Israel: A conscientious objector was released - another was imprisoned

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After twenty five days of imprisonment the IDF’s Conscience Committee granted conscientious objector Maya Brand-Feigenbaum a release from military service. "I believe that refusing to serve in the military is the best and most effective way for me to promote anti-war principles and contribute to ending the occupation", she said.

Concurrently, Yasmin Ricci-Yahav, age 18 from Mevasseret Zion, declared her refusal to enlist for the first time at the IDF recruitment office and was sentenced to ten days of imprisonment which she will serve in Prison 6. “I hope my decision will contribute, in however small a way, to a gradual change of consciousness. And that this change will lead in turn to a search for a solution based on justice and equality for Israelis and Palestinians,” she wrote in her refusal declaration.

Maya Brand-Feigenbaum, age 18 from Kiryat Tivon, first declared her refusal to enlist on July 14 and was sentenced to two imprisonment terms, serving a sentence of 25 prison days in total. After appearing before the Conscience Committee earlier this week she was released from the army.

Upon leaving prison she said: “The decision to refuse military service is one I will never regret because I was true to myself, and yet all along I continued to ask myself questions and examine my stand. I experienced moments of great fear because the hatred people spread is poisonous. This is something I was exposed to in prison and which saddened me: hatred toward entire groups and disrespect that is borne out of fear. I faced comments like ‘all Arabs should die, and if you are on their side you should die too.’ I wish the girls who spoke in this way understood that in fact we are all on the same side.”

In her refusal declaration, published before she refused to enlist, Brand-Feigenbaum wrote:

“Decades of dominating another people is compromising the security of the State of Israel. As a woman who loves this country, whose landscape and people are a part of me, I cannot take part in the preservation of this situation. I am aware that our reality requires having a military that will act to protect us against real threats. However, at the same time, we also need people who will act to promote a war-free reality. Anti-war activity serves the best interests of the state of Israel and the world, and will result in long-term security. Taking action to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and ending the Occupation is in the best interest of all residents of this land – Jews, Muslims and Christians alike".

Concurrently, Yasmin Ricci-Yahav, age 18 from Mevasseret Zion, arrived at the army’s recruitment office and declared her refusal to enlist. She was later sentenced to ten days of imprisonment. In her refusal declaration she wrote: 

“I do not question Israel’s right to have and use an army in order to defend itself. I do not wish to detract from the respect and admiration owed to those who came before me and did everything in their power to protect a state that offered a home to millions who needed a safe haven. But the Israeli army nowadays does not function only as a defence force, but as a central tool in the systematic oppression of the Palestinian people.”

“We have all experienced,” Ricci-Yahav continued, “a childhood marred by war and hatred, and we have all grown up in a world where we have been taught to fear and to distance ourselves from the other side. But I believe there is another way to face the complex reality in which we live. This requires a conversation about alternatives, mutual respect and a desire for change. In addition, I believe that it is the young generation in Israel that is responsible for advancing change. I hope that my refusal will contribute to the struggle to bring about not only a more secure future for Israel, but also a future that inspires pride and is characterised by tolerance and compassion.”

Maya & Yasmin is accompanied by Mesarvot – A political refusing network that writes letters and initiates refusing groups from the last few years to joint action. The network supports conscientious objectors that choose to not enlist in the occupation army, while knowingly acknowledging the gender aspects that the compulsory enlistment brings to Israeli society. The network works in cooperation and assistant from Yesh Gvul Movement.

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Mesarvot, a solidarity network of political conscientious objectors in Israel.

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About the authors

Mesarvot, a solidarity network of political conscientious objectors in Israel.

Mesarvot, a solidarity network of political conscientious objectors in Israel.