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Group of J14 activists to refuse their military reserve duty

While thousands of J14 activists took to the streets and blocked main roads in major cities Sunday night, a group of reserve service soldiers is forming a new agenda of conscientious objection in protest of neo-liberalism and the lack of social justice. “I will no longer defend a state that doesn’t defend its citizens,” says activist.

Protestors stopped traffic on Ayalon highway in Tel Aviv (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

Protesters stopped traffic on Ayalon highway in Tel Aviv (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

Moshe Silman, who set himself on fire Saturday night and who is still struggling for his life, sparked a new wave of angry J14 protests against the Israeli government. Thousands of demonstrators marched the streets of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa and Be’er Sheva Sunday night, enraged by anti-social policies and by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s response to the event, which he defined it a “personal tragedy.” Protesters carried copies of Silman’s suicide letter (parts of which were omitted in the pro-Netanyahu daily Israel Hayom), and chanted slogans such as “every man is Moshe Silman” and “Netanyahu – go home!”

In Tel Aviv more than a thousand demonstrators blockaded government buildings and blocked main roads, including the Ayalon Highway, and gained much support from car and even train drivers passing by. While in Tel Aviv police did not intervene, In Jerusalem six were arrested while blocking roads. Late at night the  entrance to the National Insurance Institute (Bituah Leumi) building in Ramat Gan was set on fire, and graffiti was sprayed reading: “Price tag for Moshe Silman.”

The march leaving Ayalon highway (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

The march leaving Ayalon Highway (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

One of the protesters in Tel Aviv was Guy Tamar, a 39-year-old resident of Modi’in who works with children suffering from ADD, is married to a teacher and father to a young daughter. Earlier in the day Tamar posted a status update in his Facebook account declaring that he would refuse to return to military reserve service due to the government’s social-economic policies. “I was careful not to reach this point before, but on a day such as this there is no choice,” wrote Tamar. “I will no longer defend a state that does not defend its citizens.” Within hours five more reserve service men, two of them officers, sent him their names and ranks and asked to join the initiative, as did two ex-servicemen.

[UPDATE: On Monday afternoon, Tamar updated his status on Facebook to inform that his post on refusing was removed due to "a violation of Facebook regulations" and he was asked not to write it again. He will try spreading the word in other ways.]

“I had problems with the way the army does things in the past, but I felt like it was important to be there and make a difference,” says Tamar, who is a first sergeant (res.) in the engineering corps. “But recent events cracked something within me. You can say my eyes were once closed, and the social justice protests opened them in such a way that I can’t go back.”

"My eyes have been openned". Guy Tamar (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

"My eyes have been opened." Guy Tamar (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

Last year Tamar was one of the founders of the protest encampment in his city, and was exposed to a reality he had never known before. “It came to the point where families came to me and asked for help in getting a box of basic food supplies – and this in Modi’in, a proper middle-class city. Since then I’ve been meeting single parents, seeing families on the brink of economic collapse, to the point of home evictions. This is how I got more and more involved, and the more you protest the more you learn.

“On Saturday night I was marching with Jerusalem activists when the news came. When you hear of someone capable of doing such a thing you can’t help realizing the depth of the pit a person has to fall into to do such a thing, to actually burn oneself, and you see how no one really cares. That’s when I decided I won’t serve a state that doesn’t protect its citizens. I love the people here, and I fight for them, not for some institution or for lands. If the state breaks its end of the social contract – I will break mine. This is something that’ll have more of an effect than these demonstrations.”

Tamar was preceded by Julian Feder, one of the founders of the very first encampment in Tel Aviv. Feder was sent to prison for 10 days for refusing service as a combat medic in February, declaring that he would not fight for a state that fights its own citizens with anti-democratic legislation and an anti-social budget. There are also local traditions of young people in the lower classes, who avoid military service in quiet protest against government policies. Many of them have spent long periods in prison. However, this is the first time that such an individual initiative gets immediate positive reactions, and has others joining in.

>Read more – Solidarity vs. militarism: The Zionist contract and the struggle to define J14

When asked about the conservative parts of J14, who have recently demonstrated in support of compulsory service for all citizens, Tamar is quick to respond. “As far as the protest is concerned they are nothing more than a lousy spin. We mustn’t worship the army, but rather the lives of citizens and all others who live here. Before equal duties we must talk of equal rights. The government must understand that we are rejecting the militaristic discourse.”

"The state broke its side of the social contract". Tamar demonstrating (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

"The state broke its side of the social contract." Tamar demonstrating (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

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  • COMMENTS

    1. XYZ

      (1) “Price Tag” – If vandalism for one cause is legitimate, then it will be legitimate for all other causes.

      (2) It doesn’t make sense for “progressives” to go around demanding other people (Haredim) do military service and then, at the same time, say they aren’t going to serve.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Haggai Matar

      1. Who said anything aout legitimacy? I just said it happened,and I’m guessing that no more tha 5 people were involved. The thousands that go on the streets very week don’t do these things. And again – this is without out even opening the question of right or wrong.

      2. The more radical or progresive faction in J14 does NOT demand that others enlist.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Good for the goose

      Oh my gawwwwdddd!! Graffiti!
      .
      Get me to a fainting couch!
      .
      Hehehe! Just kidding. When non-Leftists and non-Mohammedans spray graffiti the activists here at +972 start screaming about fascism and dictatorship. There are calls for genocide of Jewish children by the good denizens of Mondoweiss.
      .
      What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. They sprayed graffiti? So the entire Marxist / Stalinist / “Peace” camp / Judenrat / Anarchist community (or whatever you kooks call yourself these days) is forever tarnished.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Rann

      Good…: You may notice that the Price Tag graffiti sprayed by these people doesn’t call for the death of those who don’t believe the same stuff they do. May small differences reign.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Rafael

      What doesn’t make sense is that people will refuse military service for all reasons other than the the military occupation and the things it enables. This is Israelis for you. Only their pockets will stand in the way between them and killing Palestinians.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Haggai Matar

      It’s a little more complex than a deadly urge to kill Palesinians. The occupation is part of Israel, Israelis to some extent profit from it, and are told there is no other way. Most don’t go to the army with the inention of killing. They simly obey, out of fear or habit or other reasons. Well, until they stop.

      Reply to Comment
    7. albin

      When will J14 wake up and refuse to serve in the military because of the oppression of the Palestinians? This Jew in the United States, and much of the rest of the world that is rising up is waiting for you all to confront the real issue: the oppression of our Palestinian brothers and sisters. Ask yourself, what is the government spending money on instead of housing and social welfare policies? The occupation is the answer.

      Zionism has reached a point in history where Jewish liberation will come only when Palestinian liberation has come as well. They share the holy land with us, we must recognize them and respect them. It makes me sad to say this but until that is done the J14 movement will accomplish nothing.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Kolumn9

      This isn’t going to be a very effective campaign. Many people presume that most of the left-wing activists don’t bother to show up for miluim anyway. This will just confirm that impression while having no real impact on anything. It is a blatant rejection of the dominant consensus and is another action that will drive away the main stream.

      Reply to Comment
    9. There is a distinction between equal duties and civil disobedience against the State; one can adhere to both. Tamar has declared the social contract fails; he proclaims publicly he will not serve next mobilization call, thereby exposing himself and his family (he has a child) to social and economic risk. As I have said elsewhere on this site, I am no fan of the military at all; but I also know militaries will never go away in several lifetimes to come. Tamar’s stand is not against military service as such; as he says, he has always felt, until now, that he had a duty to serve the State which served all. If this move is cast as anti military as such it will obviously fail. Instead of deciding the equal duty folks are rightist monsters, one can frame this as a common thrust, employing different means, to a goal of social equality. I do not think the populace will switch to his pricipled position over all, but that is often not necessary for effect.
      .
      “When you hear of someone capable of doing such a thing you can’t help realizing the depth of the pit a person has to fall into to do such a thing, to actually burn oneself, and you see how no one really cares. That’s when I decided I won’t serve a state that doesn’t protect its citizens. I love the people here, and I fight for them, not for some institution or for lands. If the state breaks its end of the social contract – I will break mine”
      .
      A remarkable, concise position. New voices can emerge.
      .
      “There are also local traditions of young people in the lower classes, who avoid military service in quiet protest against government policies. Many of them have spent long periods in prison.”
      .
      I know I am pedantic, but there is a story there, methinks.
      .
      You’re not likely to change the world, but may make a new space for the future. You’ll be repressed for that–which tells how valuable the space would be.

      Reply to Comment
    10. XYZ

      So Tamar is doing exactly like the soldiers who refuse to carry out orders to destroy Jewish settlements….they are soldiers who will serve ON CONDITION that the state carries out the policies what they want. The problem is that serving in the military is NOT SERVING “THE STATE”. That is an old idea that was popular in Europe before World War II but which is now largely discredited, for obvious reasons. It is protecting the population. If Tamar thinks that the population does not need protection because of the policies of the National Insurance Institute don’t find favor in his eyes, then he has a very different view of reality than the rest of us.

      Reply to Comment
    11. XYZ,
      .
      Refusing conscription, ready to pay the penalty rather than flee, is not identical to refusing an order; nor is it always the case that those refusing orders are wrong. In the case of evicting (that’s what it was) the Gaza settlements, you likely know religious soldiers, stating their objections, were not used.
      .
      As to protection, there are many kinds of protection. I cannot say Tamar is right or wrong on his view of things. But it is clearly true that a State may protect its borders while neglecting its citizens. Your use of “the rest of us” at end implies there is only one “us.” I do not know if J14 will lead anywhere, but the issue under contention is exactly that there is not just one “us.” Patriotism may be used to destroy. Free Speech looks for alternatives. Civil disobedience is free speech at offered personal risk to the speaker.

      Reply to Comment
    12. Doreen Said

      @ALBIN: I completely agree with you. in order for there to be a democratic state based on equality, the Palestinian- Israeli conflict must be resolved. A democratic state should not have second class citizens of any sort (economically, politically, socially).

      Reply to Comment
    13. Great! Courageous! Politically right! How can human rights activists in Europe support the movement for social justice and a just peace?

      Reply to Comment
    14. Palestinian

      Defend a state ? so they believe by joining the IDF they are “defending” their state ?!

      Reply to Comment
    15. Joel

      @ALBIN: I agree with you, except that I would say, “ISRAELI (not Jewish) liberation will come only when Palestinian liberation has come as well.”

      Reply to Comment
    16. [...] fire the former night at the social justice demonstration in Tel Aviv. It sparked angry protests, a new initiative of socio-economic reserve service army refuseniks and a wave of (as of now) unsuccessful self-immolators. Summer is hot as hell in these parts. I [...]

      Reply to Comment

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