Activists decry IDF presence in schools

Oppose nationwide "brainwashing" campaign which IDF says is meant to highlight importance of service.

smiling soldiers 298 (photo credit: IDF)
smiling soldiers 298
(photo credit: IDF)
In a move to protest the IDF's plan to send thousands of officers into the country's schools on Wednesday, New Profile - a movement opposed to what they see as "brainwashing" by the army - plans to set up a demonstration in which members dressed as IDF officers will wash a large model of a human brain. The organizers of the planned protest hope to draw attention to the IDF's nationwide campaign for students and voice their opposition to the "militarization of Israeli society." The demonstration will take place opposite Tel Aviv's Cinematheque and next to the city's Ironi Alef High School, which has one of the highest draft-dodging rates in the country. "I think the fact that military officers have free access to schools exploits the status of soldiers and the status of schools," said Lotahn Raz, a New Profile activist and organizer of Wednesday's demonstration, which he called a "street performance." "We want to reach out to students across the country and tell them that they have an opportunity to think differently. We also want to reach out to the larger Israeli public and tell them that the army should not play a part in our schools," he added. Raz, who did not serve in the army for "ideological" reasons, told The Jerusalem Post that the issue was not about enlistment, but about the army putting pressure on students to enlist. "The army is something that they need to think about," he said. "It shouldn't be an automatic decision. But the army coming in and exploiting their position of power is brainwashing." "The army is a hierarchical organization," Raz continued. "It doesn't have respect for life, and they have no regard for the equality of women. It encourages following orders instead of individual thinking." Lt.-Col. Ronen Ofer, one of the officers in charge of the program, said on the Knesset Channel Monday that "we're not coming to change the educational program or replace teachers. We want to talk to young people for a short amount of time about why the military is important and about certain values that have helped us succeed in the past." The show's host asked Ofer if the program had encountered any negative reactions, as "the spirit of the country isn't what it was 30 years ago." "We've tried the program out at three different schools already," Ofer answered, "and the kids were very welcoming and received us well." But Raz told the Post that the values to which Ofer referred were not the the kind that should be expressed in schools. "They've brought us constant conflict with our neighbors," he said. "The military's presence in schools is reminiscent of countries we'd rather not like to think of ourselves as. If there is a change in the attitude of young people and Israeli society in general about the military, maybe that's what needs to be heard."