Shministim means “twelfth-graders” in Hebrew and military service is mandatory upon graduation from Israeli high school.
The Shministim are Israeli youth of conscience who refuse to serve in the Israeli Army because it is the force that enforces Israel’s 40+-year occupation of indigenous Palestinians.
The first Shministim letter was sent to Prime Minister Golda Meir. In 2008 alone, one hundred youth have signed the following letter, which cost them a jail term in an Israeli military prison, ranging from 21 to 28 days. For those who refuse to wear the military uniform, they are punished with solitary confinement.
The Shministim Letter of 2008:
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.
Members of the Shministim Letter 2008.
After these conscientious objectors serve their sentence, they are once again drafted. When they refuse a second time, they face the same sentence, and there is literally no end to the number of times these forward thinking youth will return to jail as an act of conscience and courageous dissent from a country that has not kept its very own words:
"On the day of the termination of the British mandate and on the strength of the United Nations General Assembly declare The State of Israel will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel: it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion it will guarantee freedom of religion [and] conscience
and will be faithful to the Charter of the United Nations." - May 14, 1948. The Declaration of the Establishment of Israel
John Mearsheimer, recently wrote a book review of Avraham Burg's, The Holocaust is Over,
from which I excerpt:
His core message is that Israel is in serious trouble at home and there is good reason to think that things could go horribly wrong in the future. He emphasizes that Israel has changed greatly since 1948. He quotes his mother on this point:
"This country is not the country that we built. We founded a different country in 1948, but I don't know where it's disappeared." Israel today, he writes, "is frighteningly similar to the countries we never wanted to resemble." Talking about Israel's shift to the right over time, he makes the eye-popping observation that "Jews and Israelis have become thugs."
Burg makes it clear that he is not equating Israel's past behavior with what happened in Nazi Germany, but he does see disturbing similarities between Israel and "the Germany that preceded Hitler."
[Burg] raises the possibility that there might be a civil war inside Israel, which "will be not a war between members of the Jewish people of different shades of beliefs, but an uncompromising struggle between good people and bad people anywhere."
…he fears that Israel will end up following in the footsteps of Germany, where "slow processes altered the perception of reality to the degree that insanity became the norm, and then we were exterminated. It happened in the land of poets and philosophers. There it was possible, and here too, in the land of the prophets. The establishment of a state run by rabbis and generals is not an impossible nightmare. I know how difficult this comparison is, but please open your ears, eyes, and hearts."
Many American Jews think that Israel is in trouble today because of anti-Semitism or because it is surrounded by dangerous adversaries who threaten Israel's very existence. Israelis themselves, Burg reminds us, love to emphasize that "the entire world is against us."
He dismisses these wrongheaded beliefs: "Today we are armed to the teeth, better equipped than any other generation in Jewish history. We have a tremendous army, an obsession with security, and the safety net of the United States…
For Burg, Israel's troubles are self-inflicted…They think that everyone is out to get them, and that the Palestinians are hardly any different than the Nazis. Given this despairing perspective, Israelis believe that almost any means is justified to counter their enemies…Israeli society is plagued with a host of serious problems that are threatening to tear it apart…the Occupation, which has had a corrupting effect on Israeli society and has drawn criticism from all around the globe…
Moreover, Israelis did not focus much attention on the Holocaust in the first decade or so after 1948 and they showed surprisingly little sympathy for the survivors who came to Israel after the war. But all that changed in the 1960s… after Israel conquered the West Bank and Gaza in 1967 and began the Occupation...
All of this is to say that the best way to rescue Israel from its plight is not simply to get beyond the Holocaust, but to end the Occupation.[end]
The SHMINISTIM youth are on the forefront of helping to dismantle the Occupation and that will enable many Jews to get beyond the Jewish Holocaust, for these youth are driven by conscience and truth.
You can help these young Israeli Conscientious Objectors just by filling in a form @
Your message will be hand delivered to the Israeli Minister of Defense by Israeli peace activists on December 18, 2008 The Shministim Day of Action.
Join them on Face Book:
John Mearsheimer's Full Book Review: