Israel imprisons youth for refusing army service

Noam Gur (left) and Alon Gurman at Tel Hashome army base today, April 16, 2012.                 (Photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills)

For eighteen year-old Israelis, the threshold of adulthood is marked by a choice: enter the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and willfully serve in an occupying military, or get locked up. Noam Gur, 18 years old from Kiryat Motzkin, decided to get locked up. She is a refusenik and over the next few months she will likely serve multiple stints inside of an Israeli jail for refusing the military service that is required for all young Jewish-Israeli citizens. Gur’s first 10-day jail term will begin this morning. She has already packed a bag of personals effects and will take it with her to jail when she faces the consequences for supporting the rights of the Palestinian people.

“It’s feels like that’s the time I supposed to be freaking out, but that doesn’t seem to have happened,” said Gur in her diary on Mondoweiss last week. “All the support we got is amazing, and makes us remember how important our statement is to some people out there…And ‘JAIL’ this huge word, this terrifying word and place, is so much less scary,” said Gur.

Gur is a self- identified “feminist, socialist, vegan, activist for Palestine, and a queer.” She, along with Alon Gurman are the latest two young Israelis to reject IDF compulsory conscription, although Gurman has not been sentenced yet. They join the ranks of dozens of young Israelis who have spent weeks in and out of jail, for years. More notably, in 2008 a group of Shiminstim, or twelfth graders, signed a letter announcing their intention to refuse military service. Like Gur, the Israel authorities imprisoned all of the Shministim. Omer Goldman was one of the Shministim. She received a bit of extra media attention after Ed Asner published an open letter from Goldman in the Huffington Post:

‘I first went to prison on September 23 and served 35 days. I am lucky, after 2 times in jail, I got a medical discharge, but I’m the only one. By the time you read this, many of my friends will be in prison too: in for three weeks, out for one, and then back in, over and over, until they are 21. The reason? We refuse to do military service for the Israeli army.’

omer goldman
Omer Goldman with fellow Shministim, Tamar Katz & Miya Tamrin, 2008.                                (Photo: Keren Manor/Activestills)

Goldman’s father is a high-ranking deputy in the Mossad, and her decision to become a refusnik was a surprise to her family. But after witnessing brutality inflicted by the IDF, she could no longer see a future for herself in the military:

‘I had always been told that the Israeli army was there to defend me, but during that demonstration Israeli soldiers opened fire on me and my friends with rubber bullets and tear-gas grenades. I was shocked and scared. I saw the truth. I saw the reality. I saw for the first time that the most dangerous thing in Palestine is the Israeli soldiers, the very people who are supposed to be on my side.’

Similar to Goldman, Gur is refusing because she does not want to be “dominating another nation, [by] plundering and terrorizing a civilian population.” A few weeks ago she wrote a “declaration of refusal,” describing why she will not be in the army:

I refuse to take part in the Israeli army because I refuse to join an army that has, since it was established, been engaged in dominating another nation, in plundering and terrorizing a civilian population that is under its control. The systematic destruction and dispossession that form part of a long-established policy of population-transfer, murder of non-violent demonstrators, the Apartheid wall, the massacre “operations” that the Israeli army chooses to carry out, and the rest of the daily violations of the human rights of the Palestinians have led, and continue to lead, to a long, indefinite, and preventable cycle of bloodshed.

For years I have been told that this control is supposed to protect me, but information about the suffering caused due to terrorizing the Palestinian population is omitted from the story. The road to dismantling this Apartheid and achieving true and just peace is long, and hard, but as I see it, these actions by the Israeli army only push it further away. Over this past decade, the Palestinian people have been increasingly choosing the path of nonviolent resistance, and I choose to join this path and to turn to a popular, nonviolent struggle in Palestine – this, rather than to serve in the Israeli army and continue the violence.

Gur enters jail today on Palestinian Prisoners’ Day.  She will be released on April 27, 2012.

About Allison Deger

Allison Deger is the Assistant Editor of Follow her on twitter at @allissoncd.
Posted in Activism, BDS, Israel/Palestine, Israeli Government | Tagged

{ 11 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Woody Tanaka says:

    To bad there are only a few heroes in that country. Too bad there are so very many villians.

  2. seafoid says:

    Anti militarisation activists have to get into the schools way before the kids are drafted into the army. The madness starts in junior school. The whole education system is designed to deliver conscripts to the occupation. It’s the foundation of the cult.

  3. Fredblogs says:

    They shouldn’t be letting these draft dodgers out every few weeks, what’s the point of that. In a nation with conscription the choice should be two (or whatever) years in public service or four years hard labor in prison, followed by a ban on receiving any social services, ever. And yeah, I’m lookin’ at you too “religious exemption” types. That’d sort out the sincere refuseniks from the plain old lazy cowards that’s for sure.

    • Woody Tanaka says:

      Who wants to bet ol’ tough talking Fred here shirked his duty to his country?

    • Ha ha, the bitter voice of a conscript speaks. I think they should be given awards by countries other than Israel for standing up to the bullying, mendacious government which attempts to use the army as its ideological conscription tool. Obviously it worked a treat with Fred. lol

    • Matt Giwer says:

      OTOH because it is conscription they can try the old “just following orders” defense and see if it w0rks this time. I seem to recall that didn’t work last time. I don’t see how it could work this time even if directly from the dictator Netanyahu.

    • Daniel Rich says:

      @ Fredblog,

      Yeah. Nothing but ye ol’ fashioned gulag is good enough for these yoghurt-flogging, sandal-wearing, tree-hugging, alfalfa-growing, loincloth-sporting and peace-endorsing refuseniks!

    • Blake says:

      @fredblogs: You sum up “Israel” for me. A mess.

  4. Proton Soup says:

    i wonder, since it’s too expensive to enlist willing haredi soldiers today, just how long will these dissidents have to hold out until the costs outweigh the benefits of harassing them? perhaps until august, when as many as 60,000 new draftees may be available. interesting timing, considering the US presidential election coming up in november.

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