A demonstration outside an IDF enlistment center in 2018.Credit: Dror Mizrah
Sixty Israelis of eligible draft age have signed a letter declaring their refusal to serve in the military because of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.
Departing from previous letters of this kind, the signatories call out the country’s education system for various issues, such as encouraging enlistment in the Israel Defense Forces and emphasizing the Jewish narrative in Bible and history classes.
They also draw attention to issues they say the curriculum ignores, such as the expulsion of Arabs in 1948 and the current violation of human rights in the occupied territories.
In a letter sent Tuesday to the defense and education ministries and to the IDF chief of staff, the teens wrote: “The state demands that we enlist into an army that is ostensibly meant to ensure the existence of the state. But in practice, army operations are not directed mainly at defending against enemy armies, but at subjugating a civilian population. Thus, our mobilization has a context and implications.” They say their refusal to enlist is not an act of disengagement or turning away from Israeli society, but rather “the taking of responsibility for our actions and their implications.”
They added: “We grew up with the ideal of the heroic soldier, we sent them care packages, we visited the tanks they fought in, we dressed up as soldiers in premilitary training camps and we elevated their deaths on memorial days. The fact that this is the reality we’re all used to does not make it a-political. Enlistment is a political act, no less than refusal to do so.” The letter later refers to “the policy of apartheid as expressed in two separate legal systems, one for Palestinians and one for Jews” and “to the heritage of the Nakba [Arabic for “Catastrophe,” when more than 700,000 Arabs fled or were expelled from their homes during the 1947-49 Israeli War of Independence] and the occupation, as expressed in “societal racism, an inflammatory political discourse and police violence.”