IDF Rejects Conscientious Objector's Request to Be Released From Military Service

Tair Kaminer, 19, who was recently sentenced to a sixth term in military prison, refuses to serve in the Israel Defense Forces for reasons of conscience.

Tair Kaminer
Tomer Appelbaum

The committee that examines the claims of conscientious objectors rejected on Sunday 19-year-old Tair Kaminer’s request to release her from military service for reasons of conscience.

Kaminer was recently sentenced to a sixth consecutive stint in military prison, the longest term ever imposed on a female conscientious objector. The committee explained its decision by saying that Kaminer refused to serve in the army because she opposes government policy and not because of any problems of conscience that would keep her from serving in the military in principle. Israel Defense Forces says this has always been its policy concerning those who refuse to serve in general, and conscientious objectors in particular, and that this policy is supported by Supreme Court rulings.

In a few days Kaminer will appear before a different committee of the IDF, which will examine whether she is at all suitable for military service. This committee is authorized to, and may possibly, grant her a full exemption from military service, if she is found unsuitable. Kaminer has repeatedly offered to do national civilian service in lieu of military service.

In her appeal to the committee on conscientious objection, Kaminer wrote that she was asking for an exemption from military service for reasons of conscience, and that she has been jailed repeatedly since January for this refusal to serve, even though she wants to do civilian national service. Kaminer had previously done a year of national service with the Scouts movement in Sderot.

“During my year of service and my experience living in Sderot, I went through processes within myself and understood that my conscience does not allow me to serve in the army. I understood that I would not be able to live with myself if I knew I was cooperating and remained silent in the face of everything going on in my country,” she wrote.

“My refusal stems from a desire to contribute to my society and make it a better place, and is part of an ongoing struggle for peace and equality,” wrote Kaminer.

Kaminer is a member of a group of conscientious objectors called Objectors – A Political Objection Network. The group said the IDF cannot give its approval to Kaminer’s form of objection because her conscience does not allow her to enlist and “in doing so participate directly or indirectly in the repression and expulsion of the Palestinian people.” Her continued imprisonment is intended to weaken her and deter other young people from following her, “but she has strength in her struggle,” said the organization.

A month ago, Kaminer was sentenced to military prison for 45 more days for her refusal to serve. This was her sixth period of imprisonment. At the end of this jail term she will have served 170 days in military prison, the highest total for any female conscientious objector.

Last week, several dozen law professors and other academics wrote to Military Advocate General Brig. Gen. Sharon Afek to protest her jailing. The letter, signed by 39 people, criticized IDF policy toward conscientious objectors and said that the sentences imposed on Kaminer are disproportionate.

“The refusal of a person to serve in the IDF because such service requires him to act in a manner that he sees as deeply offensive to his basic morals is the realization of his right to freedom of conscience. Punishing him undermines this right, and is permitted only if it complies with proportionality,” the letter reads.

The writers noted that they believe the state “is not permitted to impose a lengthy prison term on a person who refuses to serve for reasons of conscience. Such imprisonment is disproportionate. In light of this, we believe that the case of Tair Kaminer is an example of an inappropriate policy.”