Since September, over three hundred Black Jews have announced their intention to refuse any military order to report for reserve duty, accusing the Israeli government of state-sponsored racism against citizens of Ethiopian origin. The soldiers, who include fighters from all Israel Defense Forces infantry brigades, as well as some of its most specialized commando units, say that as long as the state does not respect their civil rights, they will in turn refrain from fulfilling their civic obligations.
In July, the San Francisco Bay View reported on renewed rallies by the Ethiopian community in Israel. Spontaneous demonstrations in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and other locales across the country beginning in the spring of 2015 catapulted the community and its concerns about state racism back into the national conversation. But protest leaders say that the government’s failure since that time to adequately address their long list of grievances has forced them to ramp up their struggle and take what they are referring to as “extreme measures.”
“We have no choice. If we didn’t do it, no one would notice us,” says Avishai Malson Tzaghon, a spokesperson for the new Ethiopian refuseniks.