Israeli jurists to IDF: Release conscientious objector Tair Kaminer

Kaminer has spent nearly 170 days in prison for refusing to enlist in the IDF due to her opposition to the occupation.

Tair Kaminer a 19-year-old Israeli from Tel Aviv, walks into the Tel Ha’Shomer military base where she will announce his refusal to draft to Israeli army service, January 10, 2016. Tair says she refuses to take part in the occupation after she spent a year of volunteering with youth in south of Israel, near the border with Gaza. (Activestills.org)
Tair Kaminer a 19-year-old Israeli from Tel Aviv, walks into the Tel Ha’Shomer military base where she will announce his refusal to draft to Israeli army service, January 10, 2016. Tair says she refuses to take part in the occupation after she spent a year of volunteering with youth in south of Israel, near the border with Gaza. (Activestills.org)

Dozens of Israeli jurists sent a letter last friday to the Military Advocate General, calling for the release of Israeli conscientious objector Tair Kaminer, who has spent nearly 170 days in military prison for refusing to enlist in the IDF over its policies in the occupied territories.

The jurists argue that Kaminer’s sentence is disproportionate, and that she should be released from the army and allowed to take part in civil service. Kaminer is the longest-serving imprisoned female conscientious objector.

Kaminer, 19, appeared last Thursday before the IDF’s conscientious objectors committee, and has yet to receive a response regarding her exemption request. The committee has historically decided to not exempt female conscientious objectors such as Kaminer, who declare their refusal to enlist in the army due to their explicit opposition to the occupation (as opposed to pacifism, for example).

In their letter the jurist state that while they have differing opinions on the nature of Kaminer’s refusal, they are unanimous in their belief that there is no reason to imprison someone who believes that military service goes against their core moral beliefs, and that Kaminer’s refusal to enlist is an expression of “freedom of consciousness.”

“Under circumstances in which there is no real fear that a moderate response toward a person who refuses to serve will lead many others to refuse and put state security at risk,” they write, “the state is not allowed to punish a person with a lengthy prison sentence for conscientious objection. This kind of sentence is disproportionate.”

Before her imprisonment, Kaminer performed a year of national service with the Israeli Scouts (“Tzofim”) in the southern development town of Sderot. There she volunteered with children who suffer from trauma following multiple wars in Gaza and continual rocket fire on the city. “The children I worked with grew up in the heart of the conflict and have had extremely difficult experiences from a young age, experiences that caused them to feel hatred, which can be understood, especially when it comes from young children,” Kaminer wrote in a statement published this past January.

“Like them, many children who grow up in Gaza or in the West Bank, in an even more difficult environment, learn to hate the other side,” the statement read. “They, too, cannot be blamed. When I look at all of these children, and the next generation on both sides and the reality in which they grow up, I see only more trauma and pain. And I say enough! That is why I refuse: so that I do not take an active part in the occupation of the Palestinian territories and the injustices that the Palestinian people face under occupation, so that I do not take part in this circle of hate in Gaza and Sderot.”

Omri Brenes, another female conscientious objector, is also currently serving time in military prison for refusing to enlist due to her opposition to the occupation.

This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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