Israel: New Shiministim refusal letter signed by 250 youth

On 13 March, a letter signed by 250 Israeli youth was sent to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Minister of Defence Shaul Mofaz, and others. In the letter, the signatories declare that they will refuse to take part in the occupation, either by refusing to serve in the Occupied Territories or by altogether refusing to serve in the army.

"We the undersigned, Israeli girls and boys, believing in the values of democracy, humanism and pluralism, hereby declare that we shall refuse to take part in the occupation and repression policy adopted by the Government of Israel. Our backgrounds are diverse, but we are all agreed that these values are the bases of a just society. Every human being has the right to life, equality, dignity and freedom. We are bound by our conscience and as citizens of Israel to act in defence of these rights, by refusing to participate in the occupation and repression policy.

The occupation leads to inhumanity and to a massive infringement of the right to life. It tramples on the basic rights of millions of people and inflicts daily carnage and suffering. It leads to the confiscation of lands, to mass destruction of homes and public buildings, to arrests and killings without trial, to victimization and murder of innocents, to hunger, to a denial of medical assistance, to collective punishment, and to the building and expansion of settlements and the negation of any chance of normal living both in the occupied territories and in Israel itself. This flagrant violation of human rights is opposed to our view of the world, as well as being in contravention of international conventions signed and ratified by Israel.

The occupation contributes nothing to the security of the state and its citizens but on the contrary, it only aggravates it. It deepens the despair and fans the hatered among the Palestinians, feeds terrorism and widens the river of blood between the two sides. True security will only be accomplished by ending the occupation, dismantling the wall of Apartheid around the Palestinians and striving for a just peace agreement between the state of Israel and the leadership of the Palestinian people as well as the Arab world. The present policy is not a result of a military necessity, but the outcome of a nationalistic=Messianic phantasy.

The occupation has corrupted Israel, turning it into a militaristic, racist, chauvinistic and violent society. Israel is wasting its resources on the perpetuation of the occupation and repression in the territories, while hundreds of thousands of Israelis live in shameful poverty. In recent years Israeli citizens have experienced a deterioration of all public services. Education, medicine, welfare, pensions, everything to do with the well being of the citizenry has been neglected and sacrificed for the continued existence of settlements which the majority of the population wishes to be evacuated. We cannot stand idly facing this situation, which amounts to a "targeted liquidation" of the principle of equality.

We wish to live in a society which pursues justice, upholding equal rights to every single citizen. The occupation and repression policy is an obstacle to the realization of this vision, therefore we shall refuse to take part in it. We wish to contribute to society in an alternative way, which does not involve harming other human beings.

We call on all young people facing mobilization and on all members of the Israeli army to weigh again whether to risk their lives in the service of this repressive and destructive policy.

We believe that there is another way."

One of the signatories, Eyal Brami, 18, from Moshav Ptakhia, near Ramla, was given a conditional 7 day sentence on 22 March for his refusal to join the Israeli military. The following day, after spending the night in detention, he was ordered again to enlist and refused again. He was then sentenced to 21 more days in prison, plus the conditional 7 day sentence was enacted, so all in all he has been sentenced to 28 days in prison, which he is going to spend in Military Prison no. 4 in Tzrifin. He is due to be released from prison on 16 April, and is highly likely to be sent to prison again, several times, afterwards.

Eyal decided to refuse to enlist in the Israeli army, due to its being an occupying force, several months ago. He is among the signatories and the organizers of the new High School Seniors' Letter, signed by more than 300 youths, declaring their refusal to serve in the Israeli army. Eyal is the first among the signatories of this letter to be sent to prison.

Another of the signatories of the Seniors' Letter, Alex Cohn, was supposed to be imprisoned on the same day as Eyal, but already after both had arrived in the military Induction Base in Tel-HaShomer, Alex was notified that his enlistment date was deferred by approximately two weeks. Activists from the Seniors' Letter called this a "divide and conquer tactic" -- "The military got scared and wishes to separate those who refuse to be part of the Occupation".

On the morning of his arrest Eyal said to journalists and friends: "I do not regret the step I am making. Not at all. Today I will be asked to enlist and I shall refuse to do so. I am aware of the sanctions I will have to bear and I accept it, not with a happy smile on my face, but nevertheless I am going there". Earlier he was quoted as saying: "I do not believe that change can come from within the system, because this is an undemocratic, racist and non-egalitarian system. People inside the military follow orders ... If we wish to become like the countries where there is peace we have to act like them -- to reduce the use of violence, to spend less on national security and more on education and welfare". In his declaration of refusal, sent to the Minister of Defence, he wrote:

In accordance with the call of my conscience, I cannot take part in [Israeli] military activities, due to the criminal, immoral and blind behaviour of the IDF. The institutionalised violence perpetrated by the IDF is unnecessary, and moreover, it is harmful to the democratic rule of law, to the legitimacy of the IDF itself and most of all to innocent people, both Israelis and Palestinians.

I consider these violent acts to be the main cause of the security, economic and social problems facing Israel today, and therefore I cannot join the army in any function and take a direct or indirect part in acts that would lead the country to collapse.

Eyal's prison address is:

Eyal Brami
Military ID 7706258
Military Prison no. 4
Military postal code 02507, IDF
Israel