For the first time, a young transgender conscientious objector, Ayden Katri, was sent last Tuesday to military prison. On Thursday, March 24, dozens of Israelis demonstrated in central Tel Aviv in support of the two Israeli conscientious objectors who are currently serving time in military prison. The demonstration, which coincided with the Jewish holiday of Purim — when Jews typically celebrate by dressing in costume — was organized in support of Tair Kaminer from Tel Aviv, who already had been incarcerated for 75 days and who received and additional sentence on Monday, March 21, as well as Katri, a 19-year-old transgender conscientious objector from the city of Holon.
Both Kaminer and Katri have stated their opposition to the occupation, and their hopes to build bridges of peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Hadash MK Dov Khenin (Joint List) was present at last week’s demonstration, where he told the crowd that “conscientious objection does not threaten our society; the biggest threat to our society is unconscionable obedience.”
Protest organizer Noa Levy, a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Israel, told +972 website: “On a day in which an 18-year-old soldier shoots a wounded, helpless Palestinian to death, we see how the army is sending young people into impossible situations of occupation and terror that turns them into murderers. We demonstrated in Tel Aviv in solidarity with Tair Kaminer and Ayden Katri, two conscientious objectors who present a counter model to all Israeli teens as well as a more optimistic way for the entire Israeli public — the way of peace.”
Katri refused to join the forces of occupation and in her statement wrote: “My name is Ayden Katri, a 19 year old trans woman, originally from the city of Holon. I came from a conservative house and my education was a right wing one, for I grew up on the ethos of ‘The chosen people.’ With the years I realized that we, the Jews, took ownership of the state out of a perception that we deserve it due to our separatism. I am no longer part of this brainwashing, today I believe in people regardless of religion, race, sex and gender.
The problem is that in Israel people see the military as the only moral solution to our problems. I am active in South Tel Aviv, and when I see soldiers in the central bus station, I notice the atmosphere of fear around us. The presence of armed people among us makes us scared. The government that creates that fear is interested in silencing us, bullying us, terrorizing us. If this is the reality inside Israel, it is even worse in the occupied territories that are under direct military rule.
“The military is a patriarchal body that perpetuates for the youth the a-symmetry between men and women. We can see this through gendered roles in the military – Gendered roles for women such as a secretary, and those for women such as combatants. Serving in the military perpetuates the masculine oppression of young men and women in Israel, as well as the hierarchy within the country’s leadership, as military leaders often become political leaders as well. I refuse to take part in an organization that makes “masculine” behaviors such as aggression and violence, an entry ticket to the social elite.
As someone who believes in gender equality, I cannot ignore inequality in other issues. Arabs and Jews live in this country as two different classes; Israelis and Palestinians live under two different legal systems; it would be absurd to strive for justice in the context of injustice. I struggle against my own oppression – my gender oppression as a trans woman and my ethnic oppression as a Mizrahi Jew – and if I would turn a blind eye to the oppression of another people, this would be hypocrisy.
“In the past, I was involved in educational work in my youth movement which taught me social responsibility and equality. As part of my involvement in the youth movement I met some of the Arab groups in the movement, and my solidarity with them grew. They too, Israeli citizens who were raised here as I was, grew up as occupied citizens, hated and discriminated against, and even more so did the Palestinians in the occupied territories. Out of solidarity with them I resist the occupation.
“I would go to the Friday protests in the Palestinian village of Bil’in to protest the theft of the village lands for the growth of the neighboring settlement, and I saw the violent suffocating space the children grow up in. When the military does not allow the residents to protest legally, as it shoots tear gas canisters at elders, children, men and women that are trying to protest, I can’t but feel shame. For the soldiers, it would seem almost like a computer game they are playing, but in real life there are real victims. For these victims I stand and say no! It is time for an alliance of the victims of oppression: chauvinism, ethnic oppression, racism, nationalism. We all suffer from the racism and violence around us, let us stand together and refuse to take part in it.”