Israeli Teen Jailed for Refusing To Take Part in Army’s ‘Criminal Attack’ on Gaza
December 27, 2023
by Brett Wilkins, a staff writer for U.S.-based news website Common Dreams.
"I believe that slaughter cannot solve slaughter," said 18-year-old Tal Mitnick, who was sentenced last Tuesday to 30 days behind bars
for refusing to enlist in the Israel Defense Forces as it wages a genocidal assault on Gaza, a war the teen condemned as "a revenge campaign... not only against Hamas, but against all Palestinian people."
Tal Mitnick, an 18-year-old from Tel Aviv, entered the Tel Hashomer enlistment center with other members of the Mesarvot Network—a group of young conscientious objectors—and announced his refusal to enlist in the IDF, citing the war on Gaza and Israel's illegal occupation of Palestine.
"I believe that slaughter cannot solve slaughter," he said outside the base. "The criminal attack on Gaza won't solve the atrocious slaughter that Hamas executed. Violence won't solve violence. And that is why I refuse."
The 30-day sentence imposed on Mitnick is exceptionally long; Israeli refuseniks are usually first jailed for 7 to 10 days, with the possibility of up to 200 additional days added for unrepentant resisters after their initial release. Numerous observers believe the teen is likely being punished for his outspoken criticism of Israeli government policies and practices.
Mitnick expects to be imprisoned for an additional period after he serves out his month behind bars. In a statement shared Tuesday on social media, he slammed "the notion that this land belongs to only one people."
“I refuse to believe that more violence will bring security, I refuse to take part in a war of revenge... We must recognize the fact that after weeks of the ground operation in Gaza, at the end of the day, negotiations, an agreement, brought back the hostages. It was actually military action that caused them to be killed. Because of the criminal lie that 'there are no innocent civilians in Gaza,' even hostages waving a white flag shouting in Hebrew were shot to death. I don't want to imagine how many similar cases there were that were not investigated because the victims were born on the wrong side of the fence.”
The path to peace, Mitnick argued, will not come from Israeli or Palestinian politicians, but rather "from us, the sons and daughters of the two nations."
Supporters accompanying Mitnick at Tel Hashomer held signs with slogans like "an eye for an eye and we all go blind" and "there is no military solution."
Last month, Mitnick told Turkish public broadcaster TRT World that "the army that we have in this area is the operational wing of Jewish supremacy in the area and it's bent on the oppression of the Palestinian people, and I refuse to take part in that oppression and instead fight against it in my activism."
Mitnick said that the first day of the war was "defensive," but after that, it "turned into a war of aggression against civilians in Gaza."
"I refuse to agree with the idea that killing civilians in Gaza would provide security for anyone," he said. "It doesn't bring security to anyone, neither to the people of Gaza nor to the people of Israel. I believe that the only path to security and peace lies in coexistence."
Another Israeli conscientious objector, 19-year-old Ariel Davidov, told TRT World: "I cannot take part in something that is so immoral, so unjust. This is a genocide that has been going on since the beginning of Zionism."
Davidov said that prior to the establishment of the modern state of Israel in 1948, largely through terrorism and ethnic cleansing, "there was settler colonialism," and that Zionists—Jews seeking to establish a homeland in Palestine—"wanted to use this land and its people for their own interests."
"However," he stressed, "this situation cannot continue like this."
Yet another resister, Ella Keidal, said: "I don't wish to serve an army that is enacting an occupation, an apartheid regime."
"I don't want to serve in an army that enforces the occupation, implements a racist regime, and plays a role in oppressing the Palestinian people in this exploitation project," Keidal added.
As the teens were speaking to TRT World, a group of Israelis physically and verbally assaulted them, calling them "terrorists" and "Hamas supporters," forcing the interview to be cut short. The incident underscored the societal scorn and ostracization that Israeli conscientious objectors often face.
Teens like Mitnick, Davidov, and Keidal made the decision to become conscientious objectors even before the current war on Gaza. They are part of a group of more than 200 high school students who announced in August that they would refuse to enlist due to Israel's occupation of Palestine—which includes not just the West Bank and East Jerusalem but also Gaza under international law—and the anti-democratic judicial overhaul spearheaded by the far-right government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"We truly fear for our own future, and for the future of all who live here. In view of this, we have no choice but to take extreme measures and refuse to serve in the army," the teens said in a statement published over a month before the Gaza war began. "A government that destroys the judiciary is not a government that we can serve. An army that militarily occupies another people is not an army that we can join."
Earlier this year, 10,000 IDF reservists threatened to refuse service over the judicial overhaul. Hundreds of Israeli Air Force and cyberwarfare reservists went on strike over the legislation.
There has been no such act of mass conscientious objection during the current Gaza onslaught, which has left more than 80,000 Palestinians—mostly women, children, and elders—dead, maimed, or missing over 82 days of near-relentless Israeli attacks.
Military service is mandatory for most Israelis, including men and women. Exceptions include people with medical or psychological issues, certain criminal convictions, ultra-Orthodox Jews, Arab Muslims and Christians, Druze and Circassian women, and pregnant people and new mothers.
The IDF does allow exemptions for some conscientious objectors, but these are almost exclusively granted on religious grounds, not political ideology or principle.
from Nell Myers, SLP London Region 29/12/2024