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Israeli conscientious objectors strive to lead normal life

Demonstration in solidarity with Israeli refuser
May 2013. Demonstration in solidarity with Israeli refuser Nathan Blanc, opposite of Israeli Ministry of Defence, Tel Aviv. Photo: AFSC/Yesh Gvul

At 20 years old, Nathan Blanc of Haifa, Israel, has already served 10 prison terms, totaling 177 days to date, for refusing to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces. Just this week, it seems the army decided to discharge him

Nathan is convinced that human rights violations are practiced against Palestinians on a daily basis in the occupied Palestinian territory. He refuses to take part in perpetuating what he calls “this cynical game.”

“The main reason for my refusal is the feeling that our country is going towards a non-democratic condition of inequality between us and the Palestinians,” he says.

Watch: Nathan explains why he refused conscription
and what's happened since.

Video: Press Yesh Gvul
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Conscientious objection in Israel is an offense for which the “perpetrator” can be convicted and imprisoned several times. Resisters like Nathan are sentenced regularly, in spite of the fact that international human rights law (including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Israel has ratified) protects the right to reject military service on grounds of conscientious objection.

In this tense climate of militarization, a handful of military resisters similar to Nathan gather weekly to share their experiences. The youth group, organized by AFSC’s Israel program, gives resisters a safe place to deal with their personal and social dilemmas and offers them tools and skills to develop their activism.

Some have already served time in prison, and others will do so in the future.

Eighteen-year old Naom Gur, from the north of Israel, comes to the Saturday morning meetings. He explains, “My refusal comes as an act of support and transition to a nonviolent struggle to promote a just peace in Palestine/Israel, that will be based on full human and civil rights for all residents and refugees.”

The youth group is small—barely a drop in the water of the 52,000 young men and women who reach military age every year in Israel.

But it continues to grow, as more young people seek to transform the system by challenging injustice and violence.