Support Israeli Conscientious Objectors -- Free the Shministim

By Howard Zinn 12-03-2008

I've been thinking a lot about courage. See that fresh-faced, bold young woman on the right? Her name is Raz Bar-David Varon. She's an 18-year-old Israeli who just graduated from 12th grade. And as I write this, she's sitting in jail in Tel Aviv because she refuses to join the Israeli army.

In my day we called them the "refuseniks," and here in the U.S. they're "conscientious objectors." In Israel, they're still in high school and they are the Shministim. Get used to that word because I'm going to ask you to know it, to say it, to use it. You see, Raz Bar-David Varon and another dozen or so Shministim have asked us in the U.S. for our help, and this is one request we shouldn't refuse.

The Shministim -- all about ages 17, 18, 19 and in the 12th grade -- are taking a stand. 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. They need our support and they need it today.

They have asked people like us to let the Israeli government know we are watching and that we support their courage. They're hoping to receive hundreds of thousands of postcards to be delivered to the Israeli Ministry of Defense on December 18th, when they will hold a huge rally and press conference. They're hoping to stand strong on the steps of this majestic building -- and on the steps of history -- representing not only the thousands of refusers who came before them, not only the many young people to whom they are an example of a better world, but also to represent us. They have asked you, me, and every person who strives for peace to be on those steps with them, on that day. I will be there.

Will you join me? It's simple. Sign a letter now. And don't stop there -- ask your loved ones to join you. During this season of giving, signing a letter is the least we can give to the courageous among us.

Raz is a Shministit. Raz is Courage. And with our support of her, you and I are Shministim too.

Now go sign that letter.

Howard Zinn is an advisory board member of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), the American-based peace group that is organizing this letter-writing campaign on behalf of the Shministim. JVP joins a number of Israeli peace groups, including New Profile and Yesh Gvul, that have been supporting the Shministim. Zinn is a historian and author of many books, including A People's History of the United States, and most recently, A People's History of American Empire.

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