Letter, January 2021
We are calling for high school
seniors (shministiyot) our age to ask themselves: What and who are we
serving when we enlist in the military? Why do we enlist? What reality
do we create by serving in the military of the occupation? We want
peace, and real peace requires justice. Justice requires acknowledgment
of the historical and present injustices, and of the continuing Nakba.
Justice requires reform in the form of the end of the occupation, the
end of the siege on Gaza, and recognition of the right of return for
Palestinian refugees. Justice demands solidarity, joint struggle, and
The Full Letter
We are a group of Israeli 18-year-olds at a crossroads. The Israeli
state is demanding our conscription into the military. Allegedly, a
defense force which is supposed to safeguard the existence of the State
of Israel. In reality, the goal of the Israeli military is not to defend
itself from hostile militaries, but to exercise control over a civilian
population. In other words, our conscription to the Israeli military has
political context and implications. It has implications, first and
foremost on the lives of the Palestinian people who have lived under
violent occupation for 72 years. Indeed, the Zionist policy of brutal
violence towards and expulsion of Palestinians from their homes and
lands began in 1948 and has not stopped since. The occupation is also
poisoning Israeli society–it is violent, militaristic, oppressive, and
chauvinistic. It is our duty to oppose this destructive reality by
uniting our struggles and refusing to serve these violent systems–chief
among them the military. Our refusal to enlist to the military is not an
act of turning our backs on Israeli society. On the contrary, our
refusal is an act of taking responsibility over our actions and their
The military is not only serving the occupation, the military is the
occupation. Pilots, intelligence units, bureaucratic clerks, combat
soldiers, all are executing the occupation. One does it with a keyboard
and the other with a machine gun at a checkpoint. Despite all of this,
we grew up in the shadow of the symbolic ideal of the heroic soldier. We
prepared food baskets for him in the high holidays, we visited the tank
he fought in, we pretended we were him in the pre-military programs in
high school, and we revered his death on memorial day. The fact that we
are all accustomed to this reality does not make it apolitical.
Enlistment, no less than refusal, is a political act.
We are used to hearing that it is legitimate to criticize the occupation
only if we took an active part in enforcing it. How does it make sense
that in order to protest against systemic violence and racism, we have
to first be part of the very system of oppression we are criticizing?
The track upon which we embark at infancy, of an education teaching
violence and claims over land, reaches its peak at age 18, with the
enlistment in the military. We are ordered to put on the bloodstained
military uniform and preserve the legacy of the Nakba and of occupation.
Israeli society has been built upon these rotten roots, and it is
apparent in all facets of life: in the racism, the hateful political
discourse, the police brutality, and more.
This military oppression goes hand in hand with economic oppression.
While the citizens of the Occupied Palestinian Territories are
impoverished, wealthy elites become richer at their expense. Palestinian
workers are systematically exploited, and the weapons industry uses the
Occupied Palestinian Territories as a testing ground and as a showcase
to bolster its sales. When the government chooses to uphold the
occupation, it is acting against our interest as citizens– large
portions of taxpayer money is funding the “security” industry and the
development of settlements instead of welfare, education, and health.
The military is a violent, corrupt, and corrupting institution to the
core. But its worst crime is enforcing the destructive policy of the
occupation of Palestine. Young people our age are required to take part
in enforcing closures as a means of “collective punishment,” arresting
and jailing minors, blackmailing to recruit “collaborators” and more–
all of these are war crimes which are executed and covered up every day.
Violent military rule in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is
enforced through policies of apartheid entailing two different legal
systems: one for Palestinians and the other for Jews. The Palestinians
are constantly faced with undemocratic and violent measures, while
Jewish settlers who commit violent crimes– first and foremost against
Palestinians but also against soldiers- are “rewarded” by the Israeli
military turning a blind eye and covering up these transgressions. The
military has been enforcing a siege on Gaza for over ten years. This
siege has created a massive humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip and is
one of the main factors which perpetuates the cycle of violence of
Israel and Hamas. Because of the siege, there is no drinkable water nor
electricity in Gaza for most hours of the day. Unemployment and poverty
are pervasive and the healthcare system lacks the most basic means. This
reality serves as the foundation on top of which the disaster of
COVID-19 has only made things worse in Gaza.
It is important to emphasize that these injustices are not a one-time
slippage or straying away from the path. These injustices are not a
mistake or a symptom, they are the policy and the disease. The actions
of the Israeli military in 2020 are nothing but a continuation and
upholding of the legacy of massacre, expulsion of families, and land
theft, the legacy which “enabled” the establishment of the State of
Israel, as a proper democratic state, for Jews only.
Historically, the military has been seen as a tool which serves the
“melting pot” policy, as an institution which crosscuts social class and
gender divides in Israeli society. In reality, this could not be further
from the truth. The military is enacting a clear program of
‘channeling’; soldiers from upper-middle class are channelled into
positions with economic and civilian prospects, while soldiers from
lower socioeconomic backgrounds are channelled into positions which have
high mental and physical risk and which do not provide the same head
start in civil society. Simultaneously, women’s representation in
violent positions such as pilots, tank commanders, combat soldiers, and
intelligence officers, is being marketed as feminist achievment. How
does it make sense that the struggle against gender inequality is
achieved through the oppression of Palestinian women? These
“achievements” sidestep solidarity with the struggle of Palestinian
women. The military is cementing these power relations and the
oppression of marginalized communities through a cynical co-opting of
We are calling for high school seniors (shministiyot) our age to ask
themselves: What and who are we serving when we enlist in the military?
Why do we enlist? What reality do we create by serving in the military
of the occupation? We want peace, and real peace requires justice.
Justice requires acknowledgment of the historical and present
injustices, and of the continuing Nakba. Justice requires reform in the
form of the end of the occupation, the end of the siege on Gaza, and
recognition of the right of return for Palestinian refugees. Justice
demands solidarity, joint struggle, and refusal.