Why I’m Saying No to the IDF as a 17-Year-Old

As my birthday approaches, I grow more and more anxious because a professional organization of trained terrorists that calls itself an army wants me to be one of them. And if I say no, a prison sentence will be the result.

IDF Israel
An Israeli soldier takes aim from behind a vehicle at a position in the Deir Sharaf area as the Israeli army closes the western entrance leading to Nablus, in the occupied West Bank on October 12, 2022.
(Photo by Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP via Getty Images)

As a soon-to-be 18-year-old Israeli high school student, enlistment is the only thing waiting for me after I finish my studies in six months. We have speeches every other week, telling us how important it is to serve and complete a “meaningful service” for the country. Of course, meaningful service means serving in fighting roles, roles that include violence.

Recently I got sent a message from the IDF telling me that I’m “invited” to a sorting intended for future paratroopers. I, of course, don’t want to be a paratrooper. I don’t want anything to do with the IDF, for obvious reasons.

I don’t want to take any part in enforcing apartheid, colonialism, and violent oppression. For the IDF though, this is not enough. As I learned recently, the army does not exempt anyone purely because of ideological reasons. In other words, I can hate the army, I can hate the country, its government, and the things it stands for, but I cannot refuse to become a soldier.

Because the punishment for that is a prison sentence.

I grow more and more anxious by the day because a professional organization of trained terrorists that calls itself an army wants me to be one of them. And I cannot say no.

But, in the eyes of the government, especially the purely fascist one we have now, I should be proud to serve. I should be honored to be allowed to serve “the security of our state.”

And as someone eligible to serve in a fighting role, I should gladly give my life and the lives of others for the country.

I should be prepared to kill. Fighters in the army have a literal license to kill. And to top all that, the propaganda we are fed in school is infuriating. Most people know the myth of Israel’s soldiers being part of the most moral army in the world. But here, I’m surrounded by 17- and 18-year-old classmates who believe and defend the idea that the IDF is somehow even close to being “moral.” Anyone who believes that Palestinians deserve self-determination and their birthright to live freely is labeled either a ‘dirty leftist’ or a Nazi.

All Israelis aged 18 must serve, but the ones who understand the gravity of the army’s deeds, the ones most fiercely opposing it—they have to put aside their belief system and put up with being an opponent to millions of Palestinians living a peaceful life.

To destroy and take lives is the main mission of an IDF soldier. Everything else is secondary.

That’s why we’re told to serve, have a meaningful service, and be ready to kill.

That’s why I will be a paratrooper if I don’t resist. If I don’t defy them. If we all don’t defy them.

Because if no one dares to oppose Israel, they will continue what they have been doing best.

And that’s not being the most moral army in the world.

That’s why I’m saying no to them.

That’s why I’m risking going to prison.

I’m saying no to the IDF, so they understand what it feels like when someone forces their belief system onto them, just like the way they have been doing to others all this time.

Fred Hidvegi is a 17-year-old Israeli high schooler who is refusing service in the IDF.

Originally published in CommonDreams.org

This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

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