Afghanistan/Iraq/West Bank: twelfth graders

Conscientious refusal to participate in acts which are immoral although legal is a world wide phenomenon. It isn't new. We don't hear about the brave souls in highly repressive countries that risk death or imprisonment, but they exist. We celebrate them when they resist regimes we don't like, as in Iran. But we have our own prisoners of conscience. We know more about the ones in freer societies and their voices also deserve to be heard.

There are thousands in Israel. One group are the Shministim, "twelth graders":

On April 28, 1970, a group of high school seniors about to be drafted sent a letter to Prime Minister Golda Meir expressing their reservation about the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, the War of Attrition and the government's failure to take steps to avoid conflict. In 1987, a new group was formed, also made up of high school students intent on refusing to serve in the Occupied Territories. They gave themselves the name that the press used to dub the previous effort - 'Shministim' (Hebrew: ש××× ×ס×××), literally "twelfth graders". In 2001, a high-school refusers movement - also called Shministim followed in their stead. Over 3,000 Israeli high school students are currently members of Shministim. (Wikipedia)

These are teen agers. Kids. Going to jail. Some in this video have served multiple prison terms. They are still a minority in their society and are prosecuted by their government and often scorned by their peers and parents. You can support them by sending a letter. It's easy. The Reveres have already done it. Here's the link. And here are their voices and faces:

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For educated and competent scientists such as yourselves you seem to lack a sense of analogy. How on earth can you mash up Afghanistan, Iraq and the West Bank in one phrase as if the three situations have anything to do with each other? Your whole post is moot because there is no draft to conscientiously object to in the U.S. Ours is a professional army which people join of their own free will, presumably with full cognizance that they will have to go where commanded, even if they object to the aims and objectives of the current war.

So even if the war in Afghanistan and Iraq is misguided, there is zero justification for making anti-war activism about these conflicts in any way analogous to the protests of these 'twelfth-graders', which I do happen to think are valiant and noble.

And the current situation is not in any way analogous to Vietnam, either, which is what you seem to be hinting at with your repeated postings of folk songs from the period.

I signed on to this blog to get accurate, objective information about the swine flu epidemic and other public health issues. I didn't sign on for overblown anti-war protests, 'free thinker sermonettes' and other such diatribes. I respect the Reveres' medical knowledge greatly, but I'm getting tired of wading through all this other stuff to get to the good medical info.


If you look under their tags in the left-hand sidebar, you'll see that the Freethinker Sermonettes and the anti-war tag have both been around since 2006. So it's disingenuous to complain about them like they're a break from the norm. You can also use the tags to search for the topics that do interest you.

I agree there is a difference between countries where there's a draft or compulsory military service, and places with a volunteer army. But you'll notice that the Israeli teenagers aren't conscientiously objecting on the grounds that they're pacifists who find all military actions wrong. They're conscientiously objecting based on the particular actions their country's military is and has been undertaking.

So really, they're not that different from American soldiers who come to understand the injustice (illegality) of the Iraq war, or the simple barbarism of war in general, in a way they couldn't have before they enlisted. There is a difference, but it's not as cavernous as you make it sound.

And of course Iraq is nothing like Vietnam.

Iraq is desert, Vietnam is jungle. Obviously.

Thank you caia. In fact both the anti-war sentiments and the Sermonettes were on the old site on and we did a multi-part series there on why we considered the topics of religion and war to be appropriate public health topics.

So J., if you find it difficult to look at a post title and figure out if you want to read it or not (I'd say they were pretty clearly marked in both instances) then you probably don't want to come here and "wade" through irrelevancies for your life. If you think you are able to do that (do you watch everything on one channel or do you use your remote control) then we are glad to have an interested reader. Of course your point is a good one. None of those stupid wars have anything in common. As you probably know since you were clearly around in the Vietnam years and remember what it was like. You were, weren't you?

Thanks for the post. I've signed and it will be forwarded. As an Anti-Zioinst I personally do not recognize the "State of Isreal" in its current location. It should have been purchased some place in Germany like the Sudatenland or anywhere else they chose -- but never to turn around and eject another non-involved people from their own homes.

Thanks to that "agreement" we have to worry about people with explosive underpants.

While I really enjoy and respect your blog, the majority of your opinions, and even your latest post, unfortunately, you have opened up your blog to posts by the anti-Semites (post 4) masquerading as merely anti-Zionists; I can only see this getting uglier.

Mark: I make a distinction between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism and as far as I can see tymbuktu doesn't violate that distinction and have no reason to believe he/she is an anti-Semite. I myself ( a Jew) am also staunchly anti-nationalist and anti-tribalist. Opinions will vary (there are plenty of orthodox Jews who share the view that there never should have been a State of Israel, although for different reasons. Does that make it any better or worse?). This blog is open to all sorts of viewpoints, although I draw the line at racist expressions and extreme nastiness or mean-spiritedness. Tymbuktu has commented frequently here and hasn't ever fallen into that category and I don't think he/she has this time either by raising a question of what was historically justified on the basis of justice and human rights. It's a valid question, it seems to me, although not one that is going to get us very far in solving this problem.


I stand corrected. I was pretty sure the anti-war stuff at least went back further, and I searched for the sermonettes and the anti-war stuff at the old Blogger site. I didn't turn up anything, which is why I went with the date 2006, which I could verify.

caia: I'm not surprised you had trouble finding it on the old site. I tried moving posts from the old site to the new in June 2006 and in the process destroyed the index. And the feature was originally called just Sunday Sermonette. I just looked and the first one was April 17, 2005. Here's the link (for historical curiosity):

It's evolved, if I may be so bold as to use that word in the connection.


Revere(s) Thank you for your rational support. I am so sick of people equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. For the poster "Mark's" (number 6) information, I grew up on the North Shore of Long Island. My town was 1/3 Protestant, 1/3 Jewish and 1/3 Catholic. My father's side of the family are all "big" Irish Catholics, although my father and I fled the Church when I was a kid, shortly followed by my mother and sister. I refused to get married in the Catholic Church -- imagine the scandal. You think I'm anti-Semitic - you've never heard me on Islam or fundamentalist Christians.

In my high school back then we were "tracked" by groups based upon academic performance and the majority of my classmates were Jewish. My college roommate of choice, not assignment, was Jewish, my father's two best friends were Jewish -- one had been a forward observer with him in Germany (Battle of the Bulge and immediate post-Remagen), the other a Russian Jew whose family had fled Russia when he was five.

When I was 10 my father took a sabbatical to go to Africa, a subject about which he taught and wrote. The rest of the family lived for that year (1963/64) in Florida. Segregation was still the norm there and the public school I attended was all white. I was the only "Catholic". There were no Jews. The kids hated Northerners. The highest insult these demographically middle to upper-middle class kids could hurl at you in the 5th grade was "n_____ lover" or "Dirty Jew". Both of these were yelled at me daily during my first few months after arriving there. Makes quite an impression on a 10-year-old, including BTW, the celebratory atmosphere in the school when JFK was assassinated.

As far as religions go I am equally hostile to all, exponentially as they become more dogmatic and fundamentalist. If I had to choose a "religion" it would be that of the enlightened John Muir who saw God's work in the overwhelming beauty and spiritual nature of the wilderness and the creatures in it.

As lame as the "some of my best friends are..." sounds, it is true. Some of them share my positions on Israel, some for the reasons Revere alludes to and some are pro-Israel. The latter group and I refrain from discussing the subject, just as I do with Catholics who supported the IRA, after years of fruitless debate. No one called me "anti-Celtic."

All strength to Them!

Having done pretty much the same thing in The Bad Old Days of Apartheid South Africa I truly understand how hard it is for them here and now.

I can say this to them....

For the rest of their lives at least this will be one thing that they can feel Good about.

In ten, twenty years time the rest of the country will realize they were Right.

The rest of the country will have an unadmitted dark hole in their souls knowing they chose Evil when these brave young souls chose Right.

And these brave souls' only regret will be that they didn't do more.

God Bless Them!

By John Carter (not verified) on 07 Jan 2010 #permalink

Just like Sophie Scholl in Nazi Germany. Let's hope that they will live though. Any news on their situation? That website isn't up to date. The most recent thing in their "News & Updates" is dated January 9th.

By the way, I don't know if you know Bernard Chazelle. He's teaching comp science and math at Princeton but also writes about politics a lot. Here's an article about his trip to the West Bank in 2008:

Also, since it's impossible to discuss Israel/Palestine without bringing up religious nonsense, here's part of a talk by Alan Sokal on Religion. You might know Sokal. He and Jean Bricmont are famous for their political activism and for writing Fashionable Nonsense in 1998: