Israel Should Let Conscientious Objector Serve Both Society and Her Conscience

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Tair Kaminer
Tair KaminerCredit: Tomer Appelbaum

Tair Kaminer is expected to be released Tuesday from a military prison, where she has been for over 90 days for refusing to serve in the Israel Defense Forces for reasons of conscience. Since declaring herself a conscientious objector, she has been sentenced to prison four times. Each time she was detained for 20 or 30 days, after which she was released and summoned to the induction center, only to be jailed again when she refused to enlist.

Kaminer, who before refusing conscription performed a year of voluntary national service with the Israeli Scouts in Sderot, is amenable to additional civilian service instead of military service. She explains her refusal to do military service as follows: “I volunteered for an entire year in Sderot, and worked with children living in a war zone. It was there that I decided to refuse to serve in the IDF.

“My refusal stems from a desire to contribute to my society and make it a better place. The children I worked with grew up in the heart of the conflict and suffered harsh experiences form a young age, experiences that fashioned great hatred in many of them, which I can understand. ... [T]here are many, many children like them who grew up in Gaza or the territories, in an even harsher reality, learning to hate the other side. ... For years there is no desire for negotiations, no attempt to bring peace to Gaza and Sderot. But as long as the violent, military path continues, we are creating two generations of hatred that will only make the situation worse. We must stop it.”

Kaminer could have taken the easy way out — to evade the draft, to marry or to claim, like thousands of other girls, that she is religiously observant. Her parents say that IDF officials even hinted to her that “there are ways to get out of the IDF,” by seeking a mental-health exemption, for example. But her honesty, conscience and declared principles frighten the IDF and cause the military system to continue abusing her.

Kaminer, like conscientious objectors who preceded her, are young people whose protests are evidence of caring and affiliation to the place and the society in which they live. They are knowledgeable, opinionated, determined and conscientious. The IDF treats them more harshly than it does those who evade service for selfish reasons, who do not hesitate to deceive the army and make up stories.

It seems that the army fears that other young people might follow in the footsteps of these conscientious objectors, but this fear is unjustified and even exposes the IDF’s hypocritical behavior. Most candidates for service want to be drafted, while there are entire populations that are not required to bear the burden of service at all. Kaminer’s individual punishment is unfair.

Another conscientious objector, Natan Blank, spent half a year in jail before the IDF agreed to release him from service. It would behoove the army to bring Kaminer’s Sisyphean journey to an end by respecting her choice and allowing her to serve society in a manner consistent with her conscience.

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