IDF PARATROOPERS return after an intensive week of training..
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)
“The Israeli military is responsible for the mundane systematic mechanisms of oppression used against Palestinians in the occupied territories, while also taking part in the oppression and dispossession of the non-Jewish citizens of the State of Israel,” a letter published Sunday signed by 53 alumni of Jerusalem’s Arts and Science Academy warned current students.
“The army has been contracted to implement a policy of separation that is founded on Jews’ ethnic superiority over Palestinians,” it continued. “Following the recent massacre in Gaza, an atrocity that has been committed in our name against nearly 2 million people – half of them children – we choose not to be silent.”
According to the letter’s signatories, some of whom remained anonymous, the missive is intended to denounce what they deem to be immoral IDF activities by becoming conscientious objectors, despite the social stigmatization such a choice engenders.
“Refusing to serve in the Israeli military is not an easy choice, but it is a moral stance against the collective spirit of ongoing violence and racism expressed in Israel’s streets these days,” the letter stated. “It is a choice to withstand the pressure that comes from home, friends, the professional environment and the media.”
The Israel Arts and Sciences Academy was established in 1990 by the Israel Center for Excellence through Education to provide a learning environment for outstanding students in the sciences and humanities.
In response to the controversial letter, the school released a statement Sunday saying that the vast majority of its students do indeed serve in the IDF.
“The Israel Arts and Science Academy educates its students to contribute to the community and serve meaningfully,” the response stated. “More than 97 percent of our high school students join the IDF and many serve as officers and we are proud of each and every one of them.”
However, in a caveat, the administrators emphasized the students’ rights to think independently.
“We educate our students in activism and critical thinking and, if they do not accept a view, we believe in our students’ ability to choose their own path according to their conscience and faith in accordance with the law,” the statement continued.
According to Gilad Leibovitz, a 36-year-old graduate who signed the letter and is currently studying medicine in Italy, signatories included former Arab students, as well as one-time faculty members.
Leibovitz told +972 Magazine that he would “not be surprised if the state takes active steps against” the former students and faculty.
“Doing so, however,” he cautioned, “would be a mark of shame for any democratic state, although perhaps most people here may no longer frown upon that.”
Moreover, Leibovitz compared the letter to popular conscientious objector campaigns throughout history, including those against “totalitarian regimes.”