‘Why I am refusing to serve in the Israeli army’

Last month, an 18-year-old immigrant known only as D, made the unusual choice to go to jail rather than serve in the Israel Defence Forces. This is an edited version of the letter explaining his reasons.

Today I am going to jail because I refuse to serve in the Israeli military. Some people might say I’m a traitor. After all, since I moved to this country a couple of years ago when I was a kid, I have been given so much. And, some might say, now that it’s my time to give something in return, I stab them in the back. Well, it’s not that simple, and if you have one minute I can tell you why. 

Like many of the Jewish immigrants who have settled between the river and the sea, I didn’t have a simple life in my homeland. I lived with a dysfunctional family in a dysfunctional country and would constantly fantasise with a way out of that misery. So when the Jewish Agency approached me with their smiling faces and full pockets, I decided to follow them. 

They put me at a boarding school in a kibbutz, where I joined scores of other kids like me who were brought without their families from all around the world. In the seemingly perfect life of the kibbutz we were taught Hebrew and indoctrinated in Zionist narrative and values. 

In the bubble where I lived during those years, I never met a Palestinian and the teachers conveniently refrained from talking about certain subjects, for instance what really happened in 1948 or what is happening all around us today. Little I knew that I was in fact being “educated” in ignorance, indifference and hatred. 

But after I moved to Jerusalem this illusion in which I lived didn’t hold out for long, because despite all the efforts of the Israelis to hide reality, it is impossible for them to make the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians that live under oppression in this city disappear, or to conceal the segregation wall which I saw every day. 

As the enlistment day came closer and closer, the voices in my head grew. Realising the hypocrisy of Israeli society wasn’t easy for me because it involved admitting that I had been wrong all these years. It involved realising that all the wealth that I enjoyed was based on the plundering of the land of innocent people. 

They treat people as objects, killing Palestinians and brainwashing children. They think they can give us orders and we will follow them as robots. But we aren’t robots, we are humans. All their tanks and nuclear weapons mean nothing, because they pale in front of their biggest menace, the thinking human. 

Now the future seems bleak. They treat me like an enemy and a traitor for standing up for human rights and solidarity. I am from the lucky ones, because instead of being executed like hundreds of Palestinians, they will “only” put me in jail. But all their violence and oppression is just a sign of their fear and their weakness. Because they know that democracy is their sweet demise. That’s why they will persecute all and each one of us. But in these dark times we shall remember [Chilean poet] Pablo Neruda’s words: “They can cut all the flowers, but they cannot keep spring from coming.” 

This letter was made available through the refuser support network Mesarvot.

Image: Avi Katz