Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Fighting for peace

Here in the United States, we have a volunteer military. It wasn't always this way. Right now our military is stretched thin, and a draft in the near future is possible. I hope it doesn't come to that, but it is possible. *Maybe not kicking the gays out would help*

In Israel, serving in the military is required, for both men and women. I think the requirement is 2 years, but I'm not sure about that. This has been part of the Israeli culture for many decades.

Today, I was introduced to Omer Goldman, via Ed Asner. There is a new generation of young Israelis standing up to the government. They believe in a better, more peaceful future for themselves and for Israelis and Palestinians, and they are refusing to join the Israeli army. They're in jail, holding strong against immense pressure from family, friends and the Israeli government.

Omer's own words:
I first went to prison on September 23 and served 35 days. I am lucky, after 2 times in jail, I got a medical discharge, but I'm the only one. By the time you read this, many of my friends will be in prison too: in for three weeks, out for one, and then back in, over and over, until they are 21. The reason? We refuse to do military service for the Israeli army.

I grew up with the army. My father was deputy head of Mossad and I saw my sister, who is eight years older than me, do her military service. As a young girl, I wanted to be a soldier. The military was such a part of my life that I never even questioned it.

Earlier this year, I went to a peace demonstration in Palestine. I had always been told that the Israeli army was there to defend me, but during that demonstration Israeli soldiers opened fire on me and my friends with rubber bullets and tear-gas grenades. I was shocked and scared. I saw the truth. I saw the reality. I saw for the first time that the most dangerous thing in Palestine is the Israeli soldiers, the very people who are supposed to be on my side.

When I came back to Israel, I knew I had changed. And so, I have joined with a number of other young people who are refusing to serve - they call us the Shministim. On December 18th, we are holding a Day of Action in Israel, and we are determined to show Israelis and the world that there is wide support for stopping a culture of war. Will you join us? Please, just sign a letter. That's all it takes.

Everyone should have the choice to serve or to not serve. Everyone should have the choice of promoting peace without resorting to war.

Jewish Voice for Peace is the U.S. group heading things up for the Shministim. Sign the petition here if you want to stand up for Omer and those like her.

Myself, I've always been conflicted about military service. Growing up as a Jehovah's Witness, one of the many 'rules' was NO MILITARY SERVICE. If you joined the military, you were turning you back on "God" and putting your faith in 'Man'. No matter what country you were in. They were really big on the whole "you'll find Catholics killing Catholics and Protestants killing Protestants, but you'll never hear of JWs killing JWs"! I've always had a strong respect for those that choose to fight for the freedoms I enjoyed. I was hyper-aware, you might say, because I wasn't allowed that choice.

I never took my right to stand without my hand over my heart during the Pledge of Allegience for granted. NEVER. In fact, the very first fight Keith and I ever had was about that very subject. My religion forbade me certain things, and I was grateful that others had given me those rights so I didn't have go to prison. JWs in other countries weren't always so lucky. Hell, during the draft days, many of the JWs DID go to prison for refusing to serve in the military. Or, like my father, used the loopholes in the system to keep their names from coming up.

I think the draft has it's place, honestly. And the next time it is used, I hope they start including women. I don't think it's fair in this day and age to exclude them.

But I don't think military service should be mandentory all the time. Only when it's needed. And everyone should have the choice, no matter what country they live in. Everyone should have the choice to stand up for what they believe in.


Muddy Mo said...

I'm conflicted as well. I know people who feel the compulsory Israeli draft is a fine model and should be followed in the U.S. But I am skeptical. I think a peace-time compulsory draft in the US would devolve into a government boondoggle in short order.

I'm not a pacifist, but except for the post 9/11 invasion of Afghanistan, and maybe the Gulf War in '91, I have strongly disagreed with all our decisions to put US troops in harm's way.

I agree that if we decide to institute the draft, women should be included.

Absolutely Feisty said...

They still won't even put women on the "front lines"

A draft for women is far away. I think it should be.. as long as they do not include young mothers. Without that in place.. you could have a slew of parentless children.. That's a whole other issue for me though. I see mom's sign up, wayyyyyyy too often.. leaving kids to grandparents.. it's sad really.