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Refusal to serve in the Israeli military

Refusal to serve in the Israeli military

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Refusal to serve in the Israeli military includes both refusal to obey specific orders and refusal to serve in the Israel Defense Forces
Israel Defense Forces
The Israel Defense Forces , commonly known in Israel by the Hebrew acronym Tzahal , are the military forces of the State of Israel. They consist of the ground forces, air force and navy. It is the sole military wing of the Israeli security forces, and has no civilian jurisdiction within Israel...

 (IDF) in any capacity due to pacifist
Pacifism is the opposition to war and violence. The term "pacifism" was coined by the French peace campaignerÉmile Arnaud and adopted by other peace activists at the tenth Universal Peace Congress inGlasgow in 1901.- Definition :...

 or anti-militarist
Antimilitarism is a doctrine commonly found in the anarchist and, more globally, in the socialist movement, which may both be characterized as internationalist movements. It relies heavily on a critical theory of nationalism and imperialism, and was an explicit goal of the First and Second...

 views or disagreement with the policies of the Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

i government
Politics of Israel
The Israeli system of government is based on parliamentary democracy. The Prime Minister of Israel is the head of government and leader of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in the Knesset. The Judiciary is independent of the executive...

 as implemented by the army, such as the Disengagement plan or occupation of Palestinian territory
Palestinian territories
The Palestinian territories comprise the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Since the Palestinian Declaration of Independence in 1988, the region is today recognized by three-quarters of the world's countries as the State of Palestine or simply Palestine, although this status is not recognized by the...

. in other cases the refusal is simply a result of youth who are not interested in military service and wish to pursue other activities. The conscientious objector
Conscientious objector
A conscientious objector is an "individual who has claimed the right to refuse to perform military service" on the grounds of freedom of thought, conscience, and/or religion....

s, i.e. the first category in the previous sentence, who object to being drafted are sometimes called sarvanim (in Hebrew
Hebrew language
Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

 סרבנים) which is sometimes translated into the word "refuseniks", as well as mishtamtim (evaders, dodgers).


Although Israel has conscription
Conscription is the compulsory enlistment of people in some sort of national service, most often military service. Conscription dates back to antiquity and continues in some countries to the present day under various names...

, many Israelis do not serve in the military for various reasons. Israeli Arabs are not drafted, though they may enlist, and small numbers serve voluntarily. Haredi
Haredi Judaism
Haredi or Charedi/Chareidi Judaism is the most conservative form of Orthodox Judaism, often referred to as ultra-Orthodox. A follower of Haredi Judaism is called a Haredi ....

 Jews are exempt so long as they study in yeshiva
Yeshiva is a Jewish educational institution that focuses on the study of traditional religious texts, primarily the Talmud and Torah study. Study is usually done through daily shiurim and in study pairs called chavrutas...

s, based on an arrangement worked out with David Ben-Gurion
David Ben-Gurion
' was the first Prime Minister of Israel.Ben-Gurion's passion for Zionism, which began early in life, led him to become a major Zionist leader and Executive Head of the World Zionist Organization in 1946...

 in 1948, though small numbers of them also serve. Orthodox
Orthodox Judaism
Orthodox Judaism , is the approach to Judaism which adheres to the traditional interpretation and application of the laws and ethics of the Torah as legislated in the Talmudic texts by the Sanhedrin and subsequently developed and applied by the later authorities known as the Gaonim, Rishonim, and...

 women can avoid service on the basis of their religion upon filing certain paperwork. After becoming officially exempt, religious women may choose to do national service work instead, although this is not compulsory. Many people who are "unfit" or "unqualified", either mentally or physically, are also exempt. Military service can often be postponed for further education—either college or university, or technical studies. Finally, a number of people refuse to serve because of pacifist views, or refuse certain orders based on their disagreement with government policy.

Some distinguish between refusal to serve in the military because of a pacifist world view that rejects any manifestation of violence
Violence is the use of physical force to apply a state to others contrary to their wishes. violence, while often a stand-alone issue, is often the culmination of other kinds of conflict, e.g...

 and encompasses a refusal to submit to compulsory military service in any form, and partial refusal to serve, such as the Courage to Refuse
Ometz Le'sarev
Ometz LeSarev is an organization of reserve officers and soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces who refuse to serve beyond the 1967 borders, but "shall continue serving in the Israel Defense Forces in any mission that serves Israel's defense." These conscientious objectors refer to themselves as...

 group who "do their reserve duty wherever and whenever they are summoned, but refuse to serve in the occupied territories
Israeli-occupied territories
The Israeli-occupied territories are the territories which have been designated as occupied territory by the United Nations and other international organizations, governments and others to refer to the territory seized by Israel during the Six-Day War of 1967 from Egypt, Jordan, and Syria...

." The diverse range of opinions regarding the refusal to serve is the reason why there is no single umbrella organization
Umbrella organization
An umbrella organization is an association of institutions, who work together formally to coordinate activities or pool resources. In business, political, or other environments, one group, the umbrella organization, provides resources and often an identity to the smaller organizations...

 that encompasses all groups of refusers. While most instances of refusal to serve have historically been found among left-leaning Israelis, there is a rapidly expanding willingness among right-wing soldiers to refuse orders to evict Jews from settlements in the West Bank
West Bank
The West Bank ) of the Jordan River is the landlocked geographical eastern part of the Palestinian territories located in Western Asia. To the west, north, and south, the West Bank shares borders with the state of Israel. To the east, across the Jordan River, lies the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan...

 (and formerly in the Gaza Strip
Gaza Strip
thumb|Gaza city skylineThe Gaza Strip lies on the Eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The Strip borders Egypt on the southwest and Israel on the south, east and north. It is about long, and between 6 and 12 kilometres wide, with a total area of...


Contemporary instances of refusal to serve occur among individuals and in groups. Some claim that the rise in instances of soldiers refusing to serve, as well as the gradual shift in public opinion regarding the phenomenon
A phenomenon , plural phenomena, is any observable occurrence. Phenomena are often, but not always, understood as 'appearances' or 'experiences'...

, has been influenced by the growing politicization of the IDF.

In February 2004, Israeli Chief of Personnel Major-General Gil Regev told a Knesset
The Knesset is the unicameral legislature of Israel, located in Givat Ram, Jerusalem.-Role in Israeli Government :The legislative branch of the Israeli government, the Knesset passes all laws, elects the President and Prime Minister , approves the cabinet, and supervises the work of the government...

 committee that the number of soldiers refusing to serve in the territories had dramatically decreased in 2003 despite the increase in the number of high-profile refusals. He said that eighteen reserve soldiers and eight officers had been imprisoned for refusal in 2003 compared to 100 reservists and 29 officers in 2002, a decrease of 80%. Members of the refusers' organization Yesh Gvul
Yesh Gvul
Yesh Gvul is a movement founded in 1982, by combat veterans, at the outbreak of the Lebanon War, who refused to serve in Lebanon and has expanded its opposition to the war in Lebanon to the negation of service in the occupied territories, reflected in the current Yesh Gvul...

claimed in reply that actually 76 people, including eleven officers, had been jailed for refusal in 2003. They also said that 79 soldiers and eighteen officers had added their names to the Courage to Refuse letter in 2003, and that the number of high-school refuseniks had risen to 500.

The first well-known instance of an individual refusing to serve in the IDF occurred in 1954 when Amnon Zichroni, a lawyer, asked to be released from military service as a pacifist. Initially, then Minister of Defense Pinhas Lavon
Pinhas Lavon
Pinhas Lavon was an Israeli politician, minister and labor leader, best known for the Lavon Affair.-Early life:Lavon was born as Pinhas Lubianiker in Kopychyntsi in what was previously Galicia in Austria-Hungary . He studied law at the University of Lviv, where he organized Histadrut organizations...

 refused to release Zichroni, though he was eventually discharged from the army reserves.

Haredi Jews

Since the founding of the State of Israel in 1948, many Haredi Jews refuse to serve in the Israeli military for religious reasons. Typically they are learning Torah
Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five books of the bible—Genesis , Exodus , Leviticus , Numbers and Deuteronomy Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five...

 in yeshivas, and as such are legally exempt from military service. Also refusing any Israeli military service are people affiliated with various Hasidic
Hasidic Judaism
Hasidic Judaism or Hasidism, from the Hebrew —Ḥasidut in Sephardi, Chasidus in Ashkenazi, meaning "piety" , is a branch of Orthodox Judaism that promotes spirituality and joy through the popularisation and internalisation of Jewish mysticism as the fundamental aspects of the Jewish faith...

 groups (most notably Satmar
Satmar (Hasidic dynasty)
Satmar is a Hasidic movement comprising mostly Hungarian and Romanian Hasidic Jewish Holocaust survivors and their descendants. It was founded and led by the late Hungarian-born Grand Rebbe Yoel Teitelbaum , who was the rabbi of Szatmárnémeti, Hungary...

), the Brisk yeshivas, and the Neturei Karta
Neturei Karta
Neturei Karta is a Haredi Jewish group formally created in Jerusalem, British Mandate of Palestine, in 1938, splitting off from Agudas Yisroel...

. Most of these groups are followers of the Edah HaCharedis
HaEdah HaCharedis
The Edah HaChareidis, , also known as the Edah for short and popularly as the Badatz, is a prominent Orthodox Jewish communal organization based in Jerusalem, Israel. It represents a large section of the Ashkenazi Haredi community and provides facilities such as kashrus supervision, mikvas, an eruv...



On April 28, 1970, a group of high school seniors about to be drafted sent a letter to Prime Minister
Prime minister
A prime minister is the most senior minister of cabinet in the executive branch of government in a parliamentary system. In many systems, the prime minister selects and may dismiss other members of the cabinet, and allocates posts to members within the government. In most systems, the prime...

 Golda Meir
Golda Meir
Golda Meir ; May 3, 1898 – December 8, 1978) was a teacher, kibbutznik and politician who became the fourth Prime Minister of the State of Israel....

 expressing their reservation about the occupation of the West Bank
West Bank
The West Bank ) of the Jordan River is the landlocked geographical eastern part of the Palestinian territories located in Western Asia. To the west, north, and south, the West Bank shares borders with the state of Israel. To the east, across the Jordan River, lies the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan...

 and Gaza
Gaza , also referred to as Gaza City, is a Palestinian city in the Gaza Strip, with a population of about 450,000, making it the largest city in the Palestinian territories.Inhabited since at least the 15th century BC,...

, the War of Attrition
War of Attrition
The international community and both countries attempted to find a diplomatic solution to the conflict. The Jarring Mission of the United Nations was supposed to ensure that the terms of UN Security Council Resolution 242 would be observed, but by late 1970 it was clear that this mission had been...

 and the government's failure to take steps to avoid conflict. In 1987, a new group was formed, also made up of high school students intent on refusing to serve in the Occupied Territories. They gave themselves the name that the press used to dub the previous effort – 'Shministim' (Hebrew: שמיניסטים), literally "twelfth graders". In 2001, a high-school refusers movement – also called Shministim followed in their stead. Over 3,000 Israeli high school students are currently members of Shministim. . A smaller number of them have also signed a public letter in which they state their intent to refuse any service in the army. Such a behaviour has usually resulted in repeated jail sentences of several weeks. One of the most promiment Shiministim that went to jail is Omer Goldman
Omer Goldman
Omer Goldman Granot, from the Tel-Aviv suburb of Ramat HaSharon, is a member of the Shministim, a young Israeli conscientious objector who became famous for being the daughter of Naftali Granot, former deputy to Mossad’s chief Meir Dagan....

. Her case received special attention since her father used to be one of the highest ranking Mossad
The Mossad , short for HaMossad leModi'in uleTafkidim Meyuchadim , is the national intelligence agency of Israel....


The Shministim (Hebrew: שמיניסטים, translated as twelfth graders) are adolescents who are refusing to join the Israeli army due to conscientious objection about military aggressions in Gaza being against human rights
Human rights
Human rights are "commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being." Human rights are thus conceived as universal and egalitarian . These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national...

 and their values and beliefs. They usually get arrested because of that refusal, since conscientious objection are not considered by Israeli law a reason to negate conscription, a fact which is attracting worldwide attention, solidarity and support. This statutory fact, against "evading civic duties", is also supported by a lot of other "Shministim" (twelfth graders) who have recently expressed clear condemnation against the "dodgers".

On December 18, 2008, a worldwide campaign was launched in order to request the freedom of Shministim, including the delivery of more than forty thousand letters, to Israeli embassies, appealing for the youngsters' cause.

Yesh Gvul

Yesh Gvul
Yesh Gvul
Yesh Gvul is a movement founded in 1982, by combat veterans, at the outbreak of the Lebanon War, who refused to serve in Lebanon and has expanded its opposition to the war in Lebanon to the negation of service in the occupied territories, reflected in the current Yesh Gvul...

(Hebrew: יש גבול, can be translated as "there is a limit" or "the border exists") is a movement founded in 1982 at the outbreak of the Lebanon War
Lebanon War
The term Lebanon War can refer to any of the following wars, fought in Lebanon:*Lebanese Civil War *Hundred Days' War 1978 *1982 Lebanon War...

 by reservists who refused to serve in Lebanon
Lebanon , officially the Republic of LebanonRepublic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanese government agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names that is not used in today's world. Arabic is the most common language spoken among...

. A petition, delivered to Prime Minister Menachem Begin
Menachem Begin
' was a politician, founder of Likud and the sixth Prime Minister of the State of Israel. Before independence, he was the leader of the Zionist militant group Irgun, the Revisionist breakaway from the larger Jewish paramilitary organization Haganah. He proclaimed a revolt, on 1 February 1944,...

 and Defense Minister Ariel Sharon
Ariel Sharon
Ariel Sharon is an Israeli statesman and retired general, who served as Israel’s 11th Prime Minister. He has been in a permanent vegetative state since suffering a stroke on 4 January 2006....

 was signed by 3,000 reservists, some of whom were court martialed and served time in military prison
Military prison
A military prison is a prison operated by the military. Military prisons are used variously to house prisoners of war, enemy combatants, those whose freedom is deemed a national security risk by the military or national authorities, and members of the military found guilty of a serious crime...

 for refusing to obey orders. Currently it sees its main role as "backing soldiers who refuse duties of a repressive or aggressive nature." It also engages in human rights
Human rights
Human rights are "commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being." Human rights are thus conceived as universal and egalitarian . These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national...

 activities, such as petitioning British courts to issue arrest warrants for IDF officers accused of human rights abuses and war crimes.

The Adam Keller Court Martial

In the Adam Keller Court Martial which drew considerable public attention in April–May 1988, Reserve Corporal Adam Keller
Adam Keller
Adam Keller is an Israeli peace activist who was among the founders of Gush Shalom, of which he is a spokesperson.-Political views:...

 was charged with "insubordination" and "spreading of propaganda harmful to military discipline" in that while on active military duty he had written on 117 tanks and other military vehicles graffiti with the text: "Soldiers of the IDF, refuse to be occupiers and oppressors, refuse to serve in the occupied territories!"
as well as placing on electricity pylons in the military camp where he was serving—and on inside doors of the stalls in the officers' toilet—stickers with the slogans "Down with the occupation!".
Keller was convicted and sentenced to three months imprisonment—considered a relatively mild sentence, as the maximum penalty could have been six years, three for each of the charges. Keller was an active member of Yesh Gvul, but declared that he had done his act on his own without consulting anybody else. For its part, the movement did not take responsibility for his act, but did provide his wife with the monetary support given to the families of refusers.

Courage to Refuse

In January 2002, 51 reserve soldiers and officers signed a "Combat Troops' Letter" or "Combatants' Letter"http://www.seruv.org/english/combatants_letter.asp in which they declared their refusal "to fight beyond the 1967 borders in order to dominate, expel, starve and humiliate an entire people." They established the group, Ometz Le'sarev
Ometz Le'sarev
Ometz LeSarev is an organization of reserve officers and soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces who refuse to serve beyond the 1967 borders, but "shall continue serving in the Israel Defense Forces in any mission that serves Israel's defense." These conscientious objectors refer to themselves as...

, which distinguishes itself by using conspicuously Zionist
Zionism is a Jewish political movement that, in its broadest sense, has supported the self-determination of the Jewish people in a sovereign Jewish national homeland. Since the establishment of the State of Israel, the Zionist movement continues primarily to advocate on behalf of the Jewish state...

Discourse generally refers to "written or spoken communication". The following are three more specific definitions:...

: "Refusal to serve in the Territories is Zionism." 633 combatants from all units of the IDF and from all sectors of the Israeli society have since signed the letter.

New Profile

New Profile
New Profile
New Profile is a movement for transforming Israeli society into a "civilian" one...

 is a movement for the civilianization of Israeli society. It's a voluntary organization that acts against the compulsory law of enlistment and supports people who refuse to enlist in the Israeli army. New Profile is a feminist organization and most of its activists are women.

The pilots' letter

"The pilots' letter," published on September 24, 2003, was signed by 27 reserve and active duty pilots. One of the signatories was the famous pilot Brigadier General (res.) Yiftah Spector. The letter was precipitated by the targeted killing
Targeted killing
Targeted killing is the deliberate, specific targeting and killing, by a government or its agents, of a supposed terrorist or of a supposed "unlawful combatant" who is not in that government's custody...

 of Salah Shehade, leader of Hamas
Hamas is the Palestinian Sunni Islamic or Islamist political party that governs the Gaza Strip. Hamas also has a military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades...

's militant wing, who was killed by a one ton bomb dropped on his residential building along with 14 others. Pilots decried the large number of civilian casualties caused by Israel's targeted killings as violating the military's ethics code. In their letter, the pilots stated:
We, veteran and active pilots alike, who served and still serve the state of Israel for long weeks every year, are opposed to carrying out attack orders that are illegal and immoral of the type the state of Israel has been conducting in the territories. We, who were raised to love the state of Israel and contribute to the Zionist enterprise, refuse to take part in Air Force attacks on civilian population centers. We, for whom the Israel Defense Forces and the Air Force are an inalienable part of ourselves, refuse to continue to harm innocent civilians. These actions are illegal and immoral, and are a direct result of the ongoing occupation which is corrupting all of Israeli society. Perpetuation of the occupation is fatally harming the security of the state of Israel and its moral strength.http://www.jfjfp.org/BackgroundW/refusenik_pilots.htm

The signatories clarified that they do not reject military service in the IDF, only targeted killings of individuals, declaring:
We ... shall continue to serve in the Israel Defense Forces and the Air Force for every mission in defense of the state of Israel.

In response, the Chief of Staff announced that the pilots would be grounded and will no longer be allowed to train cadets in the country's flight school. In response to their letter, hundreds of IAF
Israeli Air Force
The Israeli Air Force is the air force of the State of Israel and the aerial arm of the Israel Defense Forces. It was founded on May 28, 1948, shortly after the Israeli Declaration of Independence...

 pilots signed a petition denouncing the pilots' letter and their refusal to serve. Because of the harsh response, several of the pilots who originally signed the letter reneged and removed their signatures; after more than 30 signed, four later recanted. One, an El Al pilot, was threatened with dismissal and another lost his civilian job.

The commandos' letter

This letter, dated December 2003, was signed by 13 reservists of Sayeret Matkal
Sayeret Matkal
Sayeret Matkal is a special forces unit of the Israel Defence Forces , which is subordinated to the intelligence directorate Aman. First and foremost a field intelligence-gathering unit, conducting deep reconnaissance behind enemy lines to obtain strategic intelligence, Sayeret Matkal is also...

, an elite commando unit, serving in the West Bank and Gaza Strip (nine commandos in Sayeret Matkal, 2 soldiers who had been removed from reserve duty because of prior refusals to serve there, and 2 additional combatant soldiers). Their letter, addressed to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, stated:
We shall no longer lend a hand in the occupation of the territories. We shall no longer take part in the deprivation of basic human rights from millions of Palestinians. We shall no longer serve as a shield in the crusade of the settlements. We shall no longer corrupt our moral character in missions of oppression. We shall no longer deny our responsibility as soldiers of the Israeli DEFENSE force.http://www.seruv.org.il/english/news_item.asp?msgid=85

The letter, released just three months after the Pilots' Letter, was condemned sharply by politicians on both the right and the left of the Israeli political spectrum. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz
Shaul Mofaz
Lt. General Shaul Mofaz is an Israeli politician who serves as the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs And Defense Committee at the Knesset...

 claimed that the soldiers were exploiting the reputation of their unit in order to attack the government's policies.

Mateh Chomat Magen (civilian group)

There are some Israeli rabbis, former generals and public figures who call on soldiers to refuse orders to dismantle Israeli settlement
Israeli settlement
An Israeli settlement is a Jewish civilian community built on land that was captured by Israel from Jordan, Egypt, and Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War and is considered occupied territory by the international community. Such settlements currently exist in the West Bank...

s and remove their residents. One of those who call soldiers to refuse removal order is Uri Elitzur, a publicist and former civil servant. Eliztur claims that settlers-removal order is an illegal order, and therefore soldiers must refuse to obey it. He used the Hebrew term פקודה בלתי חוקית בעליל (literally, a clearly illegal order), which is a judicial term for an order that a soldier must refuse, coined in relation to the Kafr Qasim massacre
Kafr Qasim massacre
The Kafr Qasim massacre took place in the Israeli Arab village of Kafr Qasim situated on the Green Line, at that time, the de facto border between Israel and the West Bank on October 29, 1956. It was carried out by the Israel Border Police and resulted in 48 Arab civilians dead, including 6 women...

. He used a Yossi Sarid
Yossi Sarid
Yossi Sarid is a left-wing Israeli news commentator and former politician. He served as a member of the Knesset for the Alignment, Ratz and Meretz between 1974 and 2006...

 (a left-wing politician, Yachad
Yachad is a non-governmental organization based in the United Kingdom. It describes itself as "pro-Israel, pro-peace".Yachad believes that:• Israel's best hope for safety and security lies in a comprehensive peace with its neighbours...

) quotation that an order to transfer Palestinians should be resisted by any means, as a legitimation to a total and even semi-violent resistance against transfer of settlers.

Elitzur's and others calls to refusal were condemned by some of the settlements' Rabbis and by the settlers leadership, including senior right wing politicians such as Effi Eitam
Effi Eitam
Efraim "Effi" Eitam is an Israeli politician. A former leader of the National Religious Party, he later led a breakaway faction, Ahi, which merged into Likud in 2009. He served as a member of the Knesset between 2003 and 2009.-Biography:...

 of Ahi.

On June 2004, MKs Effi Eitam and Aryeh Eldad (National Union
National Union (Israel)
The National Union is an alliance of nationalist political parties in Israel. In the 2009 elections the National Union consisted of four parties: Moledet, Hatikva, Eretz Yisrael Shelanu, and Tkuma.-Background:...

) initiated a law bill called "Unity of the Military Law". The law says that only Israeli police (including Border Police
Israel Border Police
The Israel Border Police is the gendarmerie and border security branch of the Israel National Police. It is also commonly known by its Hebrew abbreviation Magav , meaning border guard, whilst its members are colloquially known as Magavnikim . Border Guard is often used as the official name of the...

) officers could engage in the removal of Jewish settlements, and soldiers could not.

In 2005, as a reaction to the Israel's unilateral disengagement plan
Israel's unilateral disengagement plan
Israel's unilateral disengagement plan , also known as the "Disengagement plan", "Gaza expulsion plan", and "Hitnatkut", was a proposal by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, adopted by the government on June 6, 2004 and enacted in August 2005, to evict all Israelis from the Gaza Strip and from...

, a group called "Mateh Chomat Magen" (the name referring to Operation Defensive Shield
Operation Defensive Shield
Operation Defensive Shield was a large-scale military operation conducted by the Israel Defense Forces in 2002, during the course of the Second Intifada. It was the largest military operation in the West Bank since the 1967 Six-Day War. The operation was an attempt by the Israeli army to stop the...

) published a letter with 10,000 signatures of soldiers who signed a petition saying that they would refuse to uproot and remove Israeli settlements. The group now claims to have gathered over 30,000 signatures.


The draft-dodgers also include the cases of celebrity
A celebrity, also referred to as a celeb in popular culture, is a person who has a prominent profile and commands a great degree of public fascination and influence in day-to-day media...

 draft-evaders whose avoidance of military service (not conscientious objection) and alternative national service allows them to further their careers. A 2007 incident that garnered international headlines focused on revelations in the press that Israeli Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue
Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue
The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue is published annually by Sports Illustrated. It features fashion models wearing swimwear in exotic locales. According to some, the magazine is the arbiter of supermodel succession. In addition, the issue is a media nexus that in 2005 carried in advertising....

cover model Bar Refaeli
Bar Refaeli
Bar Refaeli is an Israeli model and occasional actress, most known for her modeling work and for her relationship with American actor Leonardo DiCaprio. She was the cover model of the 2009 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.-Early life:...

 had married a family friend in 2004 and divorced him soon after in order to avoid military service. Refaeli received widespread criticism, including from the Israeli Forum for the Promotion of Equal Share, to which she responded, "I really wanted to serve in the IDF, but I don't regret not enlisting, because it paid off big time. That's just the way it is, celebrities have other needs. I hope my case has influenced the army." In a compromise to avoid potential boycotts of companies Refaeli works with, she agreed to visit injured IDF soldiers on visits to Israel and encourage enlistment in the army. The incident made headlines again in October 2009 when fellow Israeli model Esti Ginzburg criticized Refaeli in an interview with Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth
Yedioth Ahronoth
Yedioth Ahronoth is a daily newspaper published in Tel Aviv, Israel. Since the 1970s, it has been the most widely circulated paper in Israel. In a TGI survey comparing the last half of 2009 with the same period in 2008, Yedioth Ahronoth retained the title of most widely read newspaper in Israel...

, reigniting arguments over the ease with which conscription can be dodged.

Reaction to the conscientious objectors

Almost all the political factions in Israel have condemned refusal to serve on ideological grounds, using terms such as dangerous and undemocratic. The conscientious objectors, or refuseniks as they call themselves, found support within left-wing and the Arab parties, Hadash
Hadash is a Jewish and Arab socialist front of organizations that runs for the Israeli parliament. It currently has four members in the 120-seat Knesset.-Background:...

, Balad
Balad (Israel)
Balad is an Israeli Arab political party in Israel led by Jamal Zahalka. It is sometimes called the "National Democratic Alliance".- Ideology :...

, Raam
United Arab List
The United Arab List , commonly known in Israel by its Hebrew acronym Ra'am , is a political party representing and supported by Israeli Arabs...

 and parts of Meretz (Zehava Galon, Roman Bronfman and Shulamit Aloni
Shulamit Aloni
Shulamit Aloni is an Israeli politician and left-wing activist. She is a prominent member of the Israeli peace camp, founded the Ratz party and was leader of the Meretz party and served as Minister of Education from 1992 to 1993.-Biography:...

). The Israeli Labor Party and other Meretz members have condemned the refuseniks and said that although their protests against the occupation are justified and understandable, the means they are taking to manifest it are wrong. Some major left-wing politicians expressed the fear that left-oriented refusal to serve in the territories will lend legitimacy to right-oriented refusal to remove settlements.

Right wing politicians have claimed that the refuseniks' actions are helping the enemies of Israel in their anti-Israeli incitement. Some have even accused the refuseniks of treason
In law, treason is the crime that covers some of the more extreme acts against one's sovereign or nation. Historically, treason also covered the murder of specific social superiors, such as the murder of a husband by his wife. Treason against the king was known as high treason and treason against a...

 during war-time. This viewpoint was given some support when the book The Seventh War, by Avi Yisacharov and Amos Harel was published in 2004; it contains extensive interviews with Hamas
Hamas is the Palestinian Sunni Islamic or Islamist political party that governs the Gaza Strip. Hamas also has a military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades...

 leaders, at least one of whom explicitly stated that the actions of the commandos' and pilots' letters encouraged to promote and continue the use of suicide bombers
Suicide Bombers
Suicide Bombers is the name of a 2005 EP by Leæther Strip. For the Australian hardcore band see Suicide Bombers -Track listing:# Suicide Bombers# Suicide Bombers # The Shame Of A Nation # This Is Where I Wanna Be...


The Israeli High Court of Justice ruled in 2002 that refusal to serve was legal on the grounds of unqualified pacifism, but "selective refusal" which accepted some duties and not others was illegal. The court said that allowing selective refusal would "weaken the ties that bind us as a nation". The court also said that the refusal to serve in the territories is selective refusal and not conscientious objection.

From 1998 to 2000, 9.5% of applicants who filed for an exemption from service for conscientious reasons were granted it.

On January 4, 2004, a military tribunal imposed one-year prison terms on five young activists who refused to enlist in the IDF. The court accepted that the five acted in accordance with their conscience but "ruled that they did not refuse to serve as individuals, but rather as a group, with the explicit goal of bringing about a change in Israeli policy in the territories. As such, the court ruled, their action strayed from the norms of classic conscientious objection into the realm of civil disobedience" (Haaretz).

See also

  • Israeli peace movement
  • Sayeret Matkal
  • Breaking the Silence
  • Conscientious objector
  • Non-recruitment in Israel

External links