I wrote in December last year about the Shministim, Israeli high school students who have been imprisoned for refusing to serve in an army that occupies the Palestinian Territories. I met some of these brave men and women during my recent visit to Israel.
Now, they’re taking this message to key ground, the US:
Two Israeli women who are refusing mandatory army duty have kicked off a North American speaking tour and plan to take their story to more than a dozen college campuses in the next month.
Hoping to highlight their opposition to Israel’s policies toward Palestinians, Maya Wind and Netta Mishly, both 19, will appeal to their American counterparts during their “Why We Refuse” tour from September 12 to October 10. Both women describe themselves as Shministim, a group of high school seniors who refuse to serve in the IDF.
“We believe it is important to spread information about the Israeli occupation and about the movements that work against it,” stated Wind, who said that she was detained for 40 days because of her refusal to serve in the IDF. She was released in March. “We hope to empower people our age to take responsibility by taking a more active role in the resistance movements,” she said.
Amusingly, Zionists are not pleased and wish that dissent wasn’t expressed anywhere:
“I definitely do not agree with what they’re trying to do because I think they’re misguided,” said Dani Klein, the North America campus director for StandWithUs, which advocates for Israel on campuses. Klein said if the campaign gains traction, it could backfire by further empowering anti-Israel students.
“When they see Israelis come out against their own country or their own army, in this instance, it gives those who want to be anti-Israel the fodder to do it,” he said.
The two young women, he said, could inadvertently educate people to hate Israel.
He compared their campaign to Breaking the Silence, a group of former Israeli soldiers who openly criticized Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. “I definitely understand that Israelis have the right not to agree with their government. That’s fine,” Klein said. “Every citizen in a democracy has that right. But you take that up in your country. Once you take that abroad, what does that gain you?”