Ayelet Brachfeld: declaration upon refusing to serve in the army


On February 12th, 2018 I will refuse to serve in the Israeli Defence Forces, an act punished by a prison sentence. This refusal is political and ideological, and I go into it after a lot of thought and deciding my principles are too important to me to be placed aside, that I cannot serve a system when I completely oppose its’ actions, and that if I want to make a change it needs to start with my actions. 

Over the past 51 years the state of Israel has been harshly dominating the left bank territories and Gaza. We limit the Palestinians’ supply of water, electricity and medicine, decide on who leaves and enters and supervise every aspect of their daily life. The state might be making the decisions, but it’s the IDF that makes them a reality. The soldiers act under orders that contradict basic human rights, treat the residents of the occupied territories with violence and lack of humanity, and defend the illegal settlements in the west bank. In addition to this- those who take part in it are also educated to think this is necessary and something to brag about. The militarism that has seeped into every side of Israeli society has made its way into the education system, with schools preparing students for a “meaningful service”, lectures and talks with soldiers- everything to stop us from doubting and questioning the necessity of military service. They explain to us that the violence in Israel is an inevitable result of circumstances, and convince us that it’s not in our power to change those circumstances, and by that raise us to think of the army as the only natural and legitimate continuation of our years in the education system, and I refuse to take part in this blind faith.

I’m tired of hearing kids my age say we “don’t have a choice”. I’m tired of people thinking nothing is going to change, that this is bigger than us. The way I see it, there is an extreme injustice here, and the first thing you can do is refuse to take part in it. I don’t pretend to know everything- I’m 18, I don’t know how to solve the conflict, I don’t know what will happen if everybody will refuse to serve, I don’t know what will happen if we leave the occupied territories immediately- but I do know that right now, were taking away the rights of millions. I know my government puts 18 year olds in civilian population and gives them orders that allow violence and legitimize killing. I know that in the name of the supposed safety of Israel there are hundred-thousands of innocent people being hurt. I know that the Israeli government invests money and resources in the settlements and in maintaining the status quo that says we’re at constant war, instead of working towards peace talks and compromise- and I mostly know and believe that peace is possible. 

During my two years at an international high school, I had many encounters and friendships with students from the Arab world- some of them third generation Palestinians, and I’ve experienced how little we know about each other and how useful conversations can be. In Israeli youth today, the conversation about the situation in the territories hardly exists, the facts aren’t known or learned and most have never met Palestinian children. It’s in the state’s interest to silence this discussion and equate mandatory military with patriotism. I refuse to accept that. You can live in a country and love it even if you disagree with its actions and oppose some of its rules. I was raised towards independent thought, questioning everything and developing my own opinion and moral stance, and if these are opposed to the laws of the state of Israel, it doesn’t mean I have to review them, but fight for a change.

When I started telling people about my plan to refuse, the reactions I got were full of pity and worry: “why waste time in prison, this isn’t going to change anything, I’d be better off doing a good role and working towards change from the inside.” I have to use this opportunity to say there’s no need to worry about me- I’d rather sit in prison than do something that contradicts my values, and I’d rather show protest like this and fight for a cause I believe in. this refusal will not only assure me that I am standing up for my principles, but I also hope it will help put these issues on the agenda and spread them to more groups of people. Because there is a choice. It comes with a price, like any choice, but it’s a price I’m willing to pay. I refuse to serve in the Israeli Defence Forces that continue to perform Israel’s destructive policies through the daily use of violence, racism and segregation; I refuse to take an active part in the oppression of the Palestinian people; and I refuse to accept the perception of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as an eternal damnation.

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