Finance Minister Yair Lapid on Monday lashed out at the dozens of high school students who released a letter over the weekend declaring that they would refuse to be inducted into the Israel Defense Forces.
“This isn’t refusal, this is draft evasion,” Lapid wrote on his Facebook page, in a post that won thousands of “Likes.” “These young people may not wear a shtreimel [the round fur hats ultra-Orthodox Hassidim wear on Shabbat and special occasions], but they are also Haredi extremists. They are secular Neturei Karta [an extreme anti-Zionist Haredi sect] who think that if they believe in something then it’s fine to send others to bear the burden, and even risk their lives in their stead. These hide in the tents of Torah, and those in the tents of hypocrisy.”
He added: “Secular draft evasion isn’t an ideology. It’s an indulgence by satiated young people who think that they are entitled to everything and that there are others – your children and mine – who have to serve instead of them. I’m ashamed of them.”
As expected, Lapid’s post was met with angry responses from the letter’s signatories. “Yair Lapid said that we are against democracy and are committing an act of immorality and laziness, but based on what he wrote, his understanding of morality and democracy is weak,” said Udi Segal, 18, from Kibbutz Tuval. “Laziness and indulgence don’t go together with a public declaration that comes with a heavy price that could include sitting in jail.”
Segal said that he decided to sign the letter and refuse to enlist, “because I refuse to be part of an army of a government that engages in occupation and the violation of human rights. I oppose Israeli control over millions of Palestinians who live in the West Bank with no ability to influence the regime imposed on them. I oppose the atmosphere that the army creates in Israeli society, and the macho, combat ideal that puts off everyone who isn’t part of this ideal, be they a Jewish woman, an Arab or a Haredi.”
Segal noted that the responses in his family to his decision were mixed, “but they’re mainly concerned with the future ramifications of it – of life in Israel when one refuses to serve in the army.”
Segal has two older brothers, one currently serving in a combat unit and the other a veteran of one. His grandfather fought with the Haganah, the pre-state paramilitary organization, and Segal imagines that they “are having a hard time with my choice, but even they support me.”
The media team representing those who signed the letter, who call themselves “the refusal movement,” issued a statement in response to Lapid’s remarks: “You claim that you believe in democracy but you serve in a government that rules over 3.5 million Palestinians who didn’t vote for it and cannot legally influence its decisions. This situation is not equitable or just. If you think that to serve an occupation regime that the entire world defines as undemocratic is a moral act, you apparently don’t understand what morality is.”
The letter’s signatories also reacted to being described as “spoiled,” saying, “laziness and indulgence is [military] service at an army newspaper and going home every day. Those who signed the letter from Bat Yam, Bnei Brak and Beit Shemesh are amused that someone who lives in north Tel Aviv would define us as satiated youth.”
Lapid did his army service as a writer for Bamahane, the IDF newspaper.
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