Israeli teenagers refuse to join IDF over "war crimes"

The IDF's Nahal brigade during a ceremony receiving their green berets (Photo: Dor Pozner)

The IDF's Nahal brigade during a ceremony receiving their green berets (Photo: Dor Pozner)

Almost 50 Israeli teenagers are refusing to be drafted into the Israel Defence Forces in protest over "war crimes" committed in the occupied territories.

In a joint letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu, they criticise what they say are human rights abuses taking place on a “daily basis”.

The teenagers argue that the behaviour of the military is promoting the spread of racism and discrimination in society as a whole.

Serving in the IDF is compulsory for all Israelis with the exception of strictly Orthodox and Arab citizens of Israel. While finding loopholes to avoid service is widespread, outright refusal on ethical or political grounds often leads to imprisonment.

Speaking to the online news source, +972 magazine, one of the signatories to the letter, 18-year-old Udi Segal, said he was refusing to enlist because he was concerned about the damaging effect the IDF was having on the country.

“I cannot take part in an army that occupies another people and makes Israeli society more violent and apathetic to what is happening,” he said.

The news comes as Charedi Jews in Jerusalem and New York held a series of mass protests against new laws which would end the community’s blanket exemption from Israeli military service.

On Sunday tens of thousands of strictly Orthodox Jews gathered in Lower Manhattan for what organisers called a “prayer meeting” to show solidarity with their counterparts in Israel. It is estimated that around 300,000 people took to the streets in Jerusalem last week – one of the largest demonstrations in Israeli history.

Last updated: 5:55pm, March 10 2014