Israel uses stun grenade against draft protesters
Israeli forces have fired stun grenades and clashed violently with protesters rallying against conscription in the army.
Israeli authorities describe the protesters as “ultra-Orthodox extremists” who are against military draft, arguing that their so-called religious endeavors do the regime as much service.
Conscription is mandatory for both men and women in Israel, which is in a continuous war with regional countries and clashes with Palestinians in the occupied territories.
“Several hundred ultra-Orthodox extremists” joined the Sunday rally outside an enlistment office in Jerusalem al-Quds, The Jerusalem Post reported. The demonstration came after it became known that the military police sought to arrest a girl, who was being held in the office, it added.
“Police used stun grenades and water cannon against rioters,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP. A police statement said four officers were slightly injured in scuffles.
The protesters even object to reporting to the military. Previous rallies have seen scenes of exceptional violence, with the police tussling with the participants and dragging those blocking roads forcibly away.
The organizers vowed during one protest to “fight in every way the edict that has felled thousands in the spiritual ruin” of the Israeli military.
Last month, “ultra-Orthodox” politicians threatened to leave the ranks of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling coalition unless a law was passed preventing conservative youths from conscription.
The crisis was resolved with a compromise, in which Netanyahu promised to give coalition MPs freedom on how to vote on a future bill on draft exemptions.
Draft-dodging is not a new phenomenon in Israel whose occupation and settlement expansion policies are a cause for continuous conflict with Palestinians.
However, the human toll and the vague and shifting military objectives of the Israeli regime are spurring many among a new generation of Israeli soldiers to question orders.
Last year, 63 draft age youngsters from around Israel sent a letter to Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, declaring their refusal to enlist in the army due to their belief that it serves to oppress the Palestinian people.
“The military carries out a racist government policy that violates basic human rights and imposes one version of law for Israelis and another for Palestinians–on the same territory,” wrote the draft refuseniks.
In the letter, they accused the regime of instigating the Israeli population against Palestinians and Arab citizens.
The zenith of Israel’s refusal movement came during the 1982 Lebanon war, particularly after the massacre at the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps sparked widespread public revulsion at the conduct of the invasion.