Conscientious objector Einat Gerlitz, 19, is currently serving a 7 day prison sentence for her refusal to enlist in the Israeli army and take part in the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories. Two other conscientious objectors, Nave Shabtay Levin (18) and Evyatar Moshe Rubin (19), are currently imprisoned and another, Shahar Schwartz (18) is awaiting trial for the second time after he was jailed for 10 days. Below is Einat’s refusal statement.
My name is Einat Gerlitz, I am 19 years old, and I just completed one year of civil service. At the age of 16, when the enlisting process started and discussions turned to what would be a “meaningful army service”. I asked myself what a meaningful service might mean.
In high school I was a youth activist on issues of climate change, and through this activism I met youth from all over Israel. I met Palestinian youth from Sakhnin, and together we thought about the future of our generation in the reality of the climate crisis. Through my connection with them I learned about the experience of Palestinians who live in Israel and that encouraged me to learn about the hard life of Palestinians who are under Israeli occupation. I knew there is a violent regime in the west bank, but I did not know how that statement translated into an everyday reality. The acquaintance with the Palestinian activists led me to start asking questions and to wonder about the connection between serving in the Israeli army and the violent regime of the occupation.
I wondered how I could work in solidarity with Palestinians, while at the same time being part of the army that violently controls them. As time went by, I was exposed to the hidden realities of the occupation. To the reality of hundreds of children being arrested by the army every year, and by the effect of these arrests on the children’s future; the reality of soldiers who prevent Palestinians from accessing their land and limit their ability to earn a living; the reality of the support that the army gives settlers’ violence against Palestinians. I realized that to serve in the army is a political choice, and I chose to refuse.
My friends say that serving in the army is a lifetime opportunity. But I think that the act of refusing is my chance to use my privilege as an Israeli Jew in order to actively change our cruel reality. This reality hides behind the one-sided Zionist narrative that we learned. The generations before built the nation not on empty lands but on top of Palestinians who lived there before. We are not better than the Palestinians. They deserve the same basic democratic rights, the same independence, the same access to water, freedom of movement, education, and a secure life.
Therefore, I choose to refuse to take part of an army that control the Palestinian people and deprive them of their freedom.
In my act of refusal, I take responsibility for the society I live in. I want to live in a society whose people do not surrender to silencing. I want to live in society that knows how to acknowledge the experiences of different people even if it destabilizes its official narrative.
I call on my age group to open their eyes and ask questions – does violent control over civilian population can bring security? Do not weapons and violence increase hatred and desire for revenge? Who would you be if you grew up with the threat of guns and with nightly searching operations in your neighborhood? I refuse because I want to remind you that there are children living there, on the other side of the wall. Children like you and like me.
In solidarity, Einat
See also here: Oren Ziv, ‘Refusing is the minimum’: Why these Israeli teens are objecting to army service, +972, September 2, 2022 (https://www.972mag.com/four-conscientious-objectors-israel-army/)