WASHINGTON (Reuters) - More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the nation's reserve force, citing regret over their part in a military they said plays a central role in oppressing Palestinians, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday.
"We found that troops who operate in the occupied territories aren’t the only ones enforcing the mechanisms of control over Palestinian lives. In truth, the entire military is implicated. For that reason, we now refuse to participate in our reserve duties, and we support all those who resist being called to service," the soldiers wrote in a petition posted online and first reported by the newspaper.
While some Israelis have refused to serve in the Palestinian territories of the West Bank, the military's structure is such that serving in any capacity forces one to play a role in the conflict, said the soldiers, most of whom are women who would have been exempted from combat.
"Many of us served in logistical and bureaucratic support roles; there, we found that the entire military helps implement the oppression of the Palestinians," they said.
Their comments come as the conflict in Gaza continues to escalate, displacing thousands more Palestinians in the battered territory even as the United States presses both sides for an immediate ceasefire and longer-term peace plan.
Earlier this month, Israel said it was mobilizing more reservists in anticipation of increased fighting.
In the petition, the soldiers pointed to the army's structure and fundamental role in Israeli society as reasons for being unable to decouple any form of service from the fighting.
"The military plays a central role in every action plan and proposal discussed in the national conversation, which explains the absence of any real argument about non-military solutions to the conflicts Israel has been locked in with its neighbours," the soldiers wrote.
"To us, the current military operation and the way militarization affects Israeli society are inseparable."
They said they opposed the Israeli Army and conscription law because of how women are limited to low-ranking secretarial positions and because of a screening system that discriminates against Jews whose families originate from Arab nations.
Most 18-year-olds must serve up to three years in the Israeli Defence Forces.
Some groups, such as ultra-Orthodox Jewish seminary students, had been exempted from service, but legislators this year moved to lift that exemption on such students starting in 2017.
Arab-Israelis are exempt from compulsory service.
(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Jim Loney and Bernadette Baum)