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Alumni of the Israel Arts and Science Academy call on others to refuse military service

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We received the following two pieces, the Israel Arts and Science Academy (IASA) Alumni & Students’ Military Refusal Letter and Press Release, “In memory of those massacred six years ago in the besieged Gaza Strip.”  The Cast Lead offensive began on Dec. 27, 2008. 

Over fifty alumni, former educators and staff members of the Israel Arts and Science Academy, Jews and Palestinians, have published a letter calling the high-school community – students and alumni alike – to refuse service in the Israeli military.

“When I go into the classroom, I know I am preparing tomorrow’s citizens for the next war” (Photo: Official poster for the Israeli Defense Forces)

“When I go into the classroom, I know I am preparing tomorrow’s citizens for the next war” (Photo: Official poster for the Israeli Defense Forces)

2014 was marked by outright violence and racism against Palestinians, both in Israeli politics and within Israeli society. At the same time, some critical voices who call on refusing to serve the oppressive system were also heard – this letter is the fourth of its kind to be published this year. However, it is unique in that both Israeli Jews and Palestinians have formulated and signed it, and by insisting on making an explicit call for refusal – which risks severe punishment under Israeli law.

A real kindergarten exercise of the Israeli child.

A real kindergarten exercise of the Israeli child. (Photo: New Profile Digital Exhibit)

The letter and website emphasize the role of the Israeli educational system in indoctrinating and preparing youth for military service, as well as the role of societal expectations: “The refusal to serve means also resisting the militaristic indoctrination process we all went through since our childhood in schools, youth movements, national ceremonies, in high school – and which continues in our adult lives.”

Last year, current students at the school led an internal struggle for the direct employment under fair conditions for the cleaning, kitchen and maintenance staff of the institution. Now, the alumni are continuing to press for social and political change: “Our human and civil duty is to be involved in our society and fix it. Refusal means voting with our feet against a policy that cannot be tolerated… Oppression mechanisms are also used against Jews within Israel, particularly against Mizrachi, Ultra-Orthodox, Ethiopians, women, residents of the periphery and the poor wherever they are. The military is not the only executive power in the current political, social and economic reality, but a refusal to serve in it is a clear expression of resistance against these oppressions.”

Gabi Wolff, himself a conscientious objector and a signatory to the letter: “At seventeen I decided that I will not serve in the military. That I will not take part in the occupation. That I will not lend a hand to the continued control over another people. Today, more than a decade after being released from prison, I call on others to avoid being recruited, exactly because of my concern for Israeli society. The poverty in Israel, the lack of funding for culture, the violence, the taking apart of the welfare state, the destruction of academic freedom – are all made possible because of the occupation and the eternal sense of fear it generates.”

The Israel Arts and Science Academy was founded in 1990 by the Israeli Center for Excellence through Education, as a high school and boarding school for gifted and outstanding students from all over the country. The high school receives applications from a variety of populations in Israel: secular and religious, Jews, Muslims, Druze and Christians. “The Israel Arts and Science Academy accepts students from various backgrounds, with different religions and diverse national identities. It is only natural for those who experienced the ideal of living in a multicultural community not to reject it by serving in a military whose purpose is maintaining separation,” says Noa Abend, an alumnus.

The letter’s signatories call on their fellow alumni, present and future, to join the call and actively refuse Israeli occupation and apartheid. The initial list of signatories constitutes an unusually high number, especially when coming from a small single institute.

The following letter is published in Hebrew , Arabic, and English:

A Call on IASA Alumni to Refuse Mandatory and Reserve Duty Service in the Israeli Military

We, Israel Arts and Science Academy alumni, former staff members, Palestinians and Jews, from different ages and diverse world-views, approach you, alumni and future alumni – dare to refuse.

As human beings and citizens we each carry responsibility for our choices and actions. Military service or refusing it is a choice. Refusing to serve in the Israeli military is not an easy choice, but a moral stance against a collective mood manifested in racism and violence on every street these days. It is a choice to withstand the pressure coming from one’s home, friends, professional environment and the media, and to not take part in the crimes done in our name. The refusal to serve means also resisting the militaristic indoctrination process we all went through since our childhood in schools, youth movements, national ceremonies, in high school – and which continues in our adult lives.

The Israeli military is responsible for the mundane systematic mechanisms of oppression used against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories while also taking part in the oppression and dispossession of the non-Jewish citizens of the State of Israel. The military serves as an enabler to a separation-regime based on the notion of an ethnic superiority of Jews over Palestinians; a regime which denies basic human rights, enforces separate legal systems to different populations in the West Bank, and which has institutionalized a system of ethnic-based discrimination in the ‘48 territory.

The fundamental questions surrounding military service are frequently silenced by equating refusing to serve with an opposition to the very existence of the state, deeming it therefore an irresponsible act which endangers our very physical existence. And we say to you: this is a demagogic silencing of your sense of justice and reason. Our human and civil duty is to be involved in our society and fix it. Refusal means voting with our feet against a policy that cannot be tolerated. Under a regime which negates any chance for diplomatic and social normalcy, which can ignore and squash sweeping social protest, refusal today is a brave and necessary act of civil resistance to unacceptable crimes. Today, after the most recent massacre in Gaza, a horror committed in our name against nearly two million people – half of whom are children and teenagers – we choose not to remain silent.

Oppression mechanisms are also used against Jews within Israel, particularly against Mizrachi, Ultra-Orthodox, Ethiopians, women, residents of the periphery and the poor wherever they are. The military is not the only executive power in the current political, social and economic reality, but a refusal to serve in it is a clear expression of resistance against these oppressions. Backed by the military, Israeli governments are exploiting the weakened populations for ethnic cleansing and dispossession projects across the Green Line, in the Negev and the Galilee, using them to fight the so called “demographic war”. The constant state of emergency serves the destructive neoliberal policy of the regime, which means the state’s rejection of its responsibility for its own citizens while eroding basic services such as health, welfare and education.

Refusing to serve is a privilege, demanding a difficult grappling with society, with the community and family, and sometimes even serving time in a military prison. When we were teenagers some of us did not have the knowledge, the courage or the proper networks of support to allow such an act, and we want you to know that there are voices like ours as well as different frameworks that support those who refuse or consider refusing.

You, the current students at the school, have led an inspiring struggle last year, aimed at improving the working conditions of contract workers there. This is one example of many effective forms of resistance to oppressive policies. Similarly, we believe that resistance by individuals through a refusal to serve the system can bring about a fundamental change in society and promote a social structure which is not based on the control of Jews over non-Jews in Israel.

From its inception to this day, the school’s administration boasts about the high quality of its education for leadership and excellence. Therefore, taking personal responsibility on your part and refusing Israel’s policy is all the more important. Use the critical tools and the rare experience of living in a school which brings together people from diverse ethnic groups and backgrounds to impact the society and the state in a positive way.

Yours,

Raya Rotem, former IASA teacher of literature, war widow

Nitzan Ofir, class of 1993

Natalie Rothman, class of 1994

Ronnie Barkan, class of 1994

Anonymous, class of 1994

Aluma Klein, class of 1995

Fadi Shbita, class of 1995

Dana Abta, class of 1996, former IASA teacher of arts

Gilad Leibovich, class of 1996, former IASA class counselor

Ayelet McKyton, class of 1996, student thesis advisor

Rafi Avigad, class of 1996

Anonymous, class of 1996

Ghada Bshara, class of 1996

Assaf Mahalalel, class of 1996

Anonymous, class of 1996

Anonymous, class of 1996

Mamdooh Afdile, class of 1998

Maya Maxwell, class of 1998

Udi Greenberg, class of 1998

Anonymous, class of 1998

Manal Ammouri, class of 2000

Danielle Shwartz, class of 2000

Gabriel Wolff, class of 2000

Odelia Hitron, class of 2001

Erga Sonnenberg, class of 2001

Saab Mansour, class of 2001

Amit Gilutz, class of 2001

Avital Reshef, class of 2001

Hana Amori, class of 2001

Yael Ben-gigi, class of 2001

Liron Mor, class of 2001

Nir Baruch, class of 2001

Anonymous, class of 2001

Anonymous, class of 2001

Anonymous, class of 2001

Ela Gringauz, class of 2002

Jethro Brice, class of 2002

Ariel Yehuda Yahav, class of 2002

Noa Abend, class of 2002

Maisalon Dallashi, class of 2004

Adel Naamneh, class of 2004

Mai Sulieman, class of 2004

Eva Falah, class of 2004

Roi Hendel, class of 2004

Timna Raz, class of 2004

Inbal Djamchid, class of 2005

Yoni Balaban, class of 2005

Anonymous, class of 2005

Anonymous, class of 2005

Anonymous, class of 2005

Abed Shalabi, class of 2009

Anonymous, class of 2010

Anonymous, class of 2012

 

** Since the act of conscientious objection is regarded in a very negative way in the society we live in, some of us could not afford to expose their name at work, school or with the family and have therefore chosen to sign anonymously.

To join or for any consultation please contact: [email protected] or use the contact form.

 

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About Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a mother, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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9 Responses

  1. a blah chick
    December 28, 2014, 11:38 am

    “Okay, kids, how many tanks do you see in this picture? Now, how many fighter jets? How many doves and menorahs?”

    War is peace.

  2. lyn117
    December 28, 2014, 2:12 pm

    A brave statement. It shouldn’t take being “gifted” to see the indoctrination for what it is. Congratulations, anyway, on seeing through it.

  3. oldgeezer
    December 28, 2014, 4:11 pm

    A small but very brave action in today’s climate. Particularly in Israel with right wing goons and gangs known to physically attack individuals.

  4. Marnie
    December 29, 2014, 12:29 am

    I’d love to see that world wide.

    • CigarGod
      December 29, 2014, 10:06 am

      Yes, marnie.
      We need counter-recruitment in all our schools. Unfortunately, it is very difficult/impossible to be allowed access to address students in the same way military recruiters are.

      As many have said: if we really love peace, we would have a department of peace, as we have a depsrtment of war.

  5. just
    December 29, 2014, 8:07 am

    Heaven has a place for these thinking & wonderful people.

    There’s always been a choice.

    Thank you, Ronnie Barkan et al.

  6. tommy
    December 29, 2014, 11:06 am

    The call needs to be sent to indict, try, and incarcerate those who serve militarily for American and Israeli aggression. They are state sponsored terrorists.

  7. NickJOCW
    December 30, 2014, 9:11 am

    Is there a danger it would lead to an army with a higher level of psychopaths, totally undiluted by even the faintest humanitarian sanity?

  8. bryan
    December 31, 2014, 9:35 am

    Another good example of the vitriol poured out against talented youngsters foolish enough to take a stand on human rights, comes from South Africa. Josh Broomberg regards himself as a staunch Zionist who “believes in Israel’s right to exist, and her right to defend herself from the threat presented by those seeking to hurt her citizens”. Nevertheless he had the temerity to post on Facebook in support of the people of Gaza, and to say that he “stood with the thousands of civilians who had lost loved ones as a result of the conflict… and that the criticism should not be viewed as a betrayal, but rather an ‘honest and true way’ to show his patriotism for Israel… “. His altruistic motives were met by a petition with two thousand signatures rounded up by ‘concerned Zionists’ demanding that he “be removed from his position in office as deputy head-boy” and “have his Honours revoked”.

    A fine lesson our youngsters are taught when they innocently take a moral stance on international affairs by the custodians of moral orthodoxy. See http://www.vocfm.co.za/jewish-students-gaza-support-angers-zionists/

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