Name: Udi Nir
Why I am one of the Shministim:
“I will not lend my own hand to the occupation and to acts that contradict my most basic values: human rights, democracy and the personal responsibility each and every human being bears towards fellow human beings.”
Sentence: Aug. 21st – Sept. 7th 2008 (18 days)
Udi Nir was the first conscientious objector to be imprisoned among the 2008 Shministim. He was called up to enlist in the Israeli Military on 18, August, but planned to delay his imprisonment (technically – by going AWOL) to join other signatories of the letter in protest. This intention, however, was noted by the press as to raise the profile of the Shministim Udi had appeared on TV and in a newspaper article. This resulted in what was arguably the quickest operation of its sort in Israel’s history. On 19 August, one day after the date he was meant to enlist at the Induction Base, Udi was arrested by civilian police (itself an unprecedented move), and was subsequently given a conditional sentence of 6 days in prison. The following day he was again tried, this time for refusing an order to enlist, and was sentenced again.
In his refusal declaration Udi wrote:
“I cannot take part in the activities of an occupying army, which constantly violates human rights. As an Israeli citizen and as an adolescent liable for enlistment I feel a sense of extensive responsibility for the cycle of violence and for all the choices I am making. It is out of this sense of responsibility that I refuse to enter the cycle of bloodshed and to add fuel to the fire of hatred raging here. I refuse to enlist into an occupying army so that I will not lend my own hand to the occupation and to acts that contradict my most basic values: human rights, democracy and the personal responsibility each and every human being bears towards fellow human beings.”
Full Declaration of Refusal:
A few months ago I met a few Palestinian youths, face to face, for the first time. As a person who has been long engaged in study of and active resistance to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories and as an activist devoted to preventing human rights violations in the world in general, I did not expect to hear anything that would be unknown or surprising at that meeting.
Indeed, the stories I have heard from those youths about the Israeli military’s activities in the areas administered by the Palestinian Authority, as horrifying as they were, did not surprise me at all. But the look in the eyes of one Palestinian girl, as she was telling these painful stories, touched me and brought up feelings I had not experienced before.
The Israeli-Palestinian cycle of bloodshed I know well, and even though I do not have any suggestion for adequately resolving this violent and bloody conflict, I feel deeply responsible for the part I should or should not be taking in it.
At home and in school I was brought up on the values of freedom, equality, human rights and care for others. Today, these are the values that are most important to me, values that guide me in my decisions to react to various possible scenarios; values in light of which I act in a way a perceive to be moral and right.
Time and time again I find myself bewildered by the fact that the same education system, which has taught me these values early on, preaches me today to enlist into the army that brutally breaches in countless ways each and every one of the values I have mentioned.
I consider it immoral to deny millions of people of the right to free movement. It is immoral to “liquidate” people and to kill men, women and children who happened to be at the same place and time. It is immoral to keep people intolerably long hour at checkpoints in inhuman conditions. It is immoral to collectively punish many for the crimes of few. All these actions are immoral even if they were part of a “war of no choice”, even if these actions are intended to ensure my own security here in the centre of Israel, and that of millions of American citizens and of the citizens of various countries in Europe.
The claim has often been made that sometimes one has to injure innocent people on the other side to save the lives of people on your own. But is such an approach wise? For even if you have stopped one person who endangers you for any innocent person you have injured along the way – you have created a thousand new enemies to endanger you tomorrow because of their growing frustration and desire for revenge or liberation.
I believe this worldview to be valid for any place and time. I am trying to struggle against any violation of human rights, whether it happens in the society I am part of and in the state I am a citizen of, or if it takes place anywhere else on the globe and injures people I have no direct contact with.
Had we taken the resources invested in warfare, occupation and other actions violating human rights, and diverted them to the cause of finding a solution for the problematic situation, we might have discovered a solution for the conflicts, or we might have at least minimised the damage caused by them.
Some raise the option of serving in a non-combatant role in the military, without taking part directly in the fighting. I view this suggestion as a meagre evasion of responsibility. I shall not cooperate with a system that performs so many illegal, vile and horrible actions; I shall not cooperate with it as a combatant, and neither shall I cooperate with it as a junior clerk. The hangman and the one who constructed the gallows share equal responsibility.
My personal moral responsibility, which I have already mentioned, is far deeper and broader than my specific political views or of my perceptions of the repeated errors committed by the Israelis, or of the equally damaging errors committed by the Palestinians. This responsibility I bear because I am human, and it holds in my relations with any other human being. I therefore refuse to take part in immoral violent actions, whether ordered to do so or not.
Some values stand above law and democracy. Freedom and equality are the supreme values, and law and democracy are there to uphold them, not the other way around.
Human rights are violated all over the world under the pretext of the War against Terror. A conspicuous example is the arrest and interrogation, performed by the CIA against citizens of its own country and of others. Many people, often innocent, are secretly kidnapped, removed from their dear ones, and are incarcerated for extended periods of time in facilities such as the one in Guantanamo Bay. And while activities of this sort may perhaps prevent some terrorist acts and save lives in the short term, they only deepen hatred, violence and vindictiveness in all the parties involved, and legitimise illegal actions – because they are themselves flagrantly illegal and immoral. Such activity may be thought to be life-saving, but in fact, in the long term, it only expands the circle of bloodshed and the extent of violence and toll in human lives.
This responsibility I have mentioned has been ingrained in me for many years now, but the eyes of that young Palestinian woman I met a few months ago, and the quiet talk we had, reminded me that on the other side of the Separation Wall there is not only a great and divided nation we are in conflict with for many years. There are also youths my age there, who are also tired of the violence and the bloodshed, who live in constant fear and insecurity.
Violence in our region is more rampant than ever and closer than ever to our reach. Those Palestinian youths and I fact the same choice: will we take part in this violence, or will we take any legitimate course of action to prevent it?
Out of my firm and strong belief that not circumstances or values, in any conflict around the globe, are superior to the importance of human rights and the duty to protect them and prevent their violation, I hereby refuse to take part in the cycle of bloodshed and to cooperate with the system that partakes in it. I shall not serve in the Israeli Defence Forces under any conditions or circumstances.