Following a cumulative 107 days of incarceration, Hillel Garmi,18, of Yodfat in the north of the country has been exempted from military service by the Israeli army’s “Conscience Committee.”
Garmi, one of the initiators of the High School Students’ Letter against Occupation, was issued an exemption last week following completion of his seventh period of incarceration since he first refused to be inducted into the Israeli military in July 2018.
Upon his release Garmi said, “The five months I have spent in prison have been dedicated to the struggle against occupation and siege, to the five million Palestinians who effectively live under the rule of the Israeli government but do not have the chance to elect it.”
Garmi added: “Throughout the nights and days I spent in prison, I tried to imagine the suffering of the Palestinians undergoing the ongoing siege of the Gaza Strip, including the lack of drinking water, food and medicine, or that of the Palestinians under occupation in the West Bank, who suffer the theft of their lands, road blockages, arbitrary search and arrest. Some people have told me that my refusal amounts to evading responsibility for the security of the citizens of Israel, but I believe rather that this act is one of taking responsibility for all those affected by my deeds, Israelis and Palestinians, by not joining in the cycle of violence and not hurting any of them, and by convincing others to act likewise.”
Upon entering prison Garmi said that his decision to refuse was inspired by the actions of Ahmed Abu-Ratima, the Gazan organizer of the Great Return March, and that Abu-Ratima had written him in support of his resistance.
Abu-Ratima wrote Garmi a letter in which he praised the conscientious objector’s decision to help “end this dark period inflicted on Palestinians, and at the same time mitigate the fears of younger Israeli generations who were born into a complicated situation and a turbulent geographical area deprived of security and peace.”
Another conscientious objector Adam Rafaelov,18, of Kiryat Motzkin is currently still in prison, having already served 97 days for refusing to be inducted into the army.
Mesarvot – a network of activists whose aim is to support those who refuse induction into the army for political reasons – has accompanied Garmi and Rafaelov in their struggle to refuse to serve in the army of occupation. The network works in cooperation with and receives assistance from the movement Yesh Gvul.