Wars of aggression — particularly those that are racist and genocidal in character — will always result in opposition from those who are called on to carry out the war. During World War II, tens of thousands of German soldiers were executed for either desertion or refusing to follow military orders.

Tal Mitnick

And now a small number of Israeli youth are refusing to take part in this most recent phase of the 75-year war against the Palestinian people and the occupation of their country.  It began on October 7, 2023, with Palestinian fighters overrunning and capturing numerous Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF, what Israel calls Israeli Defense Forces) military bases. 

The tradition of Israeli youth refusing to take part in the defense of the Zionist project is not new. In September 2023 over 200 high school students signed a statement and held a public meeting declaring their refusal to serve in the IOF.

On Dec. 26, the first of the signees, 18-year-old Tal Mitnick, refused mandatory military service and was jailed in a military prison for 30 days. To prevent any display of solidarity within the prison walls, with all its potential ramifications, he is being kept separate from any Palestinian prisoners. 

Mitnick issued a long statement before he was jailed in which he observed, “Before the war [the Israeli assault on Gaza], the army guarded settlements, maintained the murderous siege on the Gaza Strip and upheld the status quo of apartheid and Jewish supremacy in the land between the Jordan [River] and the sea.” 

Sofia Orr

Sofia Orr is also 18 years old and has publicly stated that she will refuse to serve in the IOF beginning on her Feb. 25, 2024, scheduled military induction. She has refused to apply for any exemption based on pacifism, ethics, medical conditions or mental health and has had lengthy interviews on both the Al Jazeera television network and the france24.com website.

When asked how the events of October 7 affected her decision, she replied that it “changed nothing in either direction. It should have been expected, because when you put people under extreme violence, extreme violence will rise back at you. It’s inevitable.” For her actions Orr has been labeled a “traitor” and threatened with murder and rape, according to the Jan. 6 report at france24.com. 

Israeli youth who refuse military service should be supported and encouraged. They have opened an internal front against the Zionist project within a fascist-like political and social atmosphere.

The writer served in the IOF and took part in the 1973 Arab-Israeli war as well as the illegal occupations of Palestine, Egypt and Syria. His experiences led him to become a supporter of Palestinian self-determination and liberation.

Michael Kramer

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