Dozens of young Israelis sent Saturday morning Israeli Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, a letter in which they declared their refusal to serve in the Israeli military, Yesh Gvul Movement said in a press release on Sunday.
This is the first joined act of Israeli conscientious objection to ever take place during ongoing peace negotiation; it is the first act of its kind in five years, but follows a long tradition of communal conscientious objection.
According to Yesh Gvul, the purpose of this statement is to protest against the ongoing occupation of Palestinian territories where, according to the signatories, “human rights are violated and acts defined by international law as war-crimes are perpetuated on a daily basis.” They are also protesting the way in which the army influences civilian life, deepening the sexism, militarism, violence, inequality and racism present in Israeli society.
Yesh Gvul Movement, a movement of Conscientious Objectors founded in 1982, have put forward a statement of support for the new group: ” For more than 30 years, Yesh Gvul has supported Israeli citizens taking a conscientious stand against Israel’s unjustified wars, against the occupation and against war crimes. The new group of teen Conscientious Objectors who are saying no to the Israeli government’s policies are leaders in the struggle for a just and democratic society here. We wholeheartedly support them.”
Mandy Cartner, a 16 years old signatory from Tel Aviv said: “The actions of the army distance us from finding a solution and from creating peace, justice and security. My refusal is a way of expressing my opposition to the wrongs done daily in our name and through us.”
Shaked Harari, a 17 years old signatory from Bat Yam, said: “The army serves the people in power and not the civilians, who are only a tool. My friends and I refuse to be cannon fodder.”
Roni Lax, a 20 year old signatory from Bnei Brak: “We stand in solidarity with the ultra-orthodox youth and the Arab youth – Christian and Druze, some of whom are currently in an army prison.”
The following is their statement:
“We, citizens of the state of Israel, are designated for army service.
We appeal to the readers of this letter to set aside what has always been taken for granted and to reconsider the implications of military service.
We, the undersigned, intend to refuse to serve in the army and the main reason for this refusal is our opposition to the military occupation of Palestinian territories. Palestinians in the occupied territories live under Israeli rule though they did not choose to do so, and have no legal recourse to influence this regime or its decision-making processes. This is neither egalitarian nor just. In these territories, human rights are violated, and acts defined under international law as war-crimes are perpetuated on a daily basis. These include assassinations (extrajudicial killings), the construction of settlements on occupied lands, administrative detentions, torture, collective punishment and the unequal allocation of resources such as electricity and water. Any form of military service reinforces this status quo, and, therefore, in accordance with our conscience, we cannot take part in a system that perpetrates the above-mentioned acts.
The problem with the army does not begin or end with the damage it inflicts on Palestinian society. It infiltrates everyday life in Israeli society too: it shapes the educational system, our workforce opportunities, while fostering racism, violence and ethnic, national and gender-based discrimination.
We refuse to aid the military system in promoting and perpetuating male dominance. In our opinion, the army encourages a violent and militaristic masculine ideal whereby ‘might is right’. This ideal is detrimental to everyone, especially those who do not fit it. Furthermore, we oppose the oppressive, discriminatory, and heavily gendered power structures within the army itself.
We refuse to forsake our principles as a condition to being accepted in our society. We have thought about our refusal deeply and we stand by our decisions.
We appeal to our peers, to those currently serving in the army and/or reserve duty, and to the Israeli public at large, to reconsider their stance on the occupation, the army, and the role of the military in civil society. We believe in the power and ability of civilians to change reality for the better by creating a more fair and just society. Our refusal expresses this belief.”