Regional Programs > Israel & Palestine > Next Story

 Dear friends of refusers
 Steven Feuerstein, USA
 September 17, 2002
Some exciting developments: There is a new refuser group on the scene: the Shministim. This word means "8th form" and indicates the high school senior year (a holdover from the influences of the German educational system on Israel, or so I was told). It is the name that has been used to describe the group of high school seniors that published an open letter in August 2001 to Prime Minister Sharon announcing their intention to refuse conscription into the IDF because of the occupation. One of the leaders of the group, Haggai Matar, was the first refuser who toured the United States through the Refuser Solidarity Network (May 2001).

Over the last year, this group has grown in size; they started with 62 signers and at the time of the writing of this email have 215 signers! They have now formalized themselves as an organization (Shministim) and have an initial website: see Shministim.

Today, the Shministim held a press conference to announce their formation as a group, their expanded numbers and revised letter for 2002. The press release is reproduced below, along with the updated version of their Seniors' Letter and contact information. They were very well received by the media. Haggai reported that "We were in the two major internet news sites all day, had our name mentioned in the news in both radio stations, had a few interviews, one on TV, and we've got one of the three papers tomorrow for sure —and it's almost certain we'll get into the other two as well." He expects to get more attention from the media tomorrow.

We will add information about the Shministim to the Refuser Solidarity Network website very soon. We are very excited about this development and hope that it helps inject new energy into the refuser movement. . . .

A Press Release from the Shministim

The Seniors' Letter One year past: A new letter, more signatories, and a wave of activity.

"The Seniors' Letter 2002" (AKA the "Shministim Letter") was sent today to PM Ariel Sharon, with more than 180 signatures of youths, declaring they will "refuse to be soldiers for the occupation". Copies of the letter were sent to the Minister of Education, the Minister of Defense, and the Chief of Staffs.

The letter was sent come a year to the public turmoil ensuing the release of "The Seniors' Letter 2001". The letter has been re- written, and put 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 67' 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 been 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 the whole of Israel, believe that the State of Israel is committing war crimes and acts that defy human morals, and that this reality prolongs suffering, fear, and despair, which yield terror attacks. One cannot be a moral soldier in service of the occupation, as the entire occupation is in itself immoral, and is even harmful to the security of Israel's citizens and residents. Security will be obtained only through a Just peace.

Recently, the members of the "Seniors' Movement" have had a number of activities, including several vigils in support of imprisoned COs, and a big demonstration opposite the Kirya in Tel-Aviv protesting against war crimes, and calling on other seniors and soldiers to join their ranks. Activities will climax at the "Peace and Refusal Tent" which will be built by the movement 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 mount opposite the prison.In the coming year we will carry out many other activities in schools, youth groups and in the streets.

For details: Haggai Matar 053-881213
Or Email; "Shministim" P.O. Box 70094, Haifa 31700.

Update Seniors' Letter

To the Prime Minister, Mr. Ariel Sharon,

It has been a year now since we, 62 Israeli boys and girls raised in Israel, sent you a letter announcing that we will not take part in the continuing oppression of the Palestinian people. Today, with a worse situation in Israel and in the Territories, we say it again, together with many who have joined us: we refuse to be soldiers for 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-demolition of houses, businesses, and public institutions; looting, closure, curfew, torture, preventing the administration of medical care, constructing and expanding 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 maintaining any reasonable life. 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 serve beyond the green line, others 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.

Minister of Defense, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer
Minister of Education, Limor Livnat
Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Moshe Ya'alon

Steven Feuerstein is co-coordinator of the Refuser Solidarity Network.

For a full list of the signatories to the Seniors’ Letter 2002, see