Young Israeli Army Resisters Speak Out in National Tour

"As a Jew, an American and a mother, the invasion of Gaza filled me with unbearable sadness. While Hamas’ attacks on Israeli villages are deplorable, Israel’s disproportionate response is unconscionable… In loving memory of our ancestors and for the future of our—and Palestinian—children, more American Jews should speak out and reach out."
~ Medea Benjamin, CODEPINK co-founder

The High Holy Days are a time to review the past year, to acknowledge our moral strengths and weaknesses, and to turn toward the New Year with a renewed commitment to living our values. One part of that process of “teshuvah ve tzedakah”, turning and returning, is to tell the stories that powerfully illustrate the Jewish values of devotion to life and justice. During this period of intense reflection, two courageous young Israeli women who refused to serve in the Israeli army will share their stories in a national tour called, "Why We Refuse: A National Tour of Israeli Young Women for Peace," from September 11 to October 11.

shmin white 500Maya Wind and Netta Mishly (right), both 19, are part of a group of Israeli high school seniors called the Shministim (“twelfth-graders”) who went to prison for their principled refusal to join the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) upon graduation because of their opposition to Israel’s policies toward Palestine and occupation of its territories. About 100 Israeli youth, including Maya and Netta, have signed the 2008 Shministim letter articulating their reasons for refusal including "Israeli ‘defense’ methods: checkpoints, ‘targeted’ killing, roads for Jews only, sieges and more, which serve the land seizing policy, annex more occupied territories into Israel and trample on Palestinian human rights… It is impossible to harm and imprison in the name of freedom, and thus it is impossible to be moral and serve the occupation.”

Netta, at the age of sixteen, was an organizer for an alternative education project. It was in this project that the idea of the 2008 Shministim letter was born. In 2009 she was sent to jail for 20 days after refusing to serve in the Israeli army. Since her release, she has been involved in immigrant and refugee struggles as well as anti-occupation actions.

Maya works for Rabbis for Human Rights, and guides political tours in East Jerusalem and the West Bank for the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions. She also co-leads the Jerusalem dialogue youth group of New Profile, the feminist movement for the demilitarization of Israel.

"We believe it is important to spread information about the Israeli occupation and about and the movements that work against it," said Maya, who grew up attending religious Jewish schools. She joined the Shministim in December 2008 and spent 40 days in prison before her release in March. "We feel it is important to expose the American people, specifically the Jewish community, to the role they play in maintaining the occupation. We hope to empower people our age to take responsibility by taking a more active role in the resistance movements."

Many more American Jews have begun to question and speak out against the Israeli occupation since the January 09 assault on Gaza. According to a March 2009 poll of American Jews, 60 percent oppose the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and 72 percent favor America’s assuming an active role in the peace process, even if it means having the U.S. take tough positions such as publicly disagreeing with both the Israelis and Arabs or exerting pressure on both parties to make compromises. In the same poll, 59 percent of American Jews felt that Israel’s military action on Gaza had no effect on Israel’s security (41 percent) or made Israel less secure (18 percent), while only 41 percent felt it made Israel more secure. What these young conscientious objectors have to say about the occupation and the militarization in Israeli society is of critical importance for us.

Maya Wind and Netta Mishly refuse to rule over an occupied people. They refuse to contribute to a deadly cycle of violence with their neighbors. They refuse to confiscate land, to demolish homes, to detain Palestinians without charge. They refuse to guard checkpoints, to enforce a siege, to usher in a humanitarian disaster.

"Last year Jewish Voice for Peace sent over 40,000 letters of support to the Shministim as they were going to prison," said Sydney Levy of Jewish Voice for Peace. "We must continue to let the world know that for the sake of both Israelis and Palestinians, Israel’s occupation must end, and that a new generation of young people is willing to go to jail to stand up and say NO."

Whatever our position on the many issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we have a unique opportunity to learn as we listen to Maya and Netta discuss their personal experiences of growing up in Israel and becoming conscientious objectors, and how Americans can become part of a movement away from constant conflict and insecurity, and toward a durable peace with justice.

For more info on the tour, organized by CODEPINK and Jewish Voice for Peace, please visit www.whywerefuse.org or email [email protected]

“This new generation of young Israeli kids is standing up to the government – they call ‘em ‘Shministim.’ … They believe in a better, more peaceful future for themselves and for Israelis and Palestinians, and they are refusing to join the Israeli army. They’re in jail, holding strong against immense pressure from family, friends and the Israeli government.” – Ed Asner, “The Shministim

Posted in Israel/Palestine

{ 9 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. AnaSanchez says:

    “The pioneers of a war-less world are the youth that refuse military service.”

  2. ImTirtzu says:

    If you like this story you will love the tale of Walid Shoebat. From link to shoebat.com

    Biography of Walid Shoebat

    Born in Bethlehem of Judea, Walid’s grandfather was the Muslim Mukhtar (chieftain) of Beit Sahour-Bethlehem (The Shepherd’s Fields) and a friend of Haj-Ameen Al-Husseni, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and notorious friend of Adolf Hitler.

    Walid’s great grandfather, Abdullah Ali Awad-Allah, was also a fighter and close associate of both Abdul Qader and Haj Amin Al-Husseini, who led the Palestinians against Israel. Walid lived through and witnessed Israel’s Six Day War while living in Jericho.

    As a young man, he became a member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, and participated in acts of terror and violence against Israel, and was later imprisoned in the Russian Compound, Jerusalem’s central prison for incitement and violence against Israel.

    After his release, he continued his life of violence and rioting in Bethlehem and the Temple Mount. After entering the U.S, he worked as a counselor for the Arab Student Organization at Loop College in Chicago and continued his anti-Israel activities.

    In 1993, Walid studied the Tanach (Jewish Bible) in a challenge to convert his wife to Islam. Six months later, after intense study, Walid realized that everything he had been taught about Jews was a lie. Convinced he was on the side of evil, he became an advocate for his former enemy.

    Driven by a deep passion to heal his own soul, and to bring the truth about the Jews and Israel to the world, Walid shed his former life and his work as a software engineer and set out to tirelessly bring the cause of Israel to tens of thousands of people throughout the world: churches and synagogues, civic groups, government leaders and media.

    Walid has written several online books including “Dear Muslim, Let Me Tell You Why I Believed” and “Israel, And The World’s Mock Trial”, where he exposes anti-Semitism and the hatred of Jews in both the Islamic Christian and secular worlds.

    Walid is an American citizen and lives in the USA with his wife and children, under this assumed name.

    • bob says:

      Jerusalem Post
      Shoebat’s claim to have been a terrorist rests on his account of the purported bombing of Bank Leumi. But after checking its files, the bank said it had no record of an attack on its Bethlehem branch anywhere in the relevant 1977-79 period.

      Shoebat told The Jerusalem Post that this could be because the bank building was robustly protected with steel and that the attack may have caused little damage.

      Asked whether word of the bombing made the news at the time, he said, “I don’t know. I didn’t read the papers because I was in hiding for the next three days.” (In 2004, he had told Britain’s Sunday Telegraph: “I was terribly relieved when I heard on the news later that evening that no one had been hurt or killed by my bomb.”)

      Shoebat could not immediately recall the year, or even the time of year, of the purported bombing when talking to the Post by phone from the US. After wavering, he finally settled for the summer of 1977.

      • syvanen says:

        Oh Bob you are too mean. Im Tu believes very deeply in this story. It is cruel to point out that it is a lie– it could cause him some serious psychological disruption. Such conflicts lead to cog dis and eventual inability to recognize reality (but then maybe he has already arrived at this point).

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  4. LeaNder says:

    Image:

    “I first went to prison on September 23 and served 35 days. I am lucky, after 2 times in jail, I got a medical discharge, but I’m the only one. By the time you read this, many of my friends will be in prison too: in for three weeks, out for one, and then back in, over and over, until they are 21. The reason? We refuse to do military service for the Israeli army.

    Given they are 16, 17, 18, 19 some of them have quite some time ahead. They have to spent 3/4 of the year up to 21 in jail. What law is this?

  5. RE: the “group of Israeli high school seniors called the Shministim”

    MY COMMENT: One cannot help but be inspired by such an impressive group of young people!

  6. Saleema says:

    Are mosr israeli refusenicks girls? If so, I wouldn’t be surprised. Women tend to abhor killing more than men. Good for these brave youths. Their hearts haven’t been diseased.

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