staff[note]Aviv Kochavi.
" Our refusal to join the military is not an act of turning our backs on Israeli society, " the letter continued. "On the contrary, our refusal is an act of taking responsibility for our actions and their repercussions. Enlistment, no less than refusal, is a political act. How does it make sense that in order to protest systemic violence and racism, we must first be part of the very system of oppression we criticize? "
Refuzniks' public letter is the first of its kind to go beyond the occupation and refer to the expulsion of Palestinians during the 1948 war:"We have been ordered to put on the bloodstained military uniform and preserve the legacy of the Nakba and the occupation. Israeli society was built on these rotten roots, and it shows in all facets of life: in racism, hate political speech, police brutality, and more ".
The letter further emphasizes the link between Israel's neoliberal and military policies: "While the citizens of the Occupied Palestinian Territories are impoverished, the wealthy elites are getting richer at their expense. Palestinian workers are systematically exploited, and the arms industry uses the Occupied Palestinian Territories as a testing ground and a showcase to support its sales. When the government chooses to maintain the occupation, it acts against our interests as citizens - much of the taxpayer's money funds the industry for "security" and settlement development instead of welfare, education and health ".
Some of the signatories are expected to appear before the IDF conscientious objectors committee and be sent to a military prison, while others have found ways to avoid military service. Among the signatories is Hallel Rabin, who was released from prison in November 2020 after spending 56 days behind bars.

Hallel Rabin in front of a military prison. The young Israeli, imprisoned four times for refusing to do her military service, has just been released.
A number of signatories also signed an open letter last June, demanding that Israel end its annexation of the West Bank.

Who are we really protecting?
The Israelis have issued a number of rejection letters since Israel took control of the occupied territories in 1967. While for decades the letters mainly referred to opposition to service in the occupied territories, the last two Shministim letters , published in 2001 and 2005 respectively, included signatories who refused to serve in the military.

"The reality is that the military commits war crimes on a daily basis - it is a reality that I cannot stand, and I feel that I have to cry out as loud as I can, that the occupation is never justified, "says Neve Shabtai Levin, 16, from Hod Hasharon. Levin, now in grade 11[note], plans to refuse military service after graduating, even if that means going to jail.
" The desire not to join the IDF has been something I've been thinking about since I was eight ," Levin continues. "I didn't know there was an opt-out option until last year, when I talked to people about not wanting to commit, and they asked me if I had the intention to refuse. I started to do research, and that's how I came to the letter ".
Levin adds that he signed the letter " because I believe it can do good and hopefully reach teenagers who, like me, don't want to commit but don't know the option, or raise questions for them ".

Shahar Peretz, 18, from Kfar Yona, plans to decline this summer.

Conscientious objector Shahar Peretz during a protest against annexation in the city of Rosh Ha'ayin in June 2020.

" For me, the letter is addressed to teenagers, to those who will be enlisting in a year or so. to those who have already signed up, "she said. "It is about reaching out to those now in uniform who are on the ground occupying a civilian population, and providing them with a mirror that will allow them to ask questions such as "who am I in?" serving? What is the outcome of the decision to enlist? What interests am I serving? Who are we really protecting when we wear uniforms, carry weapons, and detain Palestinians at checkpoints, invade homes, or arrest children? "
Shahar Peretz, who signed a letter of 400 Israeli teenagers calling on Prime Minister Netanyahu not to annex the West Bank. "I was surprised by the lack of knowledge of those who will serve in the territories next year ".
Peretz recalls his own experiences which changed his thinking about enlistment: "[My]meeting with the Palestinians in the summer camps was the first time that I was personally and humanely exposed to occupation. After meeting them, I realized that the military is a big part of this equation, in its influence on the lives of Palestinians under Israeli rule. This made me realize that I am not ready to take a direct or indirect part in the occupation of millions of people ".
Yael Amber, 19, of Hod Hasharon, is aware of the difficulties that her peers can face in such a decision. " This letter is not a personal criticism of the 18-year-old boys and girls who enlist. Refusing to enlist is very complicated, and in many ways it is a privilege. The letter is a call to action for young people before enlistment, but above all it is a request that[young people]take a critical look at a system that forces us to take part in immoral acts towards another. people ".
Amber, who was medically released from the military, now lives in Jerusalem and volunteers in the public service. "I have quite a few friends who oppose the occupation, define themselves as leftist, and still serve in the military. This is not a criticism of people, but of a system which puts 18-year-olds in such a position, which does not leave them too much choice ".
While conscientious objection has historically been understood as a decision to go to jail, the signatories point out that there are different methods that one can refuse, and that finding ways to avoid military service can itself to be considered a form of refusal. " We understand that going to jail is a price that not everyone is privileged to pay, whether it's material, time, or criticism from those around them, " says Amber.

Part of the legacy of the Nakba
Signatories note that they hope that the political atmosphere created in recent months by the nationwide anti-Netanyahu protests - known as the "Balfour protests" for the residence's street speech of the Prime Minister in Jerusalem - will allow them to talk about the occupation.
" It's the best swing, " says Amber. " We have the infrastructure of Balfour, the start of change, and this generation is proving its political potential. We thought about it a lot in the letter - there is a group that is very interested in politics, but how do you get them to think about the occupation? "
Levin also believes that it is possible to appeal to young Israelis, especially those who go to anti-Bibi protests[note]. " With all the talk about corruption and the country's social structure, we must not forget that the foundations here are rotten. Many say that the military is an important process[for the Israelis], that it will make you feel like you are part of the country and contributing to it. But this is not really the case. The army forces 18-year-olds to commit war crimes. The army makes people see the Palestinians as enemies, as a target to be hurt "

As the students point out in the letter, the act of refusal is aimed at asserting their responsibility to their fellow Israelis rather than disengaging from them. " It's much more convenient not to think about the occupation and the Palestinians ," Amber says. "[But]writing the letter and making that kind of speech accessible is a service to my company. If I wanted to be different or didn't care, I wouldn't choose to put myself in a public position that gets a lot of criticism. We all pay a certain price because we care ".
" It's an activism that comes from a place of solidarityEchoes Daniel Paldi, 18, who plans to appear before the Committee of Conscientious Objectors. " Although the letter is primarily an act of protest against occupation, racism and militarism, it is accessible. We want to make the refusal less your boo ". Paldi notes that if the Committee denies his request, he is ready to go to jail.
"We tried not to demonize either side, including the soldiers, who in all its absurdity are our friends or people our age, " he notes. " We believe that the first step in any process is the recognition of the issues that are not discussed in Israeli society ."
The signatories of the last letterShministim differ from previous versions in that they address one of the most sensitive subjects in Israeli history: the expulsion and flight of Palestinians during the Nakba in 1948. " The message of the letter is to take responsibility ab


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