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After one year: A new letter, more signatories, and a wave of activity
17 September 2002
The Seniors' Letter 2002 ('The Seniors', 'Michtav HaShministim' in Hebrew) was sent today to PM Ariel Sharon, signed by more than 210 youths who declaer they will "refuse to be soldiers of the occupation".
A year after the release of 'The Seniors' Letter 2001' and the ensuing public turmoil, the letter has been re-written, and brought up to date with the current state of affairs. Many of the signatories of the original letter have already fulfilled their promise some have been exempted from compulsory military service, some have enlisted and are refusing to go beyond the 1967 borders, and others have resisted the draft. Five of the draft-resisters have been incarcerated in military prisons: Two of them have served prison sentences, mounting up to about 90 days, and three others are still serving long periods of imprisonment. In addition the number of signatories has tripled, in just one year's time. In the coming months many other signatories will refuse and be imprisoned, while others will strive to be exempted, or go on serving within "the green line".
The Seniors, 15-19 year-old boys and girls from around the country, believe that the State of Israel is committing war crimes and acts that defy human morality, and that this policy prolongs suffering, fear, and despair among Palestinians and indeed, provokes terrorist attacks. One cannot be a moral soldier in service of the occupation, as the entire occupation is in itself immoral, and harmful to the security of Israel. Security can be obtained only through a just peace.
Recently, the members of the Seniors' Movement have acted on a number of occasions, including several vigils in support of imprisoned COs, and a big demonstration opposite the Defense Ministry in Tel-Aviv protesting against war crimes, and calling on other seniors and soldiers to join their ranks. Activities will climax at the Seniors' Tent the movement plans to raise at Beit-Oren junction, opposite Military Prison 6 (where three of the signatories will be 'doing time'), in the last three days of Sukkoth: Thursday through Saturday, 26-28 of September. The Tent will hold lectures and live performances in support of all conscientious objectors, and against the occupation. At 16:00 on Saturday the 28th, a mass demonstration will take place on the hill opposite the prison.
In the coming year we will carry out many other activities in schools, youth groups and in the streets.
The letter to Prime Minister, Mr. Ariel Sharon,
It has been a year now since we, 62 young people raised in Israel, sent you a letter announcing that we will not take part in the continuing oppression of the Palestinian people. Today, as the situation in Israel and in the Territories deteriorates, we say it again, together with many who have joined us: we refuse to be soldiers of the occupation.
The state of Israel commits war crimes and tramples over human rights, destroying Palestinian cities, towns and villages; expropriating land, detaining and executing without trial, conducting mass demolitions of houses, businesses, and public institutions; looting, closure, curfew, torture, prevention of medical care, construction and expansion of settlements all these actions are opposed to human morality, and violate international treaties ratified by Israel. In these and other actions Israel systematically prevents Palestinians from carrying on their day-to-day lives. This reality leads to suffering, fear, and despair, which yield terror attacks. Therefore, the occupation is not only immoral; but it also damages the security of Israel's citizens and residents. Such security will be achieved only through a just peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
When the elected government tramples over democratic values and the chances for a just peace in the region, we have no choice but to obey our conscience and refuse to take part in the attack on the Palestinian people. As youth about to be called to serve in the military we pledge to do all that we see fit so as not to serve the occupation. Some of us will refuse to enlist; others will refuse to serve beyond the green line, and others yet will avoid military service in other ways we view all these means as legitimate and necessary, and we call on other youth, conscripts, soldiers in the standing army, and reserve service soldiers to do the same.
Copies to: Minister of Defense, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer; Minister of Education,