Middle East & Africa
"Refuseniks" Phenomenon Rising in Israel
By Yasser AbuMoailek
Middle East Correspondent
Gaza City, Feb. 23, 2004 — The Israeli society has been currently witnessing a widespread phenomenon of refusing compulsory military service in the Israeli forces, especially if these forces were stationed inside the occupied Palestinian territories, due to moral reasons and the inhumane practices of the Israeli soldiers against the Palestinian civilian population. The media has termed those refusing service in the Israeli forces "refuseniks". In a statement issued yesterday, the Refusenik Families Forum (RFF) mentioned that this phenomenon has extended to include female soldiers, and that the Israeli military authorities started to throw them in jail just for refusing to oppress another people. Le'orah Milo, 19, is a refusenik and is bound to be sent to prison for refusing military service in the occupied Palestinian territories. The RFF explained that if Milo is to be imprisoned by the Israeli military, she would be the second Israeli female soldier to put in prison for refusing military service out of moral reasons, after Enbal Gilbert, who is currently serving her third sentence in an Israeli military prison.
|Three Israeli refuseniks tell why they will not serve in the occupied territories. Courtesy BAP|
The Israeli law imposes a three-year mandatory military service on Israeli citizens (males and females) who reached the age of 16. Most of the Israeli units are currently stationed in the occupied Palestinian territories as an occupation force. Milo, who has finished her first year of military service, wrote a letter to her superiors explaining the reasons behind her refusal and asking for an exemption of military service. "I cannot be part of or contribute to the atrocities perpetrated by the (Israeli) army. I am not a peace activist, and my refusal stems from the occupation of another people. I wanted, through my military service, to set a new example of public service, but I felt, through this occupation, the ugliness of our society, and the absence of justice in the policies guiding our government ... I believe that my moral duty is to tell the whole truth as I see it. I refuse out of a very personal reason, hoping that I can live in my country and feel as a whole again with my conscience." The Israeli military command refused Milo's letter of exemption, and started procedures to try and imprison her for refusing military service. On the other hand, Israeli leftists and peace activists welcomed Milo's refusal and encouraged her not to go back on it. As well, a number of political blocs in Israel, including the "High School Students Bloc", "Profil Hadash" (New Profile), "There Is A Limit" and the RFF, organized Sunday morning a demonstration to support Milo's letter and opinions, raising slogans that encourage the refusal of service in an occupying army and objecting to the atrocities they commit against the Palestinian population.
|Courtesy Middle East Times|
Hundreds of Israeli soldiers of different army units and different ranks have refused service in the Israeli forces since the beginning of the Al Aqsa Intifada on September, 2000. One of the most surprising incidents was the refusal of 13 soldiers and officers of the "Sayeret Matkal" special forces unit, which is considered the elite unit tasked with covert operations and abroad missions. The members of this unit fall under the direct command of the Israeli prime minister and the chief of staffs, and represents the peak of the military-based Israeli society.
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Yasser AbuMoailek, a journalist and feature writer working for the International Press Center in Gaza Strip. He contributes to many circulations inlcuding the Seoul Times, as well as monitoring the situation in the Middle East, especially the Palestinian territories.