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18-year-old Israeli risks jail, being labelled a traitor for refusing to join the army

18-year-old Israeli Shahar Schwartz risks being jailed after refusing to enlist in the occupation's army [Refuser Network]
18-year-old Israeli Shahar Schwartz risks being jailed after refusing to enlist in the occupation's army [Refuser Network]

An 18-year-old Israeli risks being jailed after refusing to enlist in the occupation's army.

"I refuse to enlist in the Israeli military because it sustains inequality and oppresses any hope for a positive change," Shahar Schwartz said.

"Due to my refusal to join the army, the military will interfere with my human rights and imprison me. I am willing to pay this temporary price of freedom, a price Palestinians pay their entire lives, because I refuse to cooperate with the system responsible for it."

"Even though the state of Israel did not officially annex the Palestinian territories, it effectively controls them and denies Palestinians their rights to independence while trampling  their basic human rights. Young Israelis who serve in the army are the ones who actively oppress the Palestinian people and enable settler violence against them. I refuse to partake in this."

In a statement published by the Refuser Solidarity Network, Shahar described living in fear during Israeli attacks on Gaza, because his family home is in the area surrounding the besieged enclave.

"I live in an old house that doesn't have a shelter so I sat in the hallway and waited for the [missile] alarm to stop. It was the scariest moment of my life. Fortunately for me, I live in central Israel, and wasn't in real danger, but as a child all I felt was great fear."

READ: Israeli refusenik taunted as 'Arab lover' in jail

This, he explained, means children live "fear and trauma" and Israeli teens then enlist in the army where their feelings turn "into hatred towards the other side".

He described his experience in an Israeli-Palestinian summer camp in the US at the age of 15 where he, for the first time, "heard Palestinians my age share how the Israeli military, which is made up of young Israelis like me, oppresses the Palestinian civilian population on a daily basis – by checkpoints, street patrols, home demolitions, and arrests of children. Many Palestinians only know Israelis through the actions of the occupation."

"Similarly, many Israelis only know Palestinians through media reports about bombings, or through enforcing the occupation as soldiers. The Israeli Military policy is actively preventing any possible change."

His experiences have left him unwilling to join the army, he explained. Conscription in mandatory in Israel for all Israeli citizens over the age of 18, and Shahar knows his decision will lead to him being "marked as a traitor in Israeli society", but this is a risk he is willing to take because he believes "I am doing the right and moral act in the current political situation."

"I hope it makes people see the crimes the military is committing and the suffering it causes, and makes them consider what part they want to take in this conflict."

READ: Israeli refusenik taunted as 'Arab lover' in jail

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