A protest held in Haifa against the Israeli operation in Gaza, July 19, 2014.
A protest held in Haifa against the Israeli operation in Gaza, July 19, 2014. Photo by Rami Shllush
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Fifty-one Israelis who served in the Israel Defense Forces, some of them still in reserve units, published an open letter Wednesday in the Washington Post supporting refusal to perform military service.

“We were soldiers in a wide variety of units and positions in the Israeli military — a fact we now regret, because, in our service, we found that troops who operate in the occupied territories aren’t the only ones enforcing the mechanisms of control over Palestinian lives,” they wrote. “In truth, the entire military is implicated. For that reason, we now refuse to participate in our reserve duties, and we support all those who resist being called to service.”

The signers of the letter claimed that the army used methods of oppressive rule against the Palestinian population in Gaza and the West Bank and perpetuated the disparities in Israeli society. Although they began writing their letter before Operation Protective Edge began, they decided to publish it now because of their opposition to it.

Unlike previous letters of refusal to serve, this letter does not focus solely on the army’s actions toward the Palestinian population in the territories, but also on the army’s influence on Israeli society. Its authors claim that the army works to erase the culture and struggles of women, Mizrahim, Russians, Ethiopians, Haredim, Bedouin, Druze and Palestinians, and perpetuated the gaps between the various groups. Unlike such letters written in the past that were written by officers, pilots, reservists or high-school seniors about to enlist, most of those who signed the letter did not serve in combat positions.

“The Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip are deprived of civil rights and human rights. They live under a different legal system from their Jewish neighbors. This is not exclusively the fault of soldiers who operate in these territories. Those troops are, therefore, not the only ones obligated to refuse. Many of us served in logistical and bureaucratic support roles; there, we found that the entire military helps implement the oppression of the Palestinians,” the letter read.

“By law, some of us are still registered as part of the reserved forces (others have managed to win exemptions or have been granted them upon their release), and the military keeps our names and personal information, as well as the legal option to order us to ‘service.’ But we will not participate — in any way.”