Two young women objectors to the Occupation, Tamar Alon and Tamar Ze’evi, reported yesterday (Wednesday, November 16) at Israel’s military induction center and declared their refusal to be conscripted into the army. Outside the induction center, dozens of demonstrators participated in a vigil led by Mesarvot – Political Refusal Network – in solidarity with “the two Tamars.” The protestors included supporters, friends, and family members; among them was MK Youssef Jabareen (Hadash – Joint List). The refusal of the two young women to be inducted into the military is due to their unwillingness to contribute to the oppression of the Palestinian People. Both Alon and Ze’evi are expected to be imprisoned as a result of their position.
Tamar Ze’evi (19, Jerusalem) recently completed a year of service with Sayarut (Green Horizons), a youth-led organization in which she has participated since the 6th grade. Ze’evi enjoys traveling throughout Israel and the world and is interested in sustainability and education. Her decision to refuse to be conscripted stems from her deep familiarity with the complicated political reality of Israel, along with her strong sense of belonging to it. She loves the land of Israel, but is unwilling to tolerate the wrongdoings of the occupation committed by the State of Israel. In refusing conscription, Ze’evi has chosen to take responsibility for her actions, drawing a moral line by actively resisting a government and a policy that violates human rights and fuels a violent and cruel reality.
In her declaration of refusal, Ze’evi stated: “Out of love to the land and to the people who live on it, I want to believe, and believe that there is a different way, and that change is possible. We will get out of this cycle of fear and violence only when we open our hearts and minds, look at what is happening around us beyond the physical and social barriers, and allow ourselves to feel the reality and the pain of all the people for whom this land is home. Once we all agree to understand and accept that this is the reality, I want to believe that the path of empathy, tolerance and compromise will be our only choice.”
Tamar Alon (18, Tel Aviv) is a graduate of Aleph Public School’s theater program. Her father, peace activist Chen Alon, refused continuing to serve as an officer in the reserves during the Second Intifada, and served jail time. Tamar met Palestinian peace activists in “Combatants for Peace,” the bi-national peace movement of which her father was one of the co-founders. These personal acquaintances exposed Alon to the harsh realities of their lives from a young age. As she grew up, she realized the implications of the occupation on the lives of Palestinians, and this was a decisive factor in her decision to refuse conscription.
In her declaration of refusal, published by the Communist Hebrew-language weekly Zo Haderech, Alon stated that her refusal to be conscripted is being done out of love and concern for the society to which she belongs, and a desire to encourage public discourse on this society’s character and future: “I met my parents’ Palestinian friends from a young age. I met people that were supposed to be my enemies, but they smiled at me, played with me and talked to me. These early experiences have taught me to look at the daily reality of the Palestinians and the reality of my own life in a critical manner. I cannot accept the claim that the oppression of another nation, the denial of basic human rights, racism and hatred are essential to Israel’s existence. I do not delude myself that this reality is one-dimensional, or that the solution is easy and immediate. Though, I do believe that the ways of war, violence, oppression and domination will not allow us over time to maintain a democratic country and to be ‘a free nation in its country.’”
“My decision not to enlist is the result of a long and complex process, but the defining moment in which I realized that I must refuse to join the circle of victims on both sides, occurred during last Memorial Day when I attended the tenth Israeli-Palestinian memorial ceremony. The last two speakers in the ceremony were two bereaved siblings: Yigal Elchanan, who lost his 14 year old sister, Smadar, in a Jerusalem bombing in 1998; and Arab Aramin, who lost his 10 year old sister, Abir, who was shot to death by fire from IDF border police near her school in Anata in 2007. Both Yigal and Arab described the killers of their sisters as victims as well. This opened my eyes to the fact that in the reality of occupation and oppression, even the ruler and ruled, oppressor and the oppressed, too – everyone is a product of this method and system which generates and duplicates hatred and death. The spirit of all is wounded. The grief and pain are the same on both sides. The two bereaved brothers had reinforced my understanding that there is a different path, and that it is my responsibility to choose that path. I consciously chose to refuse, knowing that not every young woman can choose like I can.
“I know that in military prison I may meet young women who did not have the privilege to choose to refuse. I am not blind to the circles of oppression against women that exist in Israeli society, among Mizrahi Jews, immigrants and other marginalized populations. I am not blind that these circles of oppression are reflected – and reinforced – in the army as well. On the contrary, by refusing to lend a hand to the oppressive system, I’m asking to demonstrate solidarity with those from whom the freedom to choose was deprived.”
Alon and Ze’evi join hundreds of Israeli objectors who have chosen to avoid military service – most of them without actually confronting the military authorities, due to the lack of recognition by the state and the army of their freedom of conscience. Only a few choose to be consistent with their truth and openly declare that they refuse to be conscripted, even at the cost of imprisonment. Such open objectors are tried in the military court system as if they were soldiers, and are sentenced to a sequence of incarcerations for their refusal, so the length of imprisonment is not actually known in advance, but can reach months. Earlier this year, conscientious objector Tair Kaminer was imprisoned for a total of 166 days in military prison.
Mesarvot – Political Refusal Network – is a network of conscientious objectors that links various initiatives, refusal groups and NGOs for joint action. The network supports conscious objectors who choose not to join the army of occupation, and addresses issues of gender that arise with mandatory military conscription in Israel.