Three Israelis refusing military service, during demonstrations at the Army's central Recruitment Base just before their imprisonment.Photo: Activestills.org / Keren Manor
For decades hundreds of Israeli youth have declared at different times and for different reasons that they will refuse to serve in the Israeli military as they see its actions as immoral.
Many times, these conscientious objectors (COs) are imprisoned for refusing to serve in the army, as military service is mandatory in Israel. At the age of 18 all youth must join the military, men for a period of 3 years, and women for 2 years (although there are parts of Israeli society that are automatically exempted from military service including Palestinian citizens of Israel and most religious Jewish women).
Two 18 year old youth (one male and one female) refused to serve in the army, declaring that they would not take part in the violent oppression of the Palestinian people.
These brave youth each wrote a declaration explaining why they chose to refuse to be drafted into the Israeli army, and why they have chosen prison over implementing the violent and oppressive policies of the Israeli army and government:
Noam Gur,18, from the north of Israel, was sentenced on April 16th to 10 prison days, and was sentenced for a second term on April 29th. She explains her decision:
“For 64 years Israel is implementing a policy of Apartheid and occupation in all territories under its control, that includes among other things, ethnic cleansing, house demolitions, ongoing siege, violent attacks, discrimination of the non-Jewish citizens of Israel and so on. When I understood all of this, I decided to refuse.
My refusal comes as an act of support and transition to a non-violent struggle to promote a just peace in Palestine-Israel, that will be based on full human and civil rights for all residents and refugees. I choose to refuse publicly and am willing to pay the price that the Israeli army will choose to lay upon me, in order to try and raise awareness to this injustice both in Israel and in the rest of the world.”.
Since Israel does not recognize an individual’s right to refuse military service, the army sentenced Noam as a soldier who refused an order -- the order to become a soldier. In a military court, Noam was sentenced for disobeying an order and spent 10 days in a military prison. After her release she will again be ordered to become a soldier, refuse, be sentenced and imprisoned again. This process can continue for months.
Alon Gurman, 19, from Tel Aviv was sent home by the army after declaring his refusal on April 16th. He is awaiting word from the army if they will imprison him or not. He explains:
“We have always been told that the Israeli military is meant to defend the citizens of Israel, when in reality, living in security has nothing to do with occupation and apartheid. The Israeli military acts in a way that is meant to embitter the lives of Palestinians, oppress any resistance to the occupation, and perpetuate a rule of terror, by applying extreme violence against civilian population, upholding an oppressive military "justice" system, a siege on Gaza, vast military operations and random house demolitions.
My refusal is an opportunity to raise awareness of the Israeli military's racist crimes and to call upon the people of the world to stand by Palestinians in their nonviolent struggle against occupation and apartheid, and support their call for BDS – boycott, divestment and sanctions on Israel, in solidarity with a society under occupation, striving for freedom, justice and equality.”
Joining them in refusal is Yigal Leving, 25, a reserve services officer who, after serving in both the second Lebanon war and the attack on Gaza in 2009 (Operation Cast Lead), decided he could no longer take part in implementing government policies which he believes are unjust. He has declared his refusal to continue serving in the reserve service. Having already ignoring his last order for reserved service he's now considered a deserter and plans to turn himself in with the two other young COs.
Yigal who was born in Ukraine and raised in Israel explained his decision, saying:
“Part of my ideology was that the state has to be wise, responsible, decent and protective. In Lebanon, I saw a war that started for no clear reason, where soldiers died in vain while also committing a massacre against the Lebanese.
“The Israeli army is commonly considered to be ‘the people’s army’, an army of the people protecting the people,” writes Levin in his own statement. “But in fact, the Israeli army is simply a bourgeois army – a tool in the hands of a small clique, which does not give a damn about the people… Not willing to remain a mere tool, a traitor, and a hypocrite, I decided to terminate my participation in it.”
We will provide updates about their imprisonment and ways that people can help. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn more about these young Conscientious Objectors:
- J’accuse: Israeli youth headed to prison for refusing the draft – Haggai Matar on +972 Magazine
- Four young Israelis refuse army draft in new refusenik wave – Haggai Matar on +972 Magazine
- Two Israeli refusers on why they support BDS - Noam Gur and Alon Gurman on Mondoweiss
- Interview with Israeli refuser Noam Gur - Annie Robbins on Mondoweiss
- "I can’t take part in these crimes": Israeli refusenik interviewed - Jillian Kestler-D'Amours on The Electronic Intifada