Shministim Letter 2009-10

“Inspired by generations of conscientious objectors in Israel and around the world, who opposed their governments by saying: “We will not fight your wars! We object to being enemies!”.

Shministim are school “seniors” or eighth grade teenagers facing army call-up. They will serve several prison sentences before finally being discharged, having lost also major educational and social privileges and benefits that are tied to army service. Do them the honour of reading this brilliant statement, and follow the link to sign your support.

We, the undersigned…

We, the undersigned young women and men, Jews and Arabs from all parts of the country, hereby declare that we will toil against the occupation and oppression policies of the Israeli government in the occupied territories, and in the territory of the land of Israel, and therefore refuse to take part in actions related to such policies, which are carried out in our name by the Israeli Defence Force.

We are all community activists and contribute in various ways to a variety of sectors in the Israeli society. We believe that contribution, cooperation and volunteerism are a way of life, and should not be limited to just two or three years. Our conscientious objection stems directly from our volunteer experience, from the values we believe in, from our love of the society that we are a part of and in which we live, from our respect of every human being, and from the aim of making our country a better place for all of its inhabitants.

The occupation creates an unbearable actuality for the Palestinians in the occupied territories. The checkpoint policy, land annexation, the building of the apartheid wall, paving of roads for Israelis only, settlement projects, and assassinations – all these have been sowing destruction in the West Bank for over 4 decades. The siege on Gaza and the prevention of importing materials, including basic food products and humanitarian aid, undermines the basic minimal living conditions of Gaza’s residents. We cannot tolerate such a reality.

The claim put forth by the spokespersons of the government and the army, that the continuation of the occupation arises from security reasons, has no substance. No country that has fought for its independence has ever been defeated by military means. The suffering of the Palestinian people and their subjugation is the cause of violent resistance. Israel’s public will never be safe as long as the Palestinian nation is under occupation. There is no military solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – only peace will ensure life and security for Jews and Arabs in this country.

The Israeli government frequently boasts that Israel is “the only democracy in the Middle East”. The occupation is a complete contradiction to this claim. Can a government that controls the lives of millions of people who did not take part in elections be called a “democracy”? Can military rule of a civilian population be considered anything other than a dictatorship?

The Israeli Army claims that it is “the most ethical army in the world”. However, time and again reality proves that occupation and ethics cannot stand together. When young armed men are sent on policing missions in the midst of occupied disenfranchised persons, when the government attempts to repress the struggle of the disenfranchised for independence by force – the stage is set for injury of civilians and committing of war crimes. Those who carry out such actions are not “exceptions” or “bad apples”. The occupation is the cess pool from in which such actions fester. The occupation has led the Israel Army to breach international treaties, UN decisions, and recommendations of the international court, and even Israeli law, time and again.

Settlement policy is racist in principle. In the name of a Messianic ideology, it has created a reality of apartheid in the West Bank. Disenfranchised Palestinians and privileged settlers live contrasting lives side by side. Settlers participate in the election of the government that administers their affairs, while the Palestinians live under military rule. Settlers enjoy social security benefits, and economic benefits, while Palestinians live a life of poverty and enslavement. Settlers are tried under Israeli law in Israeli courts, while Palestinians are tried at military courts without the basic right of fair proceedings. Any human opposed to racism finds this reality repulsive and untenable.

There are those who claim that we are objectors, although the Israeli government is the most consistent objector – in objecting to peace. The Israeli Army is not a “defence force”, but an aggressive occupation force. The Israeli government does not extend an olive branch, rather it upholds violent nationalism.

The occupation is a continuous crime against Israeli society. Employment of  Palestinians under slave conditions in the Israeli job market causes a deterioration of conditions for all workers in the market and brings about a violation of their rights. Instead of investing in social budgets, the Israeli government has been investing for more than 40 years in the building of villas and by-pass roads in the settlements, in order to alter ground reality. The warped norms and the violence that young soldiers confess to in the territories have permeated the green line, and are expressed in a rise in violence and racism throughout Israeli society.

Out of sense of responsibility and concern for the two nations that live in this country, we cannot stand idle. We were born into a reality of occupation, and many of our generation see this as a “natural” state. In Israeli society it is a matter of fact that at 18, every young man and woman partakes in military service. However, we cannot ignore the truth – the occupation is an extreme situation, violent, racist, inhuman, illegal, non democratic, and immoral, that is life threatening for both nations. We that have been brought up on values of liberty, justice, righteousness and peace cannot accept it.

Our objection to becoming soldiers of the occupation stems from our loyalty to our values and to the society surrounding us, and it is part of our ongoing struggle for peace and equality, a struggle whose Jewish-Arab nature proves that peace and co-existence is possible. This is our way, and we are willing to pay the price.

The Undersigned,
Members of the Seniors’ Letter Group 2009-2010


Who We Are

In Hebrew, graduates of 12 years of education are called “Shministim”. Military service is compulsory in the state of Israel for young Jews under the mandatory conscription law. We, the Shministim, high school graduates and social activists, refuse to do military service, and refuse to take part in the policy of oppression and military rule that has been imposed by the IDF in the occupied territories for over 42 years.

As a result of our conscientious objection to serve in the occupying army – an objection to take part in additional wars and continued bloodshed on both sides, and a desire for a peaceful and a just society – we are imprisoned. Length of prison term runs between 21 to 28 days, and those refusing to wear uniform are sent to solitary confinement.

Please support us and sign your support

http://www.shministim.com

 

“I believe it is my personal duty…”

20-year old Shir Regev made this statement before going to prison for refusing  to serve “this Mafiofi system”

I believe it is my personal duty to refuse and defect from an army whose main purpose is to serve as an occupation police for maintaining “Israeli order” and imposing it on defenseless Palestinians who are denied citizenship.

And what is this “Israeli order” ? It is an ongoing process, in effect over 42 years, comprising a military regime over the Palestinians, denying them access to the Palestinian community resources of land, water, agricultural crops and ores. It also entails pollution of their land and their streams, along with support for disenfranchisement by settlers who live in the same areas, under a separate system of seemingly democratic laws. And I have not even mentioned the violation of more basic Palestinian human rights, like denying their freedom of movement, and causing bodily harm, including mass killing, without due investigation of alleged criminal offenses of the gravest kind recognized in Israeli law. Carried out in a territory under military occupation, these acts also constitute war crimes and other violations under international law.

Since I have the medical profile of a “combat soldier”, had I joined the army, there is no doubt I would have been sent to serve this ‘Mafiosi’ system, which has almost nothing to do with the IDF’s designated role as “Defense Forces”… This is an army that serves interests in which I do not believe. Therefore, in the dilemma between doing such service and obeying my conscience, I have no doubt about my decision. The day will come when my decision is appreciated by people who at present deny the horrible reality which we as a society are creating for another people and the damage we are inflicting on the souls of many young Israelis who may not be aware of the moral degradation in which they take part.

“I believe in service to the society I am part of”

Omer Goldman’s father was Deputy head of Mossad and is one of the most powerful men in the Israeli security system. So it took extra courage to say NO.

She says: “I refuse to enlist in the Israeli military. I shall not be part of an army that needlessly implements a violent policy and violates the most basic human rights on a daily basis. Like most of my peers, I too have not dared to question the ethics of the Israeli military. But when I visited the Occupied Territories I realized I see a completely different reality, a violent, oppressive, extreme reality that must be ended. I believe in service to the society I am part of, and that is precisely why I refuse to take part in the war crimes committed by my country. Violence will not bring any kind of solution, and I shall not commit violence, come what may.”

There’s a moving video: it starts with some of the Shministim and goes on to an interview with Omer Goldman, played over glamourised advertising footage of IDF training that makes it look like all comradeship and fun.

 

 

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