Israel Arts and Science Academy call on others to refuse military service
Over fifty alumni, former educators and staff members of the Israel Arts and Science Academy, Jews and Palestinians, have published a letter calling the high-school community – students and alumni alike – to refuse service in the Israeli military.
2014 was marked by outright violence and racism against Palestinians, both in Israeli politics and within Israeli society. At the same time, some critical voices who call on refusing to serve the oppressive system were also heard – this letter is the fourth of its kind to be published this year. However, it is unique in that both Israeli Jews and Palestinians have formulated and signed it, and by insisting on making an explicit call for refusal – which risks severe punishment under Israeli law.
The letter and website emphasize the role of the Israeli educational system in indoctrinating and preparing youth for military service, as well as the role of societal expectations: “The refusal to serve means also resisting the militaristic indoctrination process we all went through since our childhood in schools, youth movements, national ceremonies, in high school – and which continues in our adult lives.”
Last year, current students at the school led an internal struggle for the direct employment under fair conditions for the cleaning, kitchen and maintenance staff of the institution. Now, the alumni are continuing to press for social and political change: “Our human and civil duty is to be involved in our society and fix it. Refusal means voting with our feet against a policy that cannot be tolerated… Oppression mechanisms are also used against Jews within Israel, particularly against Mizrachi, Ultra-Orthodox, Ethiopians, women, residents of the periphery and the poor wherever they are. The military is not the only executive power in the current political, social and economic reality, but a refusal to serve in it is a clear expression of resistance against these oppressions.”
Gabi Wolff, himself a conscientious objector and a signatory to the letter: “At seventeen I decided that I will not serve in the military. That I will not take part in the occupation. That I will not lend a hand to the continued control over another people. Today, more than a decade after being released from prison, I call on others to avoid being recruited, exactly because of my concern for Israeli society. The poverty in Israel, the lack of funding for culture, the violence, the taking apart of the welfare state, the destruction of academic freedom – are all made possible because of the occupation and the eternal sense of fear it generates.”
The Israel Arts and Science Academy was founded in 1990 by the Israeli Center for Excellence through Education, as a high school and boarding school for gifted and outstanding students from all over the country. The high school receives applications from a variety of populations in Israel: secular and religious, Jews, Muslims, Druze and Christians. “The Israel Arts and Science Academy accepts students from various backgrounds, with different religions and diverse national identities. It is only natural for those who experienced the ideal of living in a multicultural community not to reject it by serving in a military whose purpose is maintaining separation,” says Noa Abend, an alumnus.
The letter’s signatories call on their fellow alumni, present and future, to join the call and actively refuse Israeli occupation and apartheid. The initial list of signatories constitutes an unusually high number, especially when coming from a small single institute.