Free Israel’s Young Conscientious objectors


by Sunny
19th December, 2008 at 10:23 am    

From the website:

Shministim means “twelfth-graders” in Hebrew. Military service is mandatory after high school for young Jewish Israelis. The Shministim are Israeli youth who refuse to serve in the army because it enforces Israel’s 40-year occupation of the Palestinians.

While a number of Shministim letters have been written in the past (read about the first letter sent to Prime Minister Golda Meir here ), about one hundred youth have signed the current 2008 Shministim letter which articulates the basis for refusal.

Because of their principled refusal to serve in an occupying army, youth who sign the letter face jail terms in Israeli military prisons. Terms range from 21 to 28 days; those who refuse to wear a military uniform while in jail are sent to solitary confinement for the duration of their term.

After completing their sentence, they are then drafted again and if they refuse a second time, as most do, they face the same sentence. This can be a repeated process in which Shministim return home for a few days or longer and are then drafted and then imprisoned. Even through they refuse to serve, they still in a sense ‘belong’ to the military until they receive their discharge papers. A Shministi may never receive these papers, and although the Israeli military may tire of re-calling objectors into prison regularly, without these papers, an objector’s fate is always uncertain. There is literally no end to the number of times youth might be sent back to jail.

There’s also a video and a campaign…

via BenSix


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22 Comments below   |  

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  1. bananabrain — on 19th December, 2008 at 10:56 am  

    other people who don’t want to do it get exemptions on the ground of poor health or being mad (i know one drummer who did it on the grounds that having to cut all his hair off would make him clinically depressed) but obviously some people would rather make a point. not everyone has to a) go for combat units or b) serve in the territories.

    i also presume that if you support these conscientious objectors you would also support the right of the ultra-orthodox to weasel out of national service because “Torah is their profession” (ie they’re going to sit in a yeshiva for the rest of their lives and never get a job) or conscientious objectors who refuse to serve in religiously mixed units or with women, or who refused to serve in the army as a result of the disengagement from the gaza settlements, or who refuse to serve in the army because it is supposed to actually keep the peace by preventing settlers from hassling palestinians in hebron, for example, or preventing loony bratslavers from being bussed in to rachel’s tomb.

    or is it just leftie objections that you support here? it’s OK if you do, i just think you ought to make it clear that there are loads of people who object to serving in the IDF, on many different grounds, not just lefties. there are also loads of non-jewish israelis who want to serve on patriotic grounds (and because it helps you get a job later on) like the druze and bedouin.

    b’shalom

    bananabrain

  2. Sofia — on 19th December, 2008 at 10:59 am  

    don’t totally agree with you here banana…if you don’t want to serve, why should you have to? and the Israeli army is not exactly just keeping the peace is it?

  3. bananabrain — on 19th December, 2008 at 11:04 am  

    a) because it’s a draft. it’s national service. that means it’s the law. if you want exemption from a law you need to make the case. i’m not even saying i don’t agree with it. i’m just saying that it’s not only lefties who want to conscientiously object and that it’s part of a democracy for these objections to come from all directions.

    the Israeli army is not exactly just keeping the peace is it?

    b) oh. for. feck’s. sake. the army does a lot of things and is, frankly, a political football. like all armies, it’s not there for decoration. i can’t believe that is a serious comment.

    b’shalom

    bananabrain

  4. Sofia — on 19th December, 2008 at 11:13 am  

    Yup so it’s an army and it’s above the law obviously..
    and who said conscientious objectors were all ‘lefties’…

  5. Sid — on 19th December, 2008 at 11:16 am  

    28 days solitary confinement for kids who refuse to wear a uniform whilst in prison? Disproportionate is the word that comes to mind.

  6. bananabrain — on 19th December, 2008 at 11:50 am  

    no, it’s not above the law, that is not what i’m saying. i’m just saying that there is more going on here than you appear to be aware of. the *law* is what says that you go to prison. what do you think is “proportionate”, then? look, these guys are making a point, so the army is making a point right back. yes, it’s probably stupid and macho, but hello, it’s an army. and hello, these are israelis we’re talking about. everyone concerned is extremely stubborn.

    b’shalom

    bananabrain

  7. Rumbold — on 19th December, 2008 at 12:20 pm  

    The problem is how you maintain an army when you are in a state of permanent semi-war. Ideally, the solution would be to not be in such a state, but as Israel is in such a state, it has to have an army made up partially of conscripts. And the only way to enforce such a system is to harshly punish those who disobey. I don’t like it, but it is the reality of the situation.

  8. Sofia — on 19th December, 2008 at 12:23 pm  

    it would be interesting to see stats on why people ‘draft dodge’

  9. Leon — on 19th December, 2008 at 12:47 pm  

    to weasel out of national service

    Nice way to characterise human compassion.

    I’m all for this campaign, and against enforced national ‘service’. If they don’t want ‘serve’ why should they.

  10. bananabrain — on 19th December, 2008 at 12:58 pm  

    leon,

    a lot of people don’t want enforced national service. i can certainly tell you that my relatives in israel could do without it and could do without “miluim” (yearly service) as well. the point is that they have to because, as rumbold puts it, they are in a semi-permanent state of war. if enough people in israel had your attitude they would all be dead by now. there is such a thing as national duty. if we had the draft here i might not like it, but if we were in a state of war then i would feel obliged as a citizen, just as the israelis do.

    Nice way to characterise human compassion.

    with all due respect, this shows how little you know about it, leon. the ultra-orthodox are not refusing to go in the army because they have a problem with the occupation – they are refusing to go in it because it’s an institution of the secular state of which they strongly disapprove and would like to turn into something resembling iran with sidecurls. they couldn’t give a flying pig’s bottom about palestinians or even non-religious israelis. their attitude is that they are “fighting for the soul of the jewish people” and leaving the bodily fighting for everyone else. they’re also very keen to pay the spiritual taxes of the jewish people whilst leaving everyone else to pay the actual taxes. and they’re particularly keen on doing the spiritual work of the jewish people whilst leaving the physical work to others. don’t even get me started on this. the problem is that the draft falls, rather unfairly, on quite a small section of the israeli public which is neither rabidly religious nor rabidly right-wing, with predictable consequences given that quite a lot of 18-19 year-olds tend to be a bit on the leftie side.

    there has been talk for some time of getting a non-military version of national service up and running, but it’s come to nothing so far, mainly because it is aimed mostly at the ultra-orthodox and mainly because it would involve them getting out of their yeshivot and getting their hands dirty.

    b’shalom

    bananabrain

  11. Sunny — on 19th December, 2008 at 2:52 pm  

    i also presume that if you support these conscientious objectors you would also support the right of the ultra-orthodox to weasel out of national service because “Torah is their profession”

    Yup, that’s ok with me too. I’m not sure when objecting against killing people became exclusively a leftie obsession.

  12. comrade — on 19th December, 2008 at 3:28 pm  

    bananabrain

    but if we were in a state of war then i would feel obliged as a citizen, just as the israelis do.

    I can agree with you if we were in state of War in conventional sense but Iraeil is not in State of war, it is an occuping force. To continue with that occupation it requires men/women. The youngs Iraelis objectors are growing in numbers. I was surprised when I saw Iraelis soldiers of African decent and Russain sucurity guards on buses. For this reason, they have compulsary National Service. I believe the population of Iraeils is decling. How many of us will go and fight in Iraq?

  13. comrade — on 19th December, 2008 at 3:28 pm  

    bananabrain

    but if we were in a state of war then i would feel obliged as a citizen, just as the israelis do.

    I can agree with you if we were in state of war in the conventional sense but Iraeil is not in State of war, it is an occuping force. To continue with that occupation it requires men/women. The youngs Iraelis objectors are growing in numbers.

  14. A. Grün — on 20th December, 2008 at 12:23 am  

    Excuse me but do Israelis tell you how to run your national affairs?

  15. BenSix — on 20th December, 2008 at 12:38 am  

    “Excuse me but do Israelis tell you how to run your national affairs?”

    [A] Many of us are internationalists.
    [B] Israel is, apparently, an ally, and so its domestic and international policies are of particular interest.
    [C] People always seem to say this when their own country – or a country that they’re particularly sympathetic to – is criticised.

    Ben

  16. dave bones — on 20th December, 2008 at 1:32 am  

    I’ve only seen the fall out from this in India. I met people who claimed they were gay or addicted to drugs to get out of national service. I met people who could never go back. I met a lot of young kids in a very bad way. You can watch them slowly go nuts over a coupla weeks. I really admire the way they behave as one family but I am sad to say they have quite a deservedly bad reputation with the locals. those who travel in groups anyway.

    Whatever you feel about these refuseniks they are making a stand which is very difficult for them to make. They are saying that this isn’t the way forward. One of my worst memories of India is taking acid with a pretty young girl and hearing what she was coming out with about some of the situations she was in only months previously.

    It is easy to write opinions here isn’t it but hard to see a way forward. I feel for all these young people.

  17. Leon — on 20th December, 2008 at 1:35 am  

    Excuse me but do Israelis tell you how to run your national affairs?

    We live in a globalised interdependent world. Get over it.

  18. BenSix — on 20th December, 2008 at 2:00 am  

    An account from Israel (sorry that there’s no link, I got it via e-mail)…

    “When we arrived, the first thing we saw was box after box after box after box lined up on the street. These were the letters and postcards that had been generated by the international campaign, over 20,000 in total.

    We were arrayed across the street from the imposing kiriya, the Army headquarters. This was as close as the police would allow us to get. We were a small group, about two hundred people, and this reminded me just how brave and still isolated the refusenik movement in Israel is, and therefore how much the international support really means.

    The spirited crowd chanted and yelled support as some of the shministim–Omer Goldman, Sahar Vardi, Raz Bar-David Varon–and the relatives of Yuval Ophir-Auron and Sahar Vardi, took turns bringing the boxes of letters to the locked gates of the kiriya, where eventually two men in suits agreed to take them all inside. They make a nice group, indicative of how a refusenik can come from any part of Israeli society, as Omer’s father made his career high up in the Mossad and Sahar’s family are relentlessly dedicated left-wing activists.”

    Ben

  19. Munir — on 20th December, 2008 at 2:06 pm  

    Its funny that the every Israeli citizen is a part of the army yet they complain of Palestinians killing their civilians . Which is it?

    A. Grün

    “Excuse me but do Israelis tell you how to run your national affairs?”

    Yes and did the Germans in the 1930s tell us how to run our affairs?

    LOL youve never heard of the neo-con many of whom are indeed Israelis

  20. Desi Italiana — on 20th December, 2008 at 10:34 pm  

    A. Grun:

    “Excuse me but do Israelis tell you how to run your national affairs?”

    As an American, my government’s money (which comes from our tax dollars) goes to Israeli national affairs, so I feel like I have a right to say something.

    And what BenSix and Leon said.

  21. Desi Italiana — on 20th December, 2008 at 10:40 pm  

    “the point is that they have to because, as rumbold puts it, they are in a semi-permanent state of war.”

    You mean semi-permanent state of occupation.

    Look, there is a way for Israelis to quit being in a “semi-permanent state of war.” The way a couple of posters here are talking makes it seem like it’s a forced reality that Israelis have to deal with, and that their hands are tied from making any progress to an equitable and lasting solution to the 20th century’s longest military occupation. I do not know these objectors, but I could imagine how “This violence does not have to be, and why should we be forced to participate in it given the fact that it is entirely unjust” operates on SOME level.

  22. bananabrain — on 22nd December, 2008 at 10:46 am  

    Yup, that’s ok with me too. I’m not sure when objecting against killing people became exclusively a leftie obsession.

    *weary sigh* look, sunny, as difficult as it is for “progressives” to realise, apparently, not everyone actually joins the army to kill people. aren’t your brothers in the army? i’m sure they didn’t. nobody *i* know who is or was in an army joined up to kill people. *i* object to killing people. what i don’t object to is *defence*. i am a bit cheesed off with the “presumed guilty” attitude that people here have to anything to do with the israeli army. i am not here to apologise for it and i won’t be doing so. neither will i remain silent when prejudice is aired.

    Iraeil is not in State of war, it is an occuping force.

    tell that to the people in sderot who have been suffering rocket fire daily (1000+ this year ALONE) since the israelis WITHDREW from gaza. tell that to the population of northern israel who were bombed out of their homes by hizbollah, who started a completely pointless war that they could never have won, just to score political points, with the whole of lebanon as their hostages, by kidnapping two soldiers who were just guarding the border. israel isn’t occupying lebanon or gaza any more. read hamas’s charter, imbecile. these guys want the israelis – and ALL JEWS WORLDWIDE – dead.

    I was surprised when I saw Iraelis soldiers of African decent and Russain sucurity guards on buses. For this reason, they have compulsary National Service. I believe the population of Iraeils is decling.

    you fecking ignorant bigot. those people are JEWISH, they’re not imported security guards! they’re on national service too! jews come in all shapes, sizes and colours. ever heard of the ethiopian aliyah? the russian aliyah? and the population isn’t declining – it just isn’t growing as fast as the arab population (except amongst the ultra-orthodox) and that isn’t about politics as much as it’s about attitudes to birth control.

    I’ve only seen the fall out from this in India. I met people who claimed they were gay or addicted to drugs to get out of national service. I met people who could never go back. I met a lot of young kids in a very bad way. You can watch them slowly go nuts over a coupla weeks. I really admire the way they behave as one family but I am sad to say they have quite a deservedly bad reputation with the locals. those who travel in groups anyway.

    israeli tourists generally have quite a bad rep and i’m sorry to say it is mostly deserved in my experience (they are banned in some turkish & greek hotels because of their tendency to nick the bathroom fittings!). they spend their whole lives in a pressure cooker and then suddenly they’re able to escape and, naturally, many of them go off the rails, particularly with post-traumatic stress and other stuff like that. israel is a culture of extremes, you’re either really really religious or really really secular, the politics is nearly as polarised as well. one of the things chabad does particularly on the hippy trail in india (which is why the house in mumbai was there among other things) is pick up the pieces and try and offer young secular israelis who are on a quest in india some kind of connection with judaism which, ironically enough, they are unlikely to have got in israel. the jewish mystical meditation movement has been in part a response to the idea that young jews are unaware of the spiritual richness of our own tradition, largely because the religious establishment is so up itself, arrogant and parochial.

    Whatever you feel about these refuseniks they are making a stand which is very difficult for them to make. They are saying that this isn’t the way forward. One of my worst memories of India is taking acid with a pretty young girl and hearing what she was coming out with about some of the situations she was in only months previously.

    don’t get me wrong, i think in many cases there is something important going on, which is particularly important for israel as a democracy, but for people here to turn it into a generalised indictment of anything to do with the israeli army and israel in general is simply wrongheaded, counterproductive and imposing your own narrow agendas on a very complicated and unfortunate situation.

    Its funny that the every Israeli citizen is a part of the army yet they complain of Palestinians killing their civilians . Which is it?

    both. what’s your problem? everyone has to serve, but if you’re not in uniform, you’re a civilian. my cousins are civilians nowadays, though they have done their time in the army. so is my cousin, pushing her babies in a pushchair a part of the army or a civilian? are her kids civilians when they’ll have to join the army at 18? why don’t you tell us what you think, munir? or is that too complicated for you?

    “Excuse me but do Israelis tell you how to run your national affairs?”

    what desi italiana said – and, moreover, are you fecking kidding me?

    @desi:

    Look, there is a way for Israelis to quit being in a “semi-permanent state of war.”

    there are a number of ways. not all of them are acceptable. the way hamas would like the israelis to quit it would, for example, be rather unpleasant. but it ain’t going to happen.

    The way a couple of posters here are talking makes it seem like it’s a forced reality that Israelis have to deal with, and that their hands are tied from making any progress to an equitable and lasting solution to the 20th century’s longest military occupation.

    the chinese have been in occupation of tibet for some time longer. and, depending on who you’re listening to, i believe kashmir’s been going on some time as well. i presume you have some reason for assuming otherwise. look, the two parts of what you just said are not necessarily related. it is *certainly* a forced reality; the israelis have been calling for peace since their declaration of independence and you can surely not be ignorant of the previous efforts the israelis have made to exchange land for peace, namely the camp david accords, the madrid conference, the dayton accords, the oslo process and the gaza disengagement, so you can hardly accuse them of being uninterested in peace, or if you do, you almost certainly have never been there and talked to real israelis as opposed to armchair warriors in the US. they are certainly, however, a stubborn and bloody-minded bunch and are sometimes their own worst enemies. there is no reason that the two cannot both be true.

    I do not know these objectors, but I could imagine how “This violence does not have to be, and why should we be forced to participate in it given the fact that it is entirely unjust” operates on SOME level.

    yes, i agree, but you are making a massive assumption, which is that they think that everything israel and its army does and is is completely wrong and immoral, which as far as i know is not the case. have you asked them their opinions on the actions of hizbollah? on the actions of the hamas “government” in gaza? it is one thing to agree that the way the settlers in hebron, to choose an uncontroversial example, are behaving in a disgusting fashion and should be packed off back to the other side of the green line. it is entirely another thing to blame the entire arab-israeli conflict on the occupation, because it was going on long before 1967. i am not trying
    to whitewash what israel does in any way shape or form, but i am asking you to try and see the context here. if nothing else, i suggest you read the israeli papers to get an insight – try haaretz, it’s quite lefty and available online and in english.

    b’shalom

    bananabrain

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