Youth Reject West Bank Overhaul: Refusing Enlistment

A group of teenagers signed a joint letter saying they would refuse to join the army, in protest against the government’s plan to overhaul the judiciary and Israel’s decades-long control over the West Bank.

In a statement on Sunday, 12th graders said they would unveil the letter at a planned protest at Herzliya High School in Tel Aviv on back-to-school day, Sept. 3.

According to Channel 13, at least two hundred teenagers have already signed the letter.

“We will take possession of Herzliya High School to unveil the letter in an incredible way and we will also teach everything that Yoav Kisch does not want us to know,” the statement read, in reference to the Minister of Education.

The teens said they would also hold “alternative lawn lessons about real democracy and resistance,” with speakers including activists, a communist youth group, and representatives from several rights organizations involved in climate change, transgender rights and documenting alleged rights violations in the West Bank.

The rally will end with a performance by one of the members of the WC music group.

“In recent weeks, we have decided to do something,” said Tal Mitnick, one of the organizers of the Youth Against Dictatorship initiative, in a video statement.

“We must end the judicial overhaul and stop participating in an army that supports the settlements and serves the occupation,” the 17-year-old said. “We have decided to use our power, as people designated for military service, to protest and say that we will not enlist. »

There have already been numerous cases of small groups of 12th graders refusing to serve in the IDF in protest against the country’s policy towards the Palestinians. Israel allows exemptions from military service for a number of reasons, including mental or medical health issues and religious objections, as well as for Israeli Arabs, but not for conscientious objectors. One of the most divisive issues in Israel is the refusal to serve.

The letter focusing on judicial overhaul – the government’s efforts to weaken the judiciary – comes on top of mass protests and warnings from thousands of reservists who will stop reporting for voluntary service, accusing the government’s plans of weaken the judiciary to make Israel an undemocratic country.

Some reservists have since followed through on their threat after the coalition passed the so-called Reasonableness Act last month, which limits the power of the courts to review government actions. No official figures have been released on the number of reservists who have not reported for duty so far.

Unlike most reservists who are called up to duty on official orders several days a year, pilots and other special forces are expected to train and fly missions more frequently and on a voluntary basis, due to the nature of their post. Many of them voluntarily continue their reserve service beyond the exemption age of 45 for officers and 49 for certain other positions.

Senior IDF commanders have warned protests by reservists are having an increasingly negative impact on the army’s readiness, drawing criticism from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, other lawmakers and government supporters far-right clerics.

Netanyahu’s coalition has dismissed the reservists’ protests as a dangerous and unprecedented form of political blackmail by the military. Some coalition lawmakers suggested the protest amounted to an attempted military coup.

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