IDF releases conscientious objector after 100 days in military prison

Brachfeld had declared her refusal ‘to take part in the oppression of the Palestinian people.’ It is very rare for the army to grant conscientious objector status to non-religious Jewish Israelis. A new lawsuit seeks to change that.

Israeli conscientious objector Ayelet Brachfeld. (Courtesy of 'Mesarvot')
Israeli conscientious objector Ayelet Brachfeld. (Courtesy of ‘Mesarvot’)

The Israeli army discharged conscientious objector Ayelet Brachfeld on Tuesday after imprisoning her for 100 days. Israel has compulsory military service, and Brachfeld refused to be drafted due to her opposition to the occupation.

It took four prison terms adding up to 100 days behind bars for the army’s conscientious objection committee to grant her the exemption. Most other conscientious objectors are ultimately discharged for “serious misconduct,” “unsuitability,” or are given psychological exemptions instead of being recognized as conscientious objectors.

Brachfeld, who lives in Tel Aviv, first declared her refusal to serve in the army back in February. She explained her decision at the time in a statement published on Facebook:

I believe that sitting in prison is better than doing something that goes against my principles. My refusal not only ensures that I stand behind my beliefs — I hope it will help bring these issues to light as well as to other people. I refuse to serve in the Israel Defense Forces, the body that carries out the destructive policies of the Israeli government, and which uses violence, racism, and discrimination on a day-to-day basis for this purpose; I refuse to take part in the oppression of the Palestinian people; and I refuse to accept the view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a matter of fate.

Upon leaving prison on Tuesday, Brachfeld said that as an Israeli, she has the responsibility to do “everything I can to stop this cycle of bloodshed. Refusing is my first step.”

Were she a religious Jew, she would have likely been released with little trouble. Secular conscientious objectors, on the other hand, are required to undergo a long and difficult process in the hopes of convincing the army to discharge them. It almost always ends in jail time, which can last up to 150 days.

A recently filed lawsuit seeks to challenge the army’s discrimination against secular conscientious objectors, as opposed to those who refuse to join the army for religious reasons.

Brachfeld is one of dozens of Israeli high school students who signed the “2017 Shministim Letter,” and who is being supported by Mesarvot — Refusing to Serve the Occupation, a grassroots network that brings together individuals and groups who refuse to enlist in the IDF in protest at the occupation.

Two additional conscientious objectors, Hillel Grami and Lohar Altman, are expected to declare their refusal to serve in the IDF in the coming weeks.