Gray Refusal

A new IDF report reveals:

30% of all inductees refer to the mental health officer at the induction center. 16% are discharged during their first year in the army, 70% of which are due to emotional problems.

In addition, according to the IDF spokesman’s office 23% of all men and 40% of all women who are liable for military service never actually join the army. The study, which was prepared for Derby University, also shows that most army exemptions granted to men are based on emotional or mental disorders following a referral to the mental health officer.

These numbers (which do not include the Palestinian-Israeli minority) are not surprising. While religious-hating groups wave their finger at the ultra-orthodox for avoiding army service, many of the draft dodgers are seculars coming from the middle/upper-middle class population that gave the almost antisemitic Shinui party its boost in the last elections. Gabi Ashkenazi mentioned two weeks ago that only 9% aren’t drafted for religious reasons.

Some might argue that the above statistics hint to the fact that today’s Israeli teenagers do not feel a duty to join the army because they do not believe the army is engaging in a defense war. I am not sure I agree with such a statement. Any teenager who steps out of Israel sees 18-21 year-olds living a normal life in civil clothes; perhaps the statistics simply reflect a longing for normalization, a “burgeoisie” frustration of people who don’t want to be fra’yerim . On the other hand, it is important to mention that many avoid being drafted to the army for economic reasons. The last years were disasterous for the Israeli economy, and many young men and women need to work in order to support their families and themselves. My fellow refuseniks met in jail many people who went AWOL for such reasons.

Whether there is an ideological crisis or not is unclear. In any case, it is obvious that Israel will not be able to sustain a military regime over millions of Palestinians with such a limited manpower. Or so I hope. In this context the refusenik movement is only the tip of an iceberg of a larger phenomenon; the gray refusal.

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