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Young Israelis publicly criticize and refuse military service


ACTION • Mesarvot’s anti-military activism opposes the Israeli occupation of Palestine


January 2021 || Anti-occupation activists help young Israelis to publicly criticize and refuse their military service, thus resisting the occupation of Palestine.

activism - anti-militarism - Israel - occupation - Palestine

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Since its establishment, young Israelis have been required by law to enlist in the army, leading to Israel having one of the strongest armies in the world to date. Since 1967, millions of Palestinians have been under occupation of Israel. There is no shortage of resources about the various forms of human suffering and injustices caused by the Israeli military, from the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza strip to the numerous restrictions and land confiscations imposed upon Palestinians in the West Bank. The military implementing these policies of occupation depends on the conscription of 18 years old Israelis. Activists’ network Mesarvot helps young Israelis to publicly criticize and refuse their military service.


Mesarvot is a network of anti-occupation activists that aims to support political military service objectors and promote public discourse on the subject. Mesarvot sees the political objection as a tool to help end the occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people. The organization was founded at the end of 2015 by activists from what they call the “Objection Community”. Over the last couple of years they supported a great deal of imprisoned refusers. These campaigns usually include personal support before imprisonment by previous imprisoned refusers who know the military prison from the inside, legal assistance, media coverage work, assistance in writing a declaration, solidarity demonstrations and international solidarity.

Their activities touch the nerves of the Israeli society, as serving in the army is still seen as a big part of the Israeli identity. Hence, objecting it and refusing military service, is frowned upon and criminalized. While refusal is a great challenge, it is also an opportunity —through the extreme way in which refusal is preserved— to politicize and raise issues of resisting the occupation.

Their recent action, funded by Het Actiefonds, was the facilitation of a public refusal letter. Such public refusal letters, when published by youth before conscription age, are traditionally called in Israel “Shministim” letters (Shminitim means 12th graders). The activists formed a group of young people interested in refusing publicly, and assisted them in formulating their message and created a campaign around it, thus maximizing the outreach of the letter. The letter was signed by more than a hundred teenagers, a considerable achievement given the current extreme nationalist discourse in the Israeli public.

This new generation of anti-occupation activists criticizes the importance that the Israeli society asserts to the military. They emphasize that the huge respect it has to military officials has bad effects on all areas of living. Het Actiefonds supports Mesarvot’s anti-military activism to oppose the illegitimate Israeli occupation.