Kids have a right to speak out, even if that speaking out is done against serving in the IDF, according to Itai Benowitz, principal of the Israel Arts and Sciences Academy (IASA) in Jerusalem, after a group of 53 graduates of his high school released a letter Sunday calling for a boycott on serving in the army. In the letter, they said that they “dared to refuse.”
"The Israeli army is responsible for systematic suppression mechanisms and domestic abuse used against Palestinians in the occupied territories, and is also a partner in the oppression and dispossession against non-Jewish citizens of Israel,” the anonymous letter said. The letter also accuses the IDF of being a "contractor in active segregation based on the concept of ethnic superiority of the Jews over Palestinians - a regime that oppresses and tramples basic human rights, which applies a different legal system to the different populations in the West Bank [Judea-Samaria - ed.], and uses a system of discrimination based on ethnic lines from 1948.
"Refusal to serve is a privilege that requires a tough stance against society, the community and the family, and sometimes even sitting in a military prison," it boasts. "When we were teenagers some of us did not have the knowledge, courage or support network necessary to enable such a move, and we want you to know that there are also voices like ours out there."
According to Benowitz, “we train our students to think critically and to be activists, even if their opinions are not acceptable to us. We want our students to act according to their consciences and choose their own way.” With that, he said, over 97% of the school's graduates do serve in the IDF.
In response to the letter, Deputy Education Minister Avi Wortzman (Jewish Home) said that “serving in the IDF is what enables us to live in this country. The signers of this letter are using the good name of their school in order to get publicity, and this is a terrible thing to do. The IDF was and is the most moral army in the world. I would suggest that the authors of this letter – who 'bravely' chose to remain anonymous – to go speak to residents of Sderot, who have to wake up in the middle of the night and make their way to bomb shelters.”
The first "war of letters" began in March, when 50 leftist teens sent a letter to the Prime Minister expressing objections to the mandatory draft for ideological reasons. Zionist teens - over 200 of them - drafted a counter-letter in response, which quickly went viral. Then, in September, 43 left-wing reservists sent a letter to Netanyahu decrying the "crimes" of the IDF against Palestinians.
Shortly afterwards, some 200 past and present soldiers in the unit signed a counter-letter debunking the claims and expressing anger at what they said was a politically-motivated smear against the army.