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How can you tell that Israeli refuseniks are scaring the system?

From talk show hosts to Finance Minister Yair Lapid, the new conscientious objectors are infuriating Israel’s elite.

By Moriel Rothman

This week, a group of 50+ Israeli high schools students and youth penned a letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu declaring their refusal to enlist in the army as an act of protest against Israel’s 47-year old military occupation of the Palestinian Territories.

And the system is scared.

Israeli talk show hosts Israeli refusenik. 'Do you understand where you live?'

Israeli talk show hosts Israeli refusenik. ‘Do you understand where you live?’

In light of the reactions to the letter, I think it is worth pointing out a few indications as to just how powerful this act is, and how deeply it scares the system.

Indication #1. This clip from Channel 2, Israel’s biggest TV news channel, in which a panel of public figures conducts a so-called “interview” with one of the young refuseniks:  http://reshet.tv/Shows/todays_talk/videomarklist,233902/

It’s in Hebrew, but it doesn’t really matter if you understand Hebrew or not. Starting from minute 3:00, it is virtually impossible to understand almost anything being said, because everyone is just yelling. (Okay, a few gems that did shine through the bellowing here and there: “you are dishrags,” “you will have the mark of Cain for the rest of your lives,” and “this act reminds me of the murder of Yitzhak Rabin”). Whether you speak Hebrew or not, watch this piece, or at least a few minutes of it, and tell me that you don’t see fear thinly veiled by bulging-veined aggression.

Indication #2. Yair Lapid, the politician elected on a ticket of Inoffensive Fluff and populist anti-Haredism (going so far, once elected, as to apologize to God last Yom Kippur for not yet having succeeding in drafting the Haredim (today his law passed)), has also lashed out on Facebook against the refuseniks: “…draft dodging is not an ideology,” he writes, calling the youth “spoiled” and concluding: “I am ashamed of you.” In response to Lapid’s post, the refuseniks wrote: “Yair Lapid, we are ashamed of you and your government. You claim to believe in democracy, but you are serving as a minister in a government that rules over millions of Palestinians who did not choose it and cannot legally impact its decisions…” Yair Lapid is intimidated by actions and words that are driven by deeply held moral values, which he seems to lack (drafting the Haredim is not a moral value), and which threaten his comfortable throne in a government based on oppression.

Indication #3. The principal of one of the schools at which a few of the signatories study practically tripped over himself in order to emphasize that “No, no, no, we’re not like them.” In an interview with Channel 2, Haim Ditschman emphasized, “Our school takes great effort to raise the percentage of students who enlist, and indeed, we’ve arrived at a meaningful change, from 70% to 90%” to 150% sir, yes, sir, please don’t think that we support these people, sir. They’re flukes, sir. It not our fault, sir. We’re sorry, sir.

I am not writing this to celebrate the fear raised by this letter in and of itself. I am writing this because the system is broken, and in its brokenness, it is on a killing-spree, taking the lives of more and more Palestinians virtually every week, sometimes every day, sometimes many in a single day. A broken system can’t be fixed from within; an unjust law should not be obeyed. This action is exactly the type of action that is needed.

A final note, on two different types of fear. The most brilliant trick of the system in questioning, attacking and smearing these refuseniks is and will continue to be the spin of disguising their fear of losing power as a fear of annihilation. They say:

”What if everyone decided to refuse to serve in the army?”

They answer: That would be the end of Israel.

Thereby conjuring up existential fear which leads to burning anger against these kids, and it feels righteous, it feels just, it feels true, it feels unquestionable.

But they are intentionally asking a false question. The real question is this (and of course those who prop up the system won’t ask the real question, which could chip away at the legs of the high chairs upon which they sit):

What if everyone decided to refuse to serve in the army in protest of the military occupation of the Palestinian territories? 

That would be the end of the military occupation of the Palestinian territories. In other words, if 500 or 1,000 or 10,000 more youths stood up and declared: we won’t serve in an army that occupies, those in charge would be forced to reassess their commitment to the occupation.

Moriel Rothman is an American-Israeli writer, poet and activist based in Tel Aviv. This post was first published on his blog The Leftern Wall.

Read more:
Israeli teens tell Netanyahu: We will not take part in occupation

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    COMMENTS

    1. Kolumn9

      Every year. Same old crap. What would happen if people that believe there is an occupation refused to serve? Those that don’t believe that there is an occupation will have to maintain control but with less resources they would have to be more brutal.

      Reply to Comment
      • Average American

        Yours is an amazing statement. “Believe” there is an occupation? What do you believe it is, if not occupation? And “more” brutal? Thank you at least for admitting that it is already brutal, but to you more would be of course the natural thing to do? Amazing.

        Reply to Comment
      • Danny

        Oh, so you don’t BELIEVE there is an occupation? And yet you do BELIEVE that the land was given to you 4000 years ago by a made-up fictional character?

        You rightists make me sick.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ginger Eis

          “And yet you do BELIEVE that the land was given to you 4000 years ago by a made-up fictional character?”?

          Danny the Jihadi, by the above statement you meant allah and the one called mohamad who married a 9yr old girl (!!) and many as a result call a pedophile, no?

          Reply to Comment
          • David

            Reality:

            Russian, Polish, Euorpean and other Ashkenazem Jews had/have no more right to Palestine than Irish Catholics or Mexican atheists.

            Reply to Comment
          • shachalnur

            I haven’t seen a Mexican atheist in 13 years living there.

            Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        There are certainly many people that do not believe that the Jewish people can possibly be occupiers in Judea. It would be like the Arabs ‘occupying’ Arabia and the Chinese ‘occupying China.

        Reply to Comment
        • Danny

          Oh, I get it:

          Jew-Judea
          Arab-Arabia
          Chinese-China

          Allow me to add one for you:

          Palestinian-Palestine

          Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            Indeed. Now you get the core of the conflict.

            Reply to Comment
          • Danny

            If that’s the core of the conflict, then there is no solution.

            However, you’re wrong about the core of the conflict, that’s not it at all. The core of the conflict is that Israel has been supported and enabled for decades by powerful states, and has grown accustomed to it and thinking it will last forever. When the support finally stops, Israel will compromise. By then though, I fear it will be the Palestinians who will refuse to compromise.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            The core of the conflict is that both we and the Palestinians claim ownership of the land. If the Palestinians expect us to surrender our claim they will be waiting for a long time. We’ve had a lot of practice holding on to our private prejudices on that count for many years.

            The Palestinians and the Arabs can’t actually destroy us without destroying themselves. This equation remains true regardless of how much or little support Israel receives from abroad. The only real question is how long it takes for the Palestinians to accept this reality and make the required conclusions for peace.

            Israel has been willing to compromise for many years and has made numerous peace offers. It is the Palestinians, not Israel, that are holding up a peaceful negotiated solution to this conflict. In other words, the Palestinians already refuse to compromise, so really we have nothing to lose.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ginger Eis

            If you have any knowledge of history, you would know that “Palestine” regards the Arabs NOT! But for a foolish Jihadi like you, Danny, won’t know that.

            Reply to Comment
          • Danny

            “you would know that “Palestine” regards the Arabs NOT!”

            You talk like Yoda.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ginger Eis

            Speaking about talking Yoda, Danny the Jihadi, it seems that you are not even capable of realizing when you have been outsmarted and outplayed. Smh. Read the comments chronically and make necessary conclusion. Talking endlessly (about who may or may not be enabling Israel, yada, yada, yada) won’t help you save face.

            Reply to Comment
          • shachalnur

            “Size matters not.Look at me.Judge me by my size,do you? Hmmm? Hmmm….”

            Reply to Comment
          • sh

            Comments chronically. Love it!

            Reply to Comment
          • Ginger Eis

            Sh, I am sure that what is said is: “read the comments chronically” (and “chronically” is a typo which should have read ‘chronologically’). But hey, I understand said typo offers you a rare opportunity to take a cheap shot (while being too timid to offer your own thoughts and ideas on anything!). If that satisfies your emotional needs, I am more than fine with it.

            Reply to Comment
          • Danny

            I prefer to think of myself as Danny the Jedi. Maybe I’ll use the force to make all you rightists come back from the dark side.

            Reply to Comment
        • David

          I assume that the “Jewish people” you refer to are the native Palestinian/Arab Jews who comprised 10% of Palestine’s Jewish inhabitants in 1948 and were vehmently opposed to Zionism.

          Foreign Ashkenazi Jews had no right whatsoever to Palestine.

          Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            Why thank you for putting the Jews in their proper place and for determining in your eminent wisdom which Jews do and which Jews don’t have the right to live in Jerusalem, Judea and Israel. I’ll be sure to pass on your judgement to the Ashkenazi Jews so that they can make the necessary preparations to leave the Jewish homeland for the real places they belong. “Jews out of Jerusalem!” will be my slogan. Amazing. I didn’t know what to do with my life before, but now, thanks to this chance encounter on the internet, I have a mission in life. You can count on me David. I will make sure that these Jews get it through their thick skulls that they have no connection whatsoever with Jerusalem, Judea and Israel. I believe in your words. Teach me more oh master. Teach me, for I am a stupid creature waiting to be filled with your wisdom.

            Reply to Comment
    2. Ginger Eis

      “What if everyone [including those already serving] decided to refuse to serve in the army because in protest of the military occupation of the Palestinian territories?”

      Israeli refuseniks scare NO one! But let’s engage in a bit of intellectual acrobatics here – just to have fun. The result of your proposition will NOT mean the end of Israel, but the following: (a) there will be no IDF, (b) all borders leading into Israel will be breached by tens of millions of Arabs, (c) missiles, rockets, suicide bombers, etc. will start hitting major Israeli cities from the North, East and South, (d) civil war will erupt between Jews&Jews and Arabs&Jews, (e) Jews in Israel, Judea & Samaria, including former Soldiers and Officers from the Right to center Left, joined by young Jews from around the world will form private Militias, reconstitute what was once the IDF and take over the country, (f) the Israeli democracy will end, amidst horrifying chaos, (g) regional war will erupt, (h) Israel will survive said regional war, but the Israeli home front will sustain unimaginable casualties, (i) most of the Muslim-Arab population in Israel, Judea & Samaria will be returned to Jordan (ending the need for a 2-state-solution) and nothing might remain of the lunatic anti-Zionist Jews and anarchists! (j) rebuilding the country and the IDF will start in earnest; the law of return will still apply but Israeli nationality can only be obtained after completion of several 5yr-programs in Judaism, Zionism, etc. three of which must completed during a 3yr Military service. Those who won’t accept that condition are welcomed to pack their bags and leave for whichever country they like. Israel needs them not.

      Reply to Comment
      • george smiley

        You are not a healthy individual, Ginger. You certainly should never be allowed anywhere near dangerous items like kitchen knives or power tools. Sadist. Go away.

        Reply to Comment
        • JG

          Calm down, the computer is the only thing they left him in his safe rubber room.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ginger Eis

            JG, the truth is that you can’t form YOU OWN thoughts and express them coherently so that we can read and enjoy them as much as you read and enjoy ours. I know you are hungry for what I have to say. I know that you love to read my posts. I know that you scroll through the comments feverishly searching for me. That’s why you and Bob Wisby (alias “George Smiley”, alias “Winston Smith” alias etc,) follow me around like creepy stalkers and dropping imbecilic one-liner beneath any post from me. In real life, I would have released my Doberman on both you long ago and be sure that you won’t be back. I await counter arguments from both of you – if you have what it takes. Again, it is a challenge!

            Reply to Comment
          • shachalnur

            I wouldn’t worry about them.

            Reply to Comment
        • Ginger Eis

          Right, Bob Wisby ….. ehhr “George Smiley”! Is that all you’ve got? Can’t make arguments? What a dunce!

          Reply to Comment
    3. So…was there a post at the top of this page?

      It is common to think that a policy, to be viable, must imaginatively be held by the entire population. So, the logic goes, if all held these students’ views there would be catastrophe, as there would be no IDF overnight. But all will never hold these students’ views. The question is whether a growing minority holding these views could help induce policy change as more in society, from parents to friends to schools, find it harder to ostracize such students from all legitimacy (this latter being the wolf pack goal in the media and among some commenters herein). I think even this latter hope rather hopeless at the moment. But those who can persevere in this resolve nonetheless may create a place for others to latter gather. It is mostly a thankless task, with no clear horizon of success. Such has been true of many ideas, some lost forever, some now among us as our bedrock.

      That’s the gamble these young assume. Now, how shall we yell at them unto oblivion?

      Reply to Comment
      • Ginger Eis

        Here is my counter argument: (1). “Conscientious objectors” will not be limited to they who oppose “occupation”. (2). There will be tens of thousands of more “conscientious objectors” from the far Right, center Right and center Left who at the very MINIMUM oppose a return to the “Auschwitz borders” (i.e. the Green Line) and expelling Jews from their homes in Judea and Samaria and bulldozing their cities and towns; (3) there will be thousands of more “conscientious objectors” who oppose the idea of having a military at all and the idea of nation States, etc. (4). The Chain Of Command within the IDF will seriously be compromised and Military morale and moral will be corrupted, etc. (5). Cumulatively, all these will mean a gradual demise of the IDF as we know it – and the consequences of that are just numerous and unimaginable. (6). Those who having failed to achieve their political objectives through the ballot box and as a result want to impose their political Will on others through street thuggery should look at Ukraine and reflect! Those who are busy devising means and methods of dismantling the State Of Israel/IDF, while masquerading as “human rights” activists, should be extremely careful with their OWN evil machinations, because the outcome of said machinations will be the direct opposite of what they desired!

        Reply to Comment
        • As I’m certain you know, my attitude towards your comments on this site has turned sharply negative, and, as you may recall, I started out quite differently. The tendency for threads to degenerate into name calling and personal condemnation is too much for me. After all, just yesterday you said, again, I was in need of “professional help,” adding newly that I should get off food stamps and welfare and “get a job.”

          The above comment, however, makes a good point. Civil disobedience has to come at a personal price, for otherwise, as you note, existing governmental structures could degenerate as new reasons for disobedience, often opposed to other reasons, emerge. One must be willing to go to jail, and that is not easy at all; most won’t do it, and when many do, that measures something about policy and society. Gandhi, for what that is worth, emphasized accepting punishment as a necessary component, as did Socrates in Plato’s Crito.

          I would suggest that the way to accommodate these conscientious objectors long term is to have a national service draft primarily for the IDF but with opt outs through other forms of national service, such as working as orderlies in hosptials or acting as handicap assistants. To insure that people don’t take this option to avoid the IDF too easily, I would consider making the term of service one year longer than the standard IDF term. Failing to meet the agreement would be like going AWOL in the IDF, a criminal offense.

          Now, I am not pro military generally. But Israel isn’t for practical reasons going to go to a for hire army soon (“voluntary army” isn’t really quite right, as recruits go in for the money), and this would be one way of dealing with those CO’s in this piece. And CO’s could still refuse any national service in some greater principle and accept criminal penalty. Further, as I have suggested before, Arab Israelis could be subject to this national service draft, with a small percentage going to the IDF, that percentage increased if things seem to go well.

          So your objection has real force. I hope my respect for it can make a new beginning. You certainly understand that once personal attacks begin and are reciprocated they come to control the writers, not the writers them. It really doesn’t matter how the attacks started; the attacks just take over everything. Sort of like the Conflict.

          Reply to Comment
    4. NIZ

      nsttnocontentcomment

      Reply to Comment
    5. Ginger Eis

      “I am not writing this to celebrate the fear raised by this letter in and of itself. I am writing this because the system is broken, and in its brokenness, it is on a killing-spree, taking the lives of more and more Palestinians virtually every week, sometimes every day, sometimes many in a single day. A broken system can’t be fixed from within; an unjust law should not be obeyed. This action is exactly the type of action that is needed”. Now, Moriel Rothman, what a diabolical vitriol rooted in hallucinations and delusions of (self-)righteousness! There is NO “fear” raised by “this letter” either “in and of itself” or in combination with other factors. Israel is an open democracy where there are NO taboos in public debates on matters affecting the State and the general public. Pointing out the breathtaking stupidity of “this letter” has nothing to do with fear. Additionally your claim that “the system is broken” is just a claim for which you offered NO reason. Lastly, “the killing-spree”, etc. you accuse Israel of amounts to blood-libel and unworthy of rebuttal! Indeed, if you examine the deaths on the Palestinian side individually and on their own merits, you yourself will discover that you are (a) a liar and (b) misleading the readers here. But I perfectly understand why you won’t do that.

      Reply to Comment
      • george smiley

        Ginger, this might be a good time to tell you: nobody reads your comments. We get the idea; it’s all as simple as (a), (b), (c) to you, isn’t it?

        Reply to Comment
        • shachalnur

          laisse pisser.

          Reply to Comment
    6. Tzutzik

      “it’s all as simple as (a), (b), (c) to you, isn’t it?”

      You mean it isn’t as simple as that to you, George?

      So tell us your complicated story.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Average American

      I think the difference here is that the dissenters are not being labelled only as anti-occupation, but also as anti-Israel (which means anti-Jewish in The Jewish State). This suggests that occupation and expansion are, in the minds of the labellers, integral to being Jewish, that a core value is the Jews must expand (through occupation or force, whatever works), and their new towns must be kept pure Jewish, and other people of course must move out of their way.

      Reply to Comment
      • Tzutzik

        Ooooh careful, Average!

        Us eeeeeeviiiil Jooz are coming to get you and occupy you.

        We already occupy your mind. Ooops, did I say mind? My bad, LOL.

        Reply to Comment
      • Marcos

        AA, you are a bigot because you can’t possibly,be so stupid to believe what you posted

        Reply to Comment
        • Tzutzik

          I can assure you he CAN be as stupid. And he is.

          Reply to Comment
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