Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Israeli highschoolers choose jail over occupation army service

Activism News 

by Nora Barrows-Friedman

Refuseniks Maya Wind and Netta Mishly. (
As US-made Hellfire missiles and white phosphorus rained down on the entrapped people of the Gaza Strip earlier this year, a number of "refuseniks," young Israeli men and women who refuse to serve mandatory military conscription after high school, along with anti-occupation activists attempted to shut down the Israeli Air Force base near Tel Aviv. It was from this base that airborne weapons of war, flown by their former classmates, took off to kill Palestinians just miles down the beach in Gaza.

From chronic checkpoint beatings, to the use of Palestinian children as human shields during invasions, to widespread use of torture and interrogation in detention camps, to the killing of unarmed civilians during incursions and wide-scale massacres that spur international condemnation, Israel's soldiers are the face of the state's expanding and illegal occupation and colonization of Palestine. And a new generation of conscripts have just finished boot camp, eager to carry on this vicious tradition of occupation.

Within mainstream Israeli Jewish society, mandatory conscription into the military is regarded as a rite of passage; a normalized violent adventure meant to codify nationalism and Zionist supremacy while carrying out Israel's policies of aggression. (Paradoxically, a few thousand non-Jewish, "Arab-Israeli" citizens have also served in the army -- see Jonathan Cook's recent article "False promise of integration for Palestinian soldiers in Israel.") Recently, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman repeated an oft-heard mantra as he attempted to defend the state's criminal massacres in Gaza earlier this year. "Israel," Lieberman claimed, "has the most moral army in the world."

However, a growing number of Israeli Jewish youth facing mandatory military conscription -- the Shministim -- are breaking the chain of conventional cooperation with the occupation. Refusing to participate in a system they agree to be immoral as well as illegal, these young people exemplify complicity with their ethical values rather than their state's colonialist policies.

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