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Sunday, 4 February 2018

These are the Israelis Labour should support – not its killers in uniform

Emily Thornberry should be supporting Israel's Teenage Refuseniks not Labour's Apologists for Israeli Apartheid

Emily Thornberry, the Shadow Foreign Secretary and member of Labour Friends of Israel has called for all critics of Zionism and the Israeli settler state to be expelled from the Labour Party.  As the Morning Star observed recently, she is following a Blairite foreign policy.

Thornberry argues for support for a 2 state solution but one thing she isn't is stupid.  A careerist, an Atlanticist, an astute right-winger yes, but stupid no.  She is well aware that the 2 state solution has long since died.  She only supports it because she knows that as long as this fiction survives, then the demand for equality of rights for Palestinians can be resisted.  The nonsense of 2 state is the only argument for maintaining Israel's apartheid without calling it such.

What we should be doing is supporting those Israelis who are confronting Israel's military establishment such as the soldiers group Breaking the Silence and those young Israelis who refuse to enlist in an army of occupation.

IDF swearing in ceremony at Western Wall, Jerusalem
‘Testimonies of former soldiers teach us that the reality of occupation does not allow one to make a difference from within. The power to change reality does not lay with the single soldier — but with the system as a whole.’

Solidarity protesters and family members protest for Israeli conscientious objector Tair Kaminer, Prison 400, central Israel, January 23, 2016. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)
Sixty-three Israeli teenagers have published an open letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu on Thursday, declaring their refusal to join the Israeli army due to their opposition to the occupation.

 “The army carries out a racist government policy that enforces one legal system for Israelis and another for Palestinian in the same territory,” they write. “Therefore, we have decided not to take any part in the occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people… for as long as people live under an occupation that denies their human rights and national rights – we cannot have peace.”

The group calls itself the “2017 Seniors’ Letter,” continuing a long tradition of similar letters sent by high school seniors announcing their refusal to join the army, dating back to 1970 (the writer of this text was a signatory of the 2001 letter). Members of the group have stated they are willing to be imprisoned for their conscientious objection; one of them, Matan Helman, is already serving a prison sentence. The teens have also stated they will be traveling the country, speaking to others their age, challenging them to rethink their positions on military service and inviting them to join the movement.

The Israeli army does not recognize the right to conscientiously object to the draft based on rejection of the occupation. It does, however, allow for objection based solely on pacifism and the rejection of all forms of violence. These young refusers, therefore, are likely to be denied exemptions, and sent to repeated prison sentences of two to four weeks each, as has been the case with other conscientious objectors in recent years.
IDF refuseniks protest in Haifa in 2014 rami shlosh
In their letter, the young refusers list the occupation, the siege on Gaza, settlements, and violence toward Palestinians as the main reasons for the decision. However, they also mention the ongoing effects of militarism on the Israeli society, enshrining violent solutions instead of peace as a central value, and the effect the occupation has on strengthening Israeli capitalism and dependence on American military aid.

“Testimonies of former soldiers and heads of the security establishment teach us that the reality of occupation does not allow one to make a difference from within,” they write. “The power to change reality does not lay with the single soldier but with the system as a whole. Similarly, the blame for this reality does not lie with the soldier, but with the army and government. This is the system we wish to change.”


A group of 63 teens have publicly declared they will refuse to be drafted into the Israel army, Yedioth Ahronoth reported on Thursday morning.

We have decided not to take part in the occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people,” they wrote in a letter sent to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot and the defense and education ministers. “The ‘temporary’ situation has dragged on for 50 years, and we will not go on lending a hand.”

The high-schoolers criticized the government and the military in the letter. “The army is carrying out the government’s racist policy, which violates basic human rights and executes one law for Israelis and another law for Palestinians on the same territory,” they wrote.

The students also protested “intentional institutional incitement against Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line,” referring to the 1949 armistice line separating Israel from the West Bank, “and we here – draft-age boys and girls from different areas of the country and from different socioeconomic backgrounds – refuse to believe the system of incitement and to participate in the government’s arm of oppression and occupation.”

The letter called on others to reconsider being drafted, adding that intended to go around the country to recruit for their initiative.

 “We refuse to be drafted and to serve in the army out of an obligation to values of peace, justice and equality, with the knowledge that there is another reality that we could create together,” they wrote. “We call on girls our age to ask themselves, will army service work toward this reality?”

The signatories include Matan Helman, 20, of Kibbutz Haogen, who is serving jail time because of his refusal to be drafted into the army.

In early December, the education ministry and the IDF announced that they were working on a plan to increase the number of draftees enlisting for combat service. Currently, enlistment rates are sinking and dropout rates stand at over 7,000 male and female soldiers annually.

63 Israeli Teens Sign Open Letter To Netanyahu: We Refuse To Serve IDF

(JTA) — Some 63 Israeli high school students signed a public letter declaring that they will refuse to be drafted into the Israel Defense Forces.
The letter, published on Thursday in the Hebrew-language daily Yediot Acharonot, was addressed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Education Minister Naftali Bennett and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot.

“The army implements the policy of a racist government that violates basic human rights, which applies one law to Israelis and another to the Palestinians in the same area,” the students, most in 12th grade, wrote. “Therefore we decided to not take part in the occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people, which separates people into two hostile camps. Because as long as people live under occupation that denies them human rights and national rights we cannot achieve peace.”

The letter also said: “An entire nation is living under institutionalized incitement directed against Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line, and we are here – young men and women from different parts of the country and different social backgrounds – refusing to believe the systematic incitement or participate in the government’s oppressive and occupying arm.'

One of the signatories currently is serving in jail over his refusal to be drafted, Haaretz reported.
Medical issues and religious objection are considered valid reason for exemption from military service. Exemptions are not made for conscientious objectors.

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