ISRAEL: Conscientious objectors Avichai Vaknin and Sahar Vardi


After conscientious objector Udi Nir went to military prison for 21 days on 21 August 2008, two more conscientious objectors are now in prison.

Avichai Vaknin (ISR14948), a 18 years old pacifist conscientious objector from Yehud, near Tel Aviv, has been sentenced to 21 days in prison on the same day as Udi Nir, and received the same sentence of 21 days.
Avichai Vaknin had not been in contact with any organisation supporting objectors. Having developed a pacifist outlook, he tried to appeal to the military authorities. Eventually, he was instructed by people in the Conscription Bureau to prepare a declaration of refusal, but this declaration was ignored by the authorities; he has not even appeared before the military so-called "Conscience Committee".

Avichai Vaknin's enlistment date was set to 14 August 2008. Having received no response to his declaration of refusal, he did not report, writing to the military authorities that he still awaits a decision on his request for exemption. He was then summoned to a talk with a military officer, who made it clear that the army is not taking any steps on the matter, and that Avichai is considered officially to be AWOL. Avichai then decided to report at the Induction Base and refuse orders to enlist, for which he was sentenced to 21 days in prison.

Fortunately, while in detention and awaiting trial Avichai met CO Udi Nir (see co-alert, 21 August 2008), and through Udi New Profile was able to establish contact with Avichai himself and his family. In his declaration of refusal, Avichai Vaknin wrote:

"Armies present themselves as providing the solution to civilians' security problems, but in fact armies are the ones that bear the responsibility for imperiling civilians' lives. Armies form the greatest threat to our lives. The violent and militant nature of these organisations is what threatens the security of civilians [...] Armies bear the responsibility for the invention of even newer and more effective ways of killing, for the fact that every day we see newer and more lethal weapons. Armies are responsible for the daily killing of children, women and men. As a pacifist, my worldview, my principles, and above all - my conscience - will not allow me to serve in such an organisation."

Avichai is due to be released from prison on 7 September, but may well be imprisoned again after his release.

Woman conscientious objector Sahar Vardi (ISR14949), 18, from Jerusalem, has been sentenced on 25 August 2008 to 7 days in military prison (more will likely follow after she is released).

Sahar is the third conscientious objector, and the first woman, to be imprisoned among a new group of high school seniors, who signed a collective declaration of refusal to serve in the Israeli army, and in the work of organising which she has been very strongly involved.

While she stresses the importance of resisting the occupation of Palestine as a motive for her refusal, Sahar's conscientious objection is also rooted in a wider pacifist position. In a letter to the Minister of Defence, declaring her refusal to serve in the military, she wrote:

"I have been to the occupied Palestinian territory many times, and even though I realize that the soldier at the checkpoint is not responsible for the wretched policy of the oppressor towards civilians, I am unable to relieve that soldier of responsibility for his conduct ... I mean the human responsibility of not causing another human being to suffer.
The bloody times in which I live (consisting of assassinations, aggression, bombings, shootings) results in increasing numbers of victims on both sides. It is a vicious circle that emanates from the fact that both sides elect to engage in violence. This choice I refuse to take part in."

Sahar decided to refuse to wear a military uniform in prison, and has put in the Isolation Ward of the prison. The Isolation Wards of military prisons in Israel are often the site of various minor or less minor forms of abuse, so Sahar will need a lot of support. She is due to be released from prison on 31 August but is likely to be imprisoned again soon afterwards.

War Resisters' International calls for letters of support for Avichai Vaiknin and Sahar Vardi:

Avichai Vaknin
Military ID 030146277
Military Prison No 6
Military Postal Code 01860, IDF
Fax: +972-4-9540580

Sahar Vardi
Military ID 6055780
Military Prison No. 400
Military Postal Code 02447, IDF
Fax: +972-3-9579389

War Resisters' International calls for letters of protest to the Israeli authorities, and Israeli embassies abroad. An email letter can to Israels Minister of Defence Ehud Barak can be sent at

War Resisters' International calls for the immediate release of conscientious objectors Avichai Vakin, Sahar Vardi and all other imprisoned conscientious objectors.

Andreas Speck
War Resisters' International

Archives of co-alert can be found at