It was about a year ago when I seriously considered refusing service in the IDF. It was a surprising decision, even for myself, because as far as I knew, everyone who turns eighteen years old in the Promised Land serves as a soldier.
Even if they don’t want to physically fight “enemies” of the state, the IDF finds them whatever role or job it can, just so the person could say they did their service for the country. Even if that job is a DJ or a photographer for the army. As I grew older, the obviousness of me serving became less and less self evident. I was taught everyone in Israel serves in the military. Except that they don’t.
I learned more and more about the IDF and their practices and I grew more and more frustrated by the idea of serving in the army. I didn’t want to.
The weekly and sometimes even daily reports of Palestinians being killed made me sick. The years of propaganda my friends at school were being fed has not quite caught up to me.
The only reason for that is that I wasn’t born here; I was born in Hungary, in Eastern Europe, where less than eighty years ago Nazis roamed free killing millions of Jews. I’ve walked the streets of Budapest, where buildings with memorials of Hungarian Jews on them are commonplace. The streets make me remember the horrors of the Holocaust.
To be ambivalent towards their deaths was somehow a totally acceptable stance to have. It was not once that I heard students my age saying that because the Palestinians are “terrorists” they deserve it. The kid didn’t question his parents’ words for one moment. In his mind, the two million Palestinians living east of the barbed wire fence are all blowing up Israeli pizzerias and bars and killing innocent children. Less than one percent of the people are resisting the oppression of a military regime and the whole nation is labeled as a nation of barbaric killers.
Maybe most of my classmates wouldn’t go as far as to loudly agree with the words of the head of the so-called Religious Zionism party but the worst people in the time of the Holocaust were the silent majority. The people who let it happen.
The Germans who let it happen. The Poles who let it happen. The Hungarians who let it happen. The Israelis that let it happen.
I was not born in Israel, but I do have to serve in the Israeli military. Refusing service, if not done right and by-the-system could put me in prison.
When my school hosted a panel for the election, one of the politicians that came, very bravely to the historically Likud-supporting suburbs of Jerusalem was a representative of Hadash.
After the rest of the parties introduced themselves, Ofer Kasif of Hadash took the microphone and attempted to speak about the violent occupation of Palestinian land.
Hearing the reality of the situation, the Likud-fans lost their minds. They started to scream at him with reddening faces and sent him and his mother wherever. They couldn’t stand someone, for once not abiding by the rules of accepting state-mandated terrorism.
Because of the fact that I am neither blind nor have a limp, in the eyes of the IDF I only have one role I would be useful for – shooting Arab people.
As much as this is a surprise for them, I cannot, in clear conscience, do that.
Even if that means being an “outsider”, a leech in Israeli society’s eyes.
If everyone else is fine with shooting innocent people, so be it.
What I can do is try to point to a very dangerous pattern of behavior, that is going to endanger the security and wellbeing of both the Palestinian and Israeli people.