YOUNG VOICES

Israeli Students Face Jail After Refusing To Enlist In Army Over 'War Crimes' In Palestinian Territory

14/04/2014 14:37 BST | Updated 14/04/2014 14:59 BST
Telegraph

A group of Israeli students are facing jail for refusing to enlist in the army over its "war crimes" in Palestinian territory, saying they want to start a dialogue around the country's obligatory military service.

Dozens of teenager conscientious objectors having taken a stand against serving in the army, which is treated as a "complete consensus" in their society, by writing to the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Speaking to the Telegraph, student Daniel Elsohn said:: "You cannot say anything which is bad, you cannot criticse it at all unless you say, 'I criticise it, but don't worry I'm going to the army'.

"Questions about the legitimacy of actions done by the Israeli forces ... usually they are not discussed."

Student Dafna Rothstein-Landman said: "The main reason we wrote the letter was to raise a public dialogue about serving in the army. It is usually taken as a matter of course and we very much wanted to raise the question that is never asked."

The group's letter to aimed to make people aware of the implications of serving in the army. The letter follows a long tradition of a group of students named "Shministim", translating as "twelfth graders", who write a letter to the Israeli authorities every year. This time however, the group is refusing to join the army at all, rather than just refusing to take part in forces situated in "occupied" territory.

Peace group Yesh Gvul, which supports soldiers who "refuse duties of a repressive or aggressive nature" said: "We are proud of the young people who refuse to take part in oppression and are calling on the government of Israel to sit with the government of Palestine and end the occupation," the Daily News Egypt reported. "A different world is possible for both of us and also the Palestinians and we both deserve true peace, and not peace as defined by the Israeli government."

However finance minister Yair Lapid accused the teens of being "pampered, wealthy youngsters".

Writing on his Facebook page, he said: "To start with let's call this by its real name - this is not refusing, but dodging responsibility," according to the New Zealand Herald.

"Their secular evasion is not ideological. It is the pampering of wealthy youngsters who believe they deserve everything when others - your sons and mine - have to serve in the army instead of them."

Earlier this year an 18-year-old was handed a prison sentence for the sixth time for his continual refusal to serve in Israel's occupation army.

"I declare that I will refuse to serve in the army even if I’m jailed sixty times," Omar Saad said at the time.

Before he was first jailed last year, Saad told Amnesty International: "I don’t want to be part of the Israeli army because the Israeli government is responsible for the occupation [of the Palestinian Territories]. As an Arab Druze I consider myself part of the Palestinian people — so how can I be part of the army that occupies my people? I won’t sell all my beliefs and my identity to anyone."