May 21, 2002

To: Defense Minister Benjamin Ben Eliezer

Re: Request for exemption from military service as a conscientious objector in accordance with paragraph 36 of the Military Service Law (unified version) -1986

I, Asaf Shtull-Trauring, a 17-year-old high school student, hereby present to you my request for exemption from military service (compulsory and reserve) for reasons of conscience, under the appropriate statutes.

I hereby declare that my political worldview and basic values prevent me from serving in the IDF. I see in my refusal to serve in the Israel Defense Forces a basic democratic right, and my duty as a citizen. I cannot allow myself to be a soldier in the IDF, just as I would not allow myself to be a soldier in the South African army during the Apartheid regime. I cannot see myself being part of any military organization that uses its weapons and force against civilians, human rights, democratic rule and a just society.

The IDF, which oppresses and conquers a civilian population, loses its right to be a called a “Defense Force” as long as it fulfills the role of being an army of occupation and colonialization. Israeli society has long forgotten who is the “David” and who is the “Goliath” in our conflict with the Palestinians, what purity of arms entails, the definitions of human dignity and human rights. The destruction of homes, executions without trial, the restriction of freedom of movement through siege, the illegal expropriation of land, the indiscriminate bombing of civilians in towns and villages, are all war crimes. Above all these criminal acts, two flags are waving – a black flag and the flag of the State of Israel.

For a long time now, the IDF has changed from the military arm of a democratic regime, to a blatantly right-wing proto-governmental organization, whose clear goal is to perpetuate the conquest and permanently annex the occupied territories to the State of Israel. The Army, led by the General Staff, has decisively dragged the country into a comprehensive war of choice in the territories, in order to convert the occupation into an established fact without a political exit.

This can be seen, among other ways, by the Army's purposeful attempts to escalate the violence during the current Intifada. The Intifada started as a popular uprising characterized by acts of civil disobedience. The Army reacted with disproportionate force, which led to the death of hundreds of Palestinian civilians in a period of a few short months. This excessive violence encouraged Palestinian militants to escalate the violence by shooting attacks against soldiers and settlers in the West Bank. Once again the Army responded excessively with missiles from helicopters and F-16 bombings. The Army also began a policy of death sentences without trial (“targeted executions”). This latter policy led the Palestinian militants to begin a wave of suicide bombings. Hence, one can say that the activities of the Army in the occupied territories are not only violations of international conventions for civil and human rights, but present a clear and present danger to the security of the citizens of Israel.

The role of an army in a democratic society is to provide citizens with protection from external threats. The army should serve as the option of last resort, to be used only when there is absolutely no other alternative for the state to deal with a danger thrust upon it. In Israel however, the popular conception is that the Army is (and in fact, should be) the basis of the State's existence and the source of its physical and spiritual strength.

Israel's democracy is falling apart as IDF generals go straight to the most senior positions in the political hierarchy. These generals bring to the civilian sphere their militaristic attitudes and military solutions. Their militaristic approach gives diplomacy (and negotiations with the Palestinians) very minor weight in the political theater. The role of ex-generals in politics serves to further increase the influence of the Army over Israel's political and civilian milieu.

The IDF is seen as Israeli society's defining myth, the source of its strength and unity. As a result, the image of the ideal citizen is cast in the mold of the soldier, and the ideal image of society is seen as an extension of the military and militarism. These ideals threaten Israeli democracy, which long ago cast away its civilian clothing and donned a military uniform.

There is no other explanation for the 35 years of occupation, and the 18 bloody years Israel spent in Lebanon, except the desire of Israel's military leadership, past and present, to stay in these territories. It took two decades and hundreds of casualties for the Israeli public to understand that the war being fought beyond our northern border was an optional war, and to call for an immediate withdrawal. Where was the public all those years? A captive of military slogans which threatened Katyusha missiles raining down on Ramat Gan if, heaven forbid, we withdrew to our recognized borders. Of course, after the withdrawal these disastrous prophecies were never fulfilled.

Criticizing the army is a sure way to be a social outcast; there are few willing to undermine the “People's Army.” The Army is always right. 19% of the State's budget goes to security expenditures, and there is hardly anyone who questions where all that money goes. The hesitant and limited criticism of the Army is also the result of the media often serving as an extension of the Army spokesman's office. The many lies of this office have been exposed, and yet this has not changed the Army's “holy” position in society. In a country such as ours, the entire nation is expected to unite behind the propaganda of war, and woe to the person who criticizes or is skeptical of the accepted military narrative, despite many knowing that it is a lie.

Without fighting manpower, or more correctly “cannon fodder,” no general can achieve his goals, no matter what they are. As I grew up, I became interested in politics. I began to understand that I must oppose the corruption and militarism that has saturated Israeli society with blood-thirstiness and with a twisted moral conception which serve as the fundament for the war crimes being perpetrated in the occupied territories. More than a year ago I decided not to be a pawn in this bloody game played by the military leadership. I grew up and was educated with anti-militaristic values, and I will not agree to be forced to serve in any army in the world. It is a basic human and democratic right to freely choose for what war and what purpose an individual will sacrifice his life.

Despite my being a political conscientious objector, according to the Supreme Court's decision 743/83 (“Shain vs. the Minister of Defense”), my refusal to serve is not a “selective refusal.” In that court decision a “selective refuser” was defined as someone who refuses to serve in a particular region under a particular government [N.B. “selective refusal” is not recognized as a legal form of conscientious objection]. My refusal, by contrast, is not limited by these conditions. My choice to refuse to serve under any circumstances in the IDF (and not just in the occupied territories) results from belief that any form of military service supports the military system and the military government it runs.

My contribution to society will be in fighting for peace and justice. I have no intention of abandoning this important front by undertaking forced military service that goes against my political and moral outlook. As part of my struggle for peace, I am active in many organizations including Peace Now Youth, Reut-Sadaka, New Profile and the Shministim group. I participate in many political demonstrations and am an activist in the refusal movement and the opposition to the occupation.

Based on all of the above, I respectfully request to appear before the CO committee and request exemption from army service.

Respectfully yours,

Asaf Shtull-Trauring

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