IDF recognizes anti-occupation draft refuser as conscientious objector

Tamar Ze’evi says she was exempted for opposing Israel’s West Bank policies, marking shift, but military says she was against ‘army service of any kind’

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

Conscientious objector Tamar Ze'evi. (Ido Heimberg/Mesarvot)
Conscientious objector Tamar Ze'evi. (Ido Heimberg/Mesarvot)

Draft refuser Tamar Ze’evi was released from an army prison on Thursday, after a committee accepted her exemption request over Israel’s military occupation of the Palestinians, she said in a statement.

According to Mesarvot, an organization of conscientious objectors, this was the first case of a draft refuser getting released from military service over refusal “to serve in an army that occupies another people,” as opposed to a general belief in nonviolence.

“The decision of the conscientious objection committee to release her is against the custom its had for years of only recognizing pacifist conscientious objection,” said Yasmin Yablonski, who works for Mesarvot.

However, though Yablonksi said Ze’evi was excused from army service over her opinions toward the military occupation, she was officially deemed a “general” conscientious objector.

The Israel Defense Forces said the exemption was granted because of “matters of conscience.” The army added that the process of appealing to a conscientious objection committee is “years old” and is based on Supreme Court precedent.

During its deliberations, the committee “became convinced that Tamar Ze’evi conscientiously opposed any military service of any kind,” the army said.

Ze’evi, however, has publicly stated that her issues are specifically with the IDF and the military occupation of the Palestinians.

Tamar Alon (Hila Aloni Ohayon/Mesarvot)
Tamar Alon (Hila Aloni Ohayon/Mesarvot)

Ze’evi served 115 days in the army’s Prison 6. Another draft refuser, Tamar Alon, who has been in Prison 6 for 118 days was not granted an exemption, Mesarvot said.

Mesarvot said Alon’s request was denied by the military’s “conscience committee” because it was a “selective refusal.”

Ze’evi was released at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday evening.

“I am excited to go free after I stood up for my truth and refused to take part in a military system that differentiates between human beings, that prefers one over others and feeds the hate between them,” Ze’evi said in a statement.

“I am sorry that the army did not recognize the conscience of my friend Tamar Alon, who refuses just like me to serve in an army that depresses another people,” she added.

The two teenage girls were locked up in November, after they declared their refusal to serve at the IDF at the Tel Hashomer induction center in Ramat Gan.

Writing in a blog for The Times of Israel, Ze’evi said: “The choice not to enlist means to take responsibility for my actions and their meaning, drawing a moral line that I’m not willing to cross, and actively resisting a government and a policy that violates human rights and fuels violent and cruel reality.”

Alon is a second-generation conscientious objector. Her father Chen Alon famously refused to serve as a reserve officer during the Second Intifada and then founded “Combatants for Peace,” a bi-national peace movement that connects Israeli and Palestinian activists.

It was through that organization that Alon met Palestinians and was exposed to the “harsh realities of their lives from a young age,” she said in November.

Last year, conscientious objector Tair Kaminer spent 166 days in prison before she was eventually released.

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