Tamar Zeevi, a 19-year-old conscientious objector from Jerusalem, was discharged from the Israeli army on Thursday after spending 115 days in military prison.
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Zeevi, who refused to enlist in the IDF last November, was consequently sent to military jail for lengthy periods. At the beginning of the week, she appeared in front of a military panel authorized to grant service exemptions for reasons of conscience, and on Thursday was told that she will be discharged from the army for that reason.
Another conscientious objector, Tamar Alon, who was meant to enlist in the army at the same time as Zeevi, did not receive such an exemption, spending 118 days in military prison. Alon also testified in front of the military panel, which decided not to grant her an exemption for reasons of conscience, claiming that her refusal to enlist was inconsistent and was based on political motives.
However, the panel recommended that Alon be brought in front of another panel that is authorized to grant exemption from service on grounds of unsuitability. A different conscientious objector, Tair Kaminer, was released this way in 2016.
Zeevi said she was happy to be freed after refusing to take part in a military system "that distinguishes between people, prefers some to others and feeds the hate among us." She added that she was sorry that the army didn’t recognize the request made by Alon, "who, exactly like me, refuses to serve in an army that oppresses another nation."
The military panel in charge of granting exemptions for reasons of conscience has clear rules for possible arguments – pacifism, yes; objection because of the occupation, no.
Zeevi, however, has declared that she won't accept the occupation, and wrote in her refusal letter that she "wants to believe that the empathetic, tolerant and compromising way will be our only choice. But she apparently managed to convince the panel that her motives relate to refusal to serve in the army in general.
Before her enlistment, Alon wrote that she refuses to join the army "out of concern and love for the society to which I belong. My refusal is meant first and foremost to create a public debate about the image and future of the society in which I live." The panel claimed that her objection was based on civil disobedience, and therefore she cannot be exempted from military service.
The two conscientious objectors – which the army made sure to keep apart in two separate prisons – were thus separated: One was released home on Thursday, and the other will continue to stay in military prison.
Alon's family said that she was interrogated by the panel, where she finally "admitted" that she's also motivated by the desire to fix the state and society.
"She stressed to the panel that she won't change her conscience according to the panel's definitions, which serve the army's needs, even if she will have to continue paying a price for it and sit in prison," her mother, Moriah, said. She added that her daughter said: "Even if the committee insists on calling what I do civil disobedience, I'm happy to have that title, too."
The IDF Spokesperson's Office said that "Today, March 23, 2017, it was decided to accept Tamar Zeevi's request for exemption from military service for reasons of conscience. Recently, after being sentenced a number of times to detention for her refusal to complete her enlistment process, she asked for exemptions for reasons of conscience.
"The request was examined in a practical manner and according to the IDF's long-standing policy and the ruling of the Supreme Court. The panel that discussed her case was convinced that Tamar Zeevi conscientiously opposes to any military service whatsoever, and therefore she was granted an exemption. "