Archive for November 2008

Howard Zinn: The Least I Can Do

November 26th, 2008 — 12:52pm

On November 26, 2008 Howard Zinn sent his letter of protest to the Ministry of Defense in Israel, supporting the Shministim and their right to peacefully object military service. Read a copy of Howard Zinn’s letter below that asks people to join him and sign a letter of support for the Shministim.

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Shministim History

November 25th, 2008 — 11:12am

In the early 1970’s, a small group of high school students wrote a letter to then Prime Minister Golda Meir. It was only several years after the Six Day War of 1967, and a sense of euphoria was felt throughout Israel. The popular belief was that now, after tripling its size, Israel had proved to the world that it was undefeatable, and that no one would ever dare to wage war against it again.

Yet the young people who wrote the letter to the Prime Minister felt differently. For them it was obvious that the latest acts of occupation would necessarily lead to new wars and bloodshed– unless peace initiatives were to take the place of blunt militarism. They told this to Meir, warning her that if she chose to ignore Egypt’s calls for peace in exchange for the occupied lands – their own blood, as soldiers-to-be, would be on her hands. Meir ignored the letter, and the 1973 Yom Kippur war came to prove the young prophets right.

This letter became the first in a long tradition of similar letters, all taking the name of “Shministim” – which is the Hebrew for “High School Seniors”. The potency of these letters, in which young people articulated what others have thought, was the use they made of the threat of refusal. In a country where the army and mandatory conscription are held as sacred, the voice of young people who state they will refuse to join the army, or in any other way serve the occupation, was and still is a voice that gets a lot of attention.

And so the letters followed each other. The well known ones came out in 1982 – in response to the (first) Lebanon War; 1991 – in response to the (first) Intifada; and in 2001, 2002 and 2005 – in response to the second Intifada. Hundreds of high school students signed these letters each round, declaring that they would refuse to serve the occupation in any way they saw fit, each time getting a unique platform to voice a radical message, bringing attention to the human rights violations Israel commits against the Palestinians in its citizens’ names.

In 2002 the movement grew so strong that the army felt that extra measures need to be taken. While all refusers spent varying periods of time in jail (usually two to three months), this time it was different. Five of the signatories of the letter were singled out and court-marshaled, resulting in a sentence of two years in prison. However, while the army tried to make a showcase out of the five and use the political trial for its own good, the effect was very much the contrary, as the five refusers were given an even greater platform to give testament to the reality in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

And now, 2008, a new group emerges. Unlike the majority of Shministim letters, this one returns to the origins of the movement, and like the 1970’s letter, serves as a warning to a society which believes it is working towards peace, while its government and army proceed with a violent occupation. While Israelis forget about the occupation because of the relative lack of visible violence, the new Shministim are activists who go to the West Bank, see the building of the Separation Wall, which many Israelis and Palestinians call an Apartheid Wall, and learn from their Palestinian partners the true meaning of day-to-day life under the military regime of Israel. This is why they too choose to speak out, refuse, and offer an alternative to cooperating with an enabling the Occupation.

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Yuval Ophir-Auron – 2009

November 25th, 2008 — 2:52am

Name: Yuval Ophir-Auron
Age: 19
Why I am one of the Shministim:
“I am convinced that it is no one but ourselves who determines that it is our fate to live by the sword. There is another way, which is not the way of war. This is the path of dialogue, of understanding, of concession, forgiveness, of peace.
I believe that a person should take responsibility and feel reconciled to the way he chooses. This is why I shall not join an army behind whose actions I cannot stand and whose behavior I cannot justify.”
First Sentence: 24th Nov. – 5th Dec. 2008
Second Sentence: 7th – 14th December 2008

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Raz Bar-David Varon – 2009

November 24th, 2008 — 1:45pm

Name: Raz Bar-David Varon
Age: 18
Why I am one of the Shministim:
“I wasn’t born to serve as a soldier who occupies another, and the struggle against the occupation is mine too. It is a struggle for hope, for a reality that sometimes feels so far away. I have a responsibility for this society. My responsibility is to refuse.”
First Sentence: 3rd – 21st Nov. 2008 (18 days)
Second Sentence:
24th Nov. – 30th Nov. 2008
(6 days)
Third Sentence: 21st Dec. – 9th Jan (currently in prison)

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Omer Goldman – 2009

November 24th, 2008 — 12:17pm

Name: Omer Goldman
Age: 19
Why I am one of the Shministim:
“I believe in service to the society I am part of, and that is precisely why I refuse to take part in the war crimes committed by my country. Violence will not bring any kind of solution, and I shall not commit violence, come what may.”
First Sentence: 22nd Sept. – 10th Oct. 2008 (18 days)
Second Sentence:
12th – 24th Oct. 2008 (10 days)

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Yuval Ophir-Auron is sentenced

November 24th, 2008 — 8:56am

Yuval Ophir-Auron, a signatory of the 2008 high school seniors refusal letter, was sentenced on Monday, 24 Nov., to 14 days in military prison for his refusal to serve in the Israeli military.

Yuval is 19 years of age. He lives in the Arab-Jewish village Neveshalom / Wahat al-Salaam. He has spent the past few years in high school, where he majored in History and Theatre, and  after graduation volunteered for a year’s civilian service, living in a commune in Yavne. As a volunteer he worked with Ethiopian youth and youth from other disempowered communities. In edition, he volunteered in a nursery for children of refugee and migrant workers in south Tel Aviv.

Yuval refuses to join the Israeli military as it is an occupying force. You can read the full text of his (very eloquent) declaration of refusal here. He is due to be released from prison on 5 Dec. His prison address is:

Yuval is seen in the entrance of the recruiting station in Tel Hashomer army base before he was detained later that day

Yuval Ophir-Auron 

ID number 201205580

Military Prison No. 6

Military Postal Code 01860, IDF


Fax: +972-4-9540580

Since the prison authorities often block mail from reaching imprisoned
objectors, we also recommend you to send your letters of support and
encouragement to the imprisoned (and otherwise detained) objectors via
e-mail to,

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Mia Tamarin – 2009

November 23rd, 2008 — 6:48pm

Name: Mia Tamarin
Age: 19
Location: Tel-Aviv
Why I am one of the Shministim:

“I cannot become part of an organization the purpose of which is to fend off violence by violence, because it stands unequivocally contrary to everything I believe in and to my whole life. There always is another, non-violent option, and it is this option that I choose.”
First Sentence: 28th Sept. – 10th Oct. 2008 (12 days)
Second Sentence: 12th – 24th Oct. 2008 (12 days)
Third Sentence: 5th – 23rd Nov 2008 (18 days)

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Sahar Vardi – 2009

November 23rd, 2008 — 6:45pm

Name: Sahar Vardi
Age: 18
Location: Jerusalem
Why I am one of the Shministim:
“I realize that the soldier at the checkpoint is not responsible for the wretched policy of the oppressor towards civilians, I am unable to relieve that soldier of responsibility for his conduct … I mean the human responsibility of not causing another human being to suffer.”
First Sentence: 25th – 31st Aug. 2008 (6 days)
Second Sentence: 12th – 30th Oct. (18 days)
Third Sentence: 3rd – 21st Nov. 2008 (18 days)

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Udi Nir – 2009

November 20th, 2008 — 3:00pm

Name: Udi Nir
Age: 19
Location: Tel-Aviv
Why I am one of the Shministim:

“I will not lend my own hand to the occupation and to acts that contradict my most basic values: human rights, democracy and the personal responsibility each and every human being bears towards fellow human beings.”
Sentence: Aug. 21st – Sept. 7th 2008 (18 days)

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Omer Goldman Exempted From Military Service

November 18th, 2008 — 12:06pm

November 18, 2008

Omer Goldman, daughter of the former deputy head of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, who has served a total of 35 days since since Sept 2008, was today exempted from military service on medical grounds.

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