Support the Shministim, imprisoned Israeli youth who refuse to serve in the army

Support the Shministim, imprisoned Israeli youth who refuse to serve in the army.

This year, about 100 youth have signed the refusal letter. Because of their principled refusal to serve in an occupying army, youth who sign the letter face 21 to 28 day jail terms in Israeli military prisons, with solitary confinement if they refuse to wear a military uniform. After completing their sentence, they are drafted again and , they face the same sentence if they refuse again, as most do. There is literally no end to the number of times youth might be sent back to jail.

Berkeley’s Jewish Voice for Peace and Israeli Prisoners of Conscience is organizing support in the US for the Shministim and their December 18th Day of Action in Tel Aviv on to demand release of conscientious objectors who have been imprisoned. Jewish Voice for Peace has collected 11,000 letters so far, which will be delivered to the Israeli Minister of Defense. You can add your voice by clicking here.

Read more about the Shministim

Conscientious objector to IDF service jailed (Ynet)

Father, forgive me, I will not fight for your Israel (The Sunday Times, UK)

Israelis challenging Israel’s Militarization (Znet)
A Letter (Shani Werner) (New Profile)

Their 2008 letter reads:

We, high-school graduate teens, declare that we shall work against the Israeli occupation and oppression policy in the occupied territories and the territories of Israel. Therefore we will refuse to take part of these actions, which are being done under our name as part of the IDF. Our refusal comes first and foremost as a protest on the separation, control, oppression and killing policy held by the state of Israel in the occupied territories, as we understand that this oppression, killing and routing of hatred will never lead us to peace, and they are all contradictory to the basic values a society that pretends to be democratic should have.

All the members of this group believe in developing the value of social work. We are not refusing to serve the society we live in, but are protesting against the occupation and the ways of actions which the militaristic system holds as it is today- crushing civil rights, discriminating on a racial base and acting opposing international laws.

We oppose the actions taken in the name of the “defense” of the Israeli society (Checkpoints, targeted killing, apartheid roads-available for Jews only, curfews etc.) that serve the occupation and exploitation policy , annex more conquered territories to the State of Israel and tramples the rights of the Palestinian population in an aggressive manner. These actions serve as a band-aid covering a bleeding wound, and as a limited and temporary solution that will accelerate and aggravate the conflict further.

We expostulate the plundering and the theft of territories and source of income to the Palestinians in exchange to the expansion of the settlements, reasoning to defend Israeli territories. In addition, we oppose any transformation of Palestinian cities and villages to ghettos without minimal living conditions or income sources enclosed by the separation wall.

We also protest the humiliating and disrespectful behavior of the military forces towards Palestinians in the West Bank; violence towards demonstrators, public humiliations, arrests, destruction of property regardless to any safety or defense needs, all of which violate global human rights and international law.

The wall and blockades surround the Palestinian Territories and serve as a halter around the Palestinian’s neck. The soldiers who commit crimes under the patronage and protection of their commanders reflect the image of the Israeli society; a destructive and surprising society that is incapable of accepting its neighboring nation as a partner and not as an enemy.

In order to hold an effective dialogue between the two societies, we, the well-established and stronger society, have the responsibility of establishing and strengthening the other. Only with a more socially and financially established partner could we work towards peace rather than one-sided retaliation acts. Rather than supporting those citizens who have hope for peace, the military cast sanctions and pushes more and more people towards acts of extreme violence and escalation.

We hereby challenge every citizen who wonders if the military’s policy in the occupied territories is conducive to the progression of the peace process, to discover by himself/ herself the truth and to lift the veil which distorts the reality of the situation; to verify statistical data; to look for the humane side in him/her and in the society which stands in front of him/her, to disprove the myths that were routed within us regarding the necessity of the IDF’s in the Palestinian Occupied Territories, and to stand up against every action which he finds irrational and illegal.

In a place were there are humans, there is someone to talk to. Therefore, we ask to create a dialogue that goes beyond the power struggle, the retaliation and one-sided attrition actions; to disprove the “No Partner” myth, which is leading to a lose-lose situation of an ongoing frustration, and to move to more humane methods.

We cannot hurt in the name of defense or imprison in the name of freedom; therefore we cannot be moral and serve the occupation.

Signed Members of the Shministim Letter 2008.

3 Responses to “Support the Shministim, imprisoned Israeli youth who refuse to serve in the army”

  1. 1 mlyon01 December 13, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    A friend recently returned from the Mid-East writes:

    I met one of these very brave young women on my recent trip, who is now in jail. There are about 300 high school seniors now refusing to be drafted and apparently there will be a big demo supporting them in Israel next week. They are encouraged by the international response. Ellen

    Mistreatment in Military Prison

    Dear Friends,

    As we reported in an earlier update, CO Tamar Katz refused to wear a military uniform when she returned to Military Prison no. 400 for the third time on 1 Dec., and was therefore placed in the Isolation Ward of the prison.

    We now received information that the prison authorities are mistreating Tamar, probably in an attempt to pressure her to wear a uniform against her decision. More specifically, Tamar is not allowed to make phone calls to her family, not allowed to change clothes, and has even been denied the opportunity to wash her teeth.

    This calls for some special action to be taken. First and foremost, Tamar herself needs moral support. You can write her messages of encouragement to her prison address:

    Tamar Katz
    Military ID 5396326
    Military Prison No. 400
    Military Postal Code 02447, IDF
    Fax: ++972-3-9579389
    But please be sure to back them up with messages sent by e-mail to, as other messages will take much longer to arrive and might well be blocked.

    Letters of protest (faxes are much better than other routes of delivery) would be most effective when sent to the following officials:

    Commander of Military Prison No. 400,
    Military Prison No. 400,
    Military postal number 02447, IDF
    Fax: ++972-3-9579389

    Mr. Ehud Barak,
    Minister of Defence,
    Ministry of Defence,
    Tel-Aviv 64743,
    E-mail: or
    Tel.: ++972-3-6975540 or ++972-3-6975423
    Fax: ++972-3-6976711

    Avichai Mandelblit,
    Chief Military Attorney
    Military postal code 9605, IDF
    Fax: ++972-3-569-43-70

    For those of you who live outside Israel, it would be very effective to send protests to your local Israeli embassy. You can find the address of your local embassy on the web.

    Also, please send us copies of your letters of protest to

    We are including a sample letter, which you can use or adapt, in sending appeals to authorities on Tamar’s behalf, but feel free to be creative in formulating your messages:

    Dear Sir/Madam,

    It has come to my attention that Tamar Katz (Military ID number 5396326), a conscientious objector to military service, is being held and mistreated in the Isolation Ward Military Prison No. 400.

    The prison authorities deny Tamar Katz basic liberties and conditions, such as the ability to call her family, to change clothes, even to brush her teeth – all because she refuses to wear a military uniform.

    I therefore call for the immediate and unconditional release of Tamar Katz from prison, without threat of further imprisonment in the future, but pending that, I urge you to make sure the humiliating treatment of Tamar Katz is stopped right away. Imprisoning people for their beliefs is unacceptable; singling them out among prisoners for harsher treatment is unthinkable.


    As usual, we will continue updating on further developments.

    Thank you for your attention and action,

  2. 2 mlyon01 December 19, 2008 at 11:34 pm

    Haaretz (Dec. 18, 2008) wrote:

    Leftist U.S. Jewish group backs Israelis who shun IDF enlistment

    By Natasha Mozgovaya, Haaretz Correspondent

    Although most American Jews are politically aligned with the liberal left, IDF service is generally viewed as an unassailable duty. Thus, officially there has never been a concentrated effort to lobby Israelis to evade conscription.

    The Jewish Voice for Peace has recruited actor Ed Asner, historian and author Howard Zinn, and folk singer Ronnie Gilbert to the cause.

    “The recent election of anti-war candidate Barack Obama , who by the way received some 80% of the Jewish vote, was evidence of the American people’s disenchantment with war and occupation,” said Cecilie Surasky, the communications director for Jewish Voice for Peace. “Seven years and untold lives and dollars later, there is almost total agreement in the US that our venture in Iraq has been an unqualified disaster.”

    “I am an old-time peace activist,” Gilbert said. “I have marched and pleaded against the cruel occupation for years. The presence of the Shministim (the Hebrew term for Israeli youths who refuse IDF enlistment) makes me ashamed of sometimes feeling that Israel will never change. You are the change.”

    “I’ve been thinking a lot about courage,” Zinn, the controversial scholar, wrote in his letter. “Right now, while I’m snug and fed this Thanksgiving holiday in the comfort of my home, halfway around the world a group of teenagers is sitting in a jail cell today, demonstrating the very definition of courage and sacrifice. It’s frustrating. Humbling. And I’m damn glad to have the chance to do something big about it.”

  3. 3 mlyon01 December 29, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    Jewish Voice for Peace reports:

    A few days after the December 18th rally, the day after Tamar Katz was finally released from solitary confinement, the young Shministim gathered in a room to celebrate and to decide what they wanted to say to each and every one of you. This is the message they carefully wrote together:

    Dear friends and supporters,

    On the eve of Hanuka, the festival of lights, we, the Shministim, would like to take a moment to thank you for all you’ve done for us and for our struggle.

    While we sit down with our families and light the first candle of the holiday, symbolizing the rebellion against an occupying army, some of us are still behind bars, denied the freedom to celebrate the holiday with their loved ones, denied the right to freedom of thought and political consciousness.

    During this dark period of consecutive jail terms, military trials and attempts to break our beliefs, you were our light.

    Each and every one of you who helped with the campaign, who sent a supporting letter, who sent the link of the website to a friend. You’ve let our struggle be heard around the world, the letters, the postcards and posters, the demonstrations, all of those actions fulfilled our wildest dreams.

    We would like to thank you once again and wish you all a happy and free holiday.

    in solidarity,
    The Shministim

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