Palestinian Druze, reservists, conscripts and ultra-Ortodox refuse; Israel attempts to draw in more groups to the military

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In the last months in Israel a group of Druze Palestinian war refusers has publicly launched their campaign,  reservists and new conscripts have declared their refusal to take part in Israeli military operations in Gaza, and resistance to the call up of the ultra-Orthodox Jews (Haredim) continues.

The campaign from Druze Palestinians “Refuse, your nation will protect you” (Urfod) was officially launched in a demonstration in front of the Atlit military prison on Friday 21st March. The initiative challenges mandatory conscription of Palestinian Druze.

In March, over 50 Israeli teenagers wrote a letter to the Israeli Prime Minister announcing their refusal to join the military. They are refusing to enlist due to their “opposition to the military occupation of Palestinian territories,” where “human rights are violated, and acts defined under international law as war-crimes are perpetuated on a daily basis”. Two of those who signed, Udi Segal and Uriel Ferera, are currently in prison in military prison 6 for their resistance. You can send a CO Alert here. Omar Sa'ad, a Druze Palestinian conscientious objector, was imprisoned seven times before gaining and exemption in June.

As the Israeli military attacks on Gaza intensified, so too did the calls up of reservists. More than 50 reservists and former reservists publicly declared their dissent in an open letter. Their statement begins 'We were soldiers in a wide variety of units and positions in the Israeli military—a fact we now regret, because, in our service, we found that troops who operate in the occupied territories aren’t the only ones enforcing the mechanisms of control over Palestinian lives. In truth, the entire military is implicated. For that reason, we now refuse to participate in our reserve duties, and we support all those who resist being called to service.' They also protested the structural discrimination against women in the military, and the daily reality of sexual harassment.

WRI affiliate New Profile can be contacted by anyone called up, either as a conscript or reservist, who does not want to go.

The Israeli government recently passed the contentious law aimed at increasing ultra-Orthodox enlistment. Since 1948, Yeshiva students have had their enlistment repeatedly deferred until their eventual exemption. Jerusalem and other cities in Israel have seen large protests and violence in response to these plans. Sergeiy Sandler, WRI Executive member and activist with New Profile in Israel, said the new law is merely “another example of the Israeli military trying to militarise yet another group in society, and make participation in the military a marker of equality and citizenship”.

The Israeli military have also recently began to send invitations to enlist to the homes of Palestinian Christians. Whilst not exempt in law, in practice Palestinian Christians have never been called up. These letters sparked protests, including a rally in Nazareth in April where protesters marched into Spring Square dressed in military attire and carrying toy rifles.

Sign our CO Alert here for three conscientious objectors currently in prison in Israel: /node/23490

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