In 2020, Pablo Muriel and I published Supporting Civics Education with Student Activism: Citizens for a Democratic Society (Routledge). With this post I continue to highlight student activists who challenge injustice in their countries.
In January sixty Israeli high school seniors notified the Israel Defense Force (IDF) that they refuse to serve in the nation’s military because of opposition to Israel’s continued occupation of Palestinian territories and refusal to permit formation of an in dependent Palestinian state.
In a letter explaining their decision, the students also questioned the curriculum in Israeli schools that is designed to encourage enlistment in the Israeli military and ignores the expulsion of more than 700,000 Arabs from territory that became the State of Israel in 1948, what Palestinians mark as the Nakba, Arabic for “catastrophe,” and the violation of human rights in the occupied territories today.
According to Daniel Paldi, one of the signatories, “Until we talk about the Nakba in class, how it happened that most of the Palestinian who lived here fled or were expelled, or about the theft of their possessions, we won’t understand how much the problem remains part of our lives. This is sweeping history under the rug. When I began to understand this, I immediately started thinking about what else we were ‘sold’ in school.”
Haaretz an Israeli newspaper’s report, on recently declassified military and government documents and records in state archives confirms that from the creation of Israel as a Jewish state in 1948 until at least 1966 “85 percent of the country’s Palestinian citizens were subject to an oppressive regime. Among other strictures, any movement outside their own villages had to be authorized, their communities were under permanent curfew, they were forbidden to relocate without formal approval, most political and civil organizing was prohibited, and entire regions where they had lived before 1948 were now closed to them.” In 1956, Israeli Border Police shot and killed 49 Arab villagers from the town of Kafr Qasem who were unaware that a curfew had been imposed.
All Jewish Israeli citizens over age 18 are required to serve in the IDF. Israel’s Arab population is exempt, but members of the country’s small Druze and Circassian minorities also my serve. Men serve for two years and eight months and women for two years. Religious Jewish men and women are allowed to complete alternative service. Eligible young people who refuse to enlist usually spend three months to a year-and-a-half in prison and then are stigmatized for life.
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