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Herzog accused of ‘dividing the people’ by honoring Brothers in Arms

The NGO previously urged IDF reserve troops to refuse to serve.

Members of the Brothers in Arms movement march in the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, calling for equal military service, March 7, 2024. Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90.
Members of the Brothers in Arms movement march in the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, calling for equal military service, March 7, 2024. Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90.

A new campaign by Israeli right-wing organizations is calling on President Isaac Herzog to cancel an award for Brothers in Arms, the anti-government protest group that led calls for IDF reservists to refuse duty.

Herzog announced on Tuesday that he intends to present Brothers and Sisters for Israel—the rebranded name of the group that spearheaded protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s now-shelved judicial reform agenda—with the prestigious Presidential Award for Volunteerism for its civilian initiatives during the war against Hamas.

“Already during the initial days of the war, Hamal Ezrachi [‘Civilian War Room’], which was founded by Brothers and Sisters for Israel, organized and recruited volunteers to assist with all needs of the residents and soldiers that arose since October 7,” Herzog’s office stated on Tuesday.

However, the Tekuma movement, an Israel-based NGO founded by activist Berale Crombie together with former Likud Party Knesset member Avichai Boaron, slammed the president’s decision on Thursday, accusing him of “dividing the people” by honoring an organization that has urged Israel Defense Forces reserve troops to refuse to serve.

“The same organization that tore apart, divided, harmed the military’s competence, violated the law and encouraged ‘non-volunteering’ will receive a badge of honor from the president of the State of Israel,” tweeted Crombie. “Tell me, have we gone crazy?!”

Torat Lehima, a group that seeks to disseminate Judaism and Torah to youth to encourage motivation for military service, tweeted: “The president of anarchists and refusers, who awards them a prize, is not the president of the people. He is against the people.”

Otzma Yehudit Party lawmaker Almog Cohen on Thursday also asked that Herzog rescind the award to the Brothers in Arms offshoot. Cohen’s call was joined by the Pilots Against Refusal NGO, which unites hundreds of Israeli Air Force officers.

In a statement cited by Ynet, Herzog claimed that there is “no link” between Brothers in Arms and Brothers and Sisters for Israel.

“The president has repeatedly condemned the calls for refusing duty from, among others, the Brothers in Arms organization, and strongly condemns calls for refusals of any kind,” added the statement.

Critics noted that the Brothers in Arms and Brothers and Sisters for Israel associations share an address and are led by the same people. In addition, the website of Hamal Ezrachi identifies the Civilian War Room as a project of Brothers in Arms, Crombie pointed out on Thursday.

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