Matan Kaminer


On 4 January 2004, the five conscientious objectors Matan Kaminer, Haggai Matar, Noam Bahat, Adam Maor, and Shimri Tzamaret were sentenced to 12 months imprisonment. All five refused to serve in the Israeli army and had spent up to 14 months in military prison prior to sentencing.

The five objectors started their prison term on 7 January. All five do not claim to be pacifists. They refuse to serve in an army of occupation, which is involved in operations against the Palestinian population.

Matan Kaminer explained his motives in a letter to US conscientious objector Stephen Funk in August 2003:

'Open Detention', Tel Hashomer Camp, Israel
 August 12, 2003
Dear Stephen,
Is this what they call "globalization"? We live half a world from
each other, we have led quite different lives, and yet we are both in
the same situation: conscientious objectors to imperial war and
occupation, we are both standing military trial this summer. Reading
your statement I couldn't help but smile at the basic sameness of
military logic around the world - including its inability to
understand how anybody could be enough against a war to resist going
to kill and die in it.
But I've been presuming you're familiar with my situation. In case
you aren't, let me fill you in briefly. I was slated for induction
into the Israeli army in December 2002. After a year of volunteer
work in a Jewish-Arab youth movement, I had made up my mind to refuse
to enlist. Together with other young people in my situation, I signed
the High School Seniors' Letter to PM Sharon, and to make myself
absolutely clear I sent a personal letter to the military authorities
notifying them that I was going to refuse.
They let me know they weren't about to let me go: the army only
exempts pacifists (at least that's what it claims) and I didn't meet
their definition of a pacifist. So beginning in December I was
sentenced by 'disciplinary proceedings' (do they have this ridiculous
institution in the Marines too?) to 28 days in military prison -
three consecutive times. After my third time in jail, I asked to join
my friend Haggai Matar, who was being court-martialed, and within a
few weeks three of our friends - Noam, Shimri and Adam - joined us.
Now we are on trial and stand to get up to three years in prison for
refusing the order to enlist.
Sounds familiar, huh? But it's not just what they're doing to us
that's similar, it's what they're doing to others: occupying a
foreign land and oppressing another people in the name of preventing
terror. People like you and me know that's just an excuse for
furthering economic and political interests of the ruling elite. But
it's not the elite that pays the price.
The people who pay the price are in Jenin and Fallujah, in Ramallah
and Baghdad, in Tikrit and in Hebron. They are the Iraqi and
Palestinian children, hogtied face-down on the floor or shot at on
the way to school. But they are also the Israeli and American
soldiers, treated as cannon fodder by generals in air-conditioned
offices, whose only way to deal with their situation is
dehumanization - first of the strange-looking foreigners who want
them dead, next of themselves. You can ask your Vietnam veterans or
our own.
Stephen, people our age should be out learning, working and
transforming the world. People our age should be going to parties and
protests, meeting people, falling in love and arguing about what our
world should look like. People our age should not be moving targets,
denied their human and civil rights; they should not be military
grunts, exposed to harm in mind and body, lugging around M-16's and
guilty consciences; they should not be thrown behind bars for not
wanting to kill and die.
Your trial is set to begin soon. Mine has already begun so maybe I
can give you a few pointers. Look the judges in the eyes. Use every
opportunity you have to explain why you stand there. They are human
just like you, but they try to deny it to themselves. Don't let them.
War is shit and they know it. They should let you go and they know it.
It's likely that we'll both get thrown in prison when this all ends.
There will be dark moments in prison, moments when it seems that the
outside world has forgotten all about us, that what we did and
refused to do was in vain. Well, I know what I'll do in those
moments: I'll think of you, Stephen, and I'll know that nothing we do
for humanity's sake is ever in vain.
                                        With greatest solidarity,
                                        Matan Kaminer

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Related peace activist(s): Matan Kaminer
Related peace activist(s): Matan Kaminer