Dozens of Teens Sign Letter Vowing Not to Serve in IDF

Refusenik letter sent to Netanyahu cites Israeli policies toward Palestinians and military’s 'penetration into civilian life.'

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
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Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

Dozens of draft-age youth blasted the Israel Defense Forces and declared themselves conscientious objectors in a letter sent Saturday morning to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The letter cited the “continued occupation of the West Bank” and the military’s “penetration into civilian life, which deepens the country’s chauvinism, militarism, violence, inequality and racism.”

Itay Aknin, 19, said he signed the letter out of political motivations even though he has already received a medical exemption from military service.

“At a time when the system is very busy dealing with sharing the burden equally,” Aknin said referring to the push to reform the draft, “we think our role is not to take part in the circle of killing, in the circle of blood, and we are refusing to enlist in the army.”

Aknin, despite his strong stance against the military, has not skirted duty altogether. He volunteers in Tel Aviv as part of the National Service program.

Bat Yam resident Shaked Harari, 18, said he chose not to enlist “because of the influence of the army on society” in the areas of education, work, politics, society and economics. “We as a group believe that the army harms society and its citizens, both in Israel and in Palestine, and as long as people continue to enlist they are helping to deepen the social gaps,” Harari said.

The campaign to get more draft-age youth on board spread by word of mouth according to Harari, who said he successfully convinced others to join the pledge not to serve.

“We are not embarrassed that we are refusing,” said Harari. “We believe that this declaration can make an ideological change, and it will not happen if we don’t stand behind it and we are not honest with it.”

The organization Yesh Gvul, which advocates conscientious objection, said Saturday evening in response to the letter’s publication that “refusal is a personal decision by every person in a democratic society.”

Yesh Gvul added: “We support anyone whose democratic and humanist values drove him to refuse to take part in occupation and repression of the Palestinian people.”

“We are proud of the young people who refuse to take part in oppression and are calling on the government of Israel to sit with the government of Palestine and end the occupation,” Yesh Gvul said. "A different world is possible for both us and also the Palestinians and we both deserve true peace, and not peace as defined by the Israeli government.”

The full list of names is expected to be published this week.

Israeli soldiers train in the Golan Heights, September 2013.Credit: Reuters

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