Israel is on the cusp of a wave of army refusal under far right rule

Four Israeli conscientious objectors (left to right) Evyatar Moshe Rubin, Einat Gerlitz, Nave Shabtay Levin, and Shahar Schwartz, are seen outside the Tel Hashomer induction base before their planned announcement to refuse to enlist in the Israeli army, September 4, 2022. (Oren Ziv)
The incoming government has prompted a new crop of teens to question their upcoming role in one of Israel society’s central tenets.

By Oren Ziv | +972 Magazine | Dec 11, 2022

There is already evidence that the army fears a wave of refusals, as recently demonstrated by the unusually severe punishment handed down to four conscientious objectors.

It didn’t take long for the incoming far-right government to announce its racist, anti-democratic plans, particularly for Palestinians and the Israeli Jewish liberal-secular public. What many are calling a “nightmare government” has prompted senior politicians from the opposing camp to call for mass “civil disobedience” in the form of protests and the refusal to cooperate with the religious fundamentalists who are about to run the country.

On the grassroots level, it seems refusal to enlist in the Israeli army, or at least to serve in the occupied territories — which has long been a marginal but high-profile form of civil disobedience in Israel — may very soon start to become more widespread. The fact that leader of Otzma Yehudit leader and presumed Minister of National Security Itamar Ben Gvir, and Religious Zionism head Bezalel Smotrich, who is about to acquire broad powers in the West Bank, will be leading political figures in Israel’s security and military establishment, crosses a red line for many Israeli Jews. Some, it seems, are beginning to second-guess their instinctive resistance to refusing the draft.

Organizations that support conscientious objectors are already reporting an increase in the number of Israelis reaching out to them in the wake of last month’s elections, including Israelis on the Zionist left who previously have not considered refusal. Mesarvot (“Refusers”), one of the most prominent NGOs supporting conscientious objectors, has seen the number of Israelis contacting the organization — both teenagers due to be drafted and their parents — double. Yesh Gvul, another Israeli group that advocates for draft refusal, has registered a similar jump.

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