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Israel: "That is why I think it is so important to refuse"
Lecture tour 2015
by Tair Kaminer
November 9 to 19, 2015, Connection e.V. organized a speaking tour in Germany under the slogan "Israel/Palestine: Active against War and Militarization". 18 years old Tair Kaminer from Israel was one of two speakers. She is refusing the military service because of the Israeli governments's policy of occupation. January 10th she was sentenced a first time to 21 days. We document her speech November 2015. (ed.)
Hello, My name is Tair Kaminer Goldfainer. I am 19 years old and beginning of next year I am supposed to report to the IDF’s main recruitment base to start my 2 years of service. On that day I will come and declare that I refuse to serve in the IDF.
When I was nine years old I went with my parents to an Israeli-Palestinian demonstration in a Palestinian village near Ramallah against the occupation. The demonstration was dispersed by the Israeli army with tear gas and we ran into a little shopping center. As you can imagine it was very scary. There an owner of an ice cream shop offered me some ice cream and tried to cheer me up.
On that day, as a very young girl, my country’s army made me feel threatened instead of safe and a Palestinian man who was ostensibly foreign and spoke a different language made me feel happy and safe.
It was a confusing experience in a good way. I did not understand much back then about the conflict but it planted in me the seed of critical thinking, even towards my country and its army, which is not always a common thing to do.
I wasn’t at that demonstration by coincidence. My family has always been very involved in the left wing politics of Israel and as far as I can remember I have been surrounded by discussions about the conflict, the occupation, human rights, refugees and so on.
My grandparents are radical leftist, closely linked to the Israeli communist party. They and their kids, one of whom is my father, have long been involved in groups supporting a peaceful solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict, meaning a Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel. Also known as two states for two peoples.
For example, my grandmother Dafna is one of the founders of a feminist peace group called “Women In Black”. This organization is unique because unlike many of the women for peace groups which are based on motherhood and bereavement this group sends clear messages against the Israeli occupation plainly and clearly without embellishments. I remember attending many of their activities and demonstrations.
As a result I have a history of refusal in my family. Some of my relatives refused to serve in the IDF. On the other hand, other relatives did serve in the army. That is why, unlike most of other Israeli Jewish teenagers in Israel, I never knew if I am going to go to the army or refuse to serve. It was always a question I know I will have to figure out. I am lucky that way. Nothing was obvious to me so I had the opportunity to learn more, think a lot, and decide what is, in my eyes, the moral thing to do before going into the system. The more I learned what was going on in the territories, it became more and more clear to me that I cannot go to the army.
It didn’t matter what placement I would have or where. I came to see the army as a system that works against my beliefs and contradict the democratic values. With this I cannot consciously cooperate.
The Israeli military control more than 3.5 million Palestinians in the west bank and east Jerusalem is what we call “The occupation”. The occupation which exists by military control.
The occupation is a source of human rights violations. There are daily violations of basic human rights such as freedom of movement, health and education and a deeper infringement of the democratic right for self-determination. For instance, an example of injury in many human rights together is the fact that since the beginning of 2015 the Israeli army evacuated 12 times families, including old and sick people and little children from a village in the north of the west bank so soldiers could do field training. These violations aren’t incidental or isolated; it is the result of the military occupation.
Inequality between people and their rights is a natural consequence of occupation. The Israeli control of the territories creates intrinsic discrimination against Palestinians. The Israeli army constantly favors the Israeli settlers over the Palestinians, even when the settlers behave unlawfully. The law says that Palestinians are judged in military courts but the Israelis are judged the civilian courts. And then it is possible that if a Jewish boy and a Palestinian boy throw stones at each other, the Jewish boy will get a warning and the Palestinian few months in jail.
Sanctity of life - it is important for me to mention this value as a result of the past month’s events in Israel - terrorist attacks of Arabs against Jews, especially settlers and soldiers. Their reasoning for the events is a reaction to the Israeli legislatures attempts to change the status quo in The Temple Mount, a very holy place for the Muslims and the Jews in Jerusalem, as well as, of course, a result of the continued policy of the occupation. The response of the Israeli authorities to the situation was recommending citizens who have a license for guns to make sure to they carry their weapons outside and to not fear using them against those terrorists. There is a feeling that everybody has the right to kill terrorists without a trial and that Palestinian life is worthless. There is fear on the streets of Israel - Jews are afraid of Arabs, Arabs are afraid someone will suspect them of being a terrorist and shoot them with no questions asked. There is incitement and hatred in the streets and a lot of pain is caused.
Democracy Israel is supposedly a Jewish and Democratic state. And I am sincerely concerned about the democratic part. As long as there are millions of people living under Israeli rule with no civil rights such as the right to vote, As long as there are Palestinians arrested and imprisoned without a trial for an undetermined period of time, without giving reasons for their detention, as long the government confiscate private Palestinian lands and gives them to the settlers, there is collective punishment, and many other examples we have a big problem...
It is obvious that the Palestinians are deeply harmed by all this, but I also want to mention the damage that the continuous occupation is causing to the Israeli society due to our drifting away from the democratic values.
Last year I did a “gap year”, a year of volunteering in the community, which teenagers in Israel can choose to do after graduating from high school and before going to the army. We call it “Shnat Sherut” (a year of community service). I did my gap year in Sderot and Kibbutz Kfar Aza with the youth movement I was in. Sderot is a border town with Gaza and in the last 15 years, not only during wars, there are sirens and missiles on a relatively regular basis. The children are skilled at facing these situations and running to the shelters. On top of it all the town is in a harsh socio-economical condition.
During my year there I spent most of my time with children. Children that, as I mentioned before,live in the heart of the conflict and experience it from a very young age. More than I ever have growing up in Tel Aviv. One of the things that I noticed was, how those children, as a result of growing up in that situation, hate the people on the other side. With no understanding just hatred and we can’t blame them.
And then I think about the children growing up in Gaza (and I cannot possibly compare!) ... A place where Israel controls the borders, the water, the electricity, the equipment and supplies entering. Not to mention the unemployment and poverty as a result of the siege. And on top of all that, at times of war, there are tremendous numbers of people killed and injured as well as destruction.
All those things, that reality as a child...they obviously, like the children in Sderot, grow to hate the people on the other side.
When I think of all those children, I feel that they are the long time consequence of all that happens. Because continuing down this path, the militaristic path is not just harming everybody right now, it create and maintains the endless cycle of this situation, and breeds generations of hate.
This thought is one of the things that brought me to the understanding that I can't be a part of this monster who feeds this situation. More force is not the solution and I cannot be a part of an organization which is based on using violence.
Among the many reasons not to go to the army, there is one that was the deciding factor for me and keeps convincing me I am doing the right thing. The reason is the false consciousness which is very common in Israel these days that states “we have no choice.” That the Israeli army, government, people have no other choice but the violent, militaristic choice. That is what the present government wants people to think. That is why all my friends are serving in the army these days despite the fact most of them share my world-view on the conflict, and object to the settlements and the occupation. And why so many Israelis go to the army without asking any questions, not themselves and later on, many times, not their supervisors. That is the reason that there are a lot of leftist organizations and parties in Israel, who do not support the refusal movement despite their criticism of the army.
That is the justification for everything that soldiers do, and the cause of the admiration for these soldier how kill. The awful state of mind that “we have no choice” leads to a situation that there are no moral or legal boundaries. There are no red lines. That is dangerous and terrifying.
That is why I think it is so important to refuse, to remind that there are other options, that we have a choice and that there are definitely limits to what military actions are legitimate.
That is why I see that action of refusal not just as the right thing for me to do but as a patriotic action, a way to fight for the right and the just, a way to protect from all the craziness, to remind people that there is an alternative. Usually Israelis have a hard time seeing refusers that way, but I believe that we are an important voice who protects the sanity these days. We are the ones who fight the nonviolent fight for peace. The only solution I see is peace with a Palestinian state beside a democratic Jewish state. That is why it is important for me to be a part of the refusal movement in Israel and keep it alive in order to keep the sanity and hope alive.
Tair Kaminer: "That is why I think it is so important to refuse". Lecture given in Frankfurt/M., Darmstadt, Lindau, Stetten i.R., Stuttgart, Cologne, Oldenburg, Bremen, Celle and Herford, Germany, November 9 to 19, 2015. Extraction.