(Not) To Serve the IDF

24 images Created 15 Feb 2016

In Israel, joining the IDF is mandatory for any male or female who turns 18. Yet, an increasing number of reservist soldiers and youths are starting to choose against continuing their service or joining at all. Conscientious objection has always been present in Israel, even though at the beginning it was not organized as a movement. The first public and collective refusal letter was signed in the 1980’s and many others have followed over the years.
The “Combatants’ letter” was signed in 2002, the AirForce “Pilots’ letter” arrived in 2003. The “Shministim” (Hebrew for “twelfth graders”) - the high school students that publicly refuse to serve in the Israeli army due to their conscientious objection to occupation - signed a letter in 2008, and another group sent a letter to Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu in March 2014. The same year in September, just after the last war in Gaza, 43 reservists from the secret intelligence unit 8200 also came out with a refusal letter of their own, creating a lot more noise than ever before.
Many young Israelis don’t agree with the Occupation of the Territories seized during the Six-Day War of 1967 and feel that the Israeli society needs to engage in a louder conversation about it for the future of the country. Even though the majority of them don’t discuss the legitimacy of the IDF, they refuse to serve in the Occupied Palestinian Territories if at all.
Conscientious objection touches personal and public ethics dilemmas of responsibility and sacrifice for the sake of the community. It comes with a strong social stygma and those who refuse are considered traitors in the mainstream public opinion. Some times even by their own families.
(Not) To Serve the IDF is an audio and photography project entirely made of refusers’ testimonies. We shot portraits and recorded refusers’ voices, collecting personal narratives without attributing conscientious objectors the hero or the victim status. We met all kind of refusers, including Orthodox religious jews and Druzes, and envision this project as a mosaic that would allow audiences to access the intimate layer of a highly political and controversial issue. Making space to objectors challenging narratives and moral dilemmas can be helpful in raising questions about the future of Israel as a democratic state. Especially at times when dissent and alternative point of views are less and less tolerated by the Israeli political establishment and the mainstream public discourse.
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