News Middle East

Monday 22 September 2014

Israeli teens face jail for refusing to join army

Robert Tait, Tel Aviv

Published 14/04/2014 | 02:30

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Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 70 school pupils have signed a letter to him stating they will not join the Israeli Army.
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 70 school pupils have signed a letter to him stating they will not join the Israeli Army.

Dozens of Israeli teenagers face jail terms and blighted career prospects after declaring that they will not join the army because of its "war crimes" in the occupied Palestinian territories.

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The mass act of conscientious objection is set out in a letter signed by around 70 senior secondary pupils, who are refusing to fulfil their legal obligation to enlist when they leave school.

"We, the undersigned, intend to refuse to serve in the army and the main reason is our opposition to the military occupation of Palestinian territories," the pupils write.

The letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accuses Israeli forces of committing human rights abuses and war crimes on a daily basis, including assassinations, torture, and collective punishment.

All 18-year-olds are obliged to join the Israeli Defence Forces, although Arab citizens and ultra-Orthodox Jews can get exemptions.

The prime minister has not responded, but Yair Lapid, the Israeli finance minister and leader of the secular Yesh Atid, called the teenagers "pampered, wealthy youngsters" on his Facebook page.

Refusing to join the army does not automatically entail a jail sentence in Israel, where exemptions can be given to pacifists or on psychological grounds.

One of the signatories, Dafna Rothstein-Landman (17), said she would risk jail to challenge the popular Israeli view of army service as a patriotic rite of passage.

"The main purpose of the letter is to promote dialogue," she said. "We want to raise the question that is never asked – which is that serving in the military is seen as a matter of course." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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