Sahar Vardi – 2009

Name: Sahar Vardi
Age: 18
Location: Jerusalem
Why I am one of the Shministim:
“I realize that the soldier at the checkpoint is not responsible for the wretched policy of the oppressor towards civilians, I am unable to relieve that soldier of responsibility for his conduct … I mean the human responsibility of not causing another human being to suffer.”
First Sentence: 25th – 31st Aug. 2008 (6 days)
Second Sentence: 12th – 30th Oct. (18 days)
Third Sentence: 3rd – 21st Nov. 2008 (18 days)

Sahar was the third conscientious objector, and the first woman, to be imprisoned among this years group of high school seniors, who signed a collective declaration of refusal to serve in the Israeli army of occupation.

While she stresses the importance of resisting the occupation of Palestine as a motive for her refusal, Sahar’s conscientious objection is also rooted in a wider pacifist position.

During her sentence Sahar refused to wear a military uniform in prison, and subsequently spent the duration of her detention in solitary confinement. The Isolation Wards of military prisons in Israel are often the cite of various minor or less minor forms of abuse, so Sahar needs your support.

In a letter to the Minister of Defense, declaring her refusal to serve in the military, She wrote:

“I have been to the occupied Palestinian territory many times, and even though I realize that the soldier at the checkpoint is not responsible for the wretched policy of the oppressor towards civilians, I am unable to relieve that soldier of responsibility for his conduct … I mean the human responsibility of not causing another human being to suffer.

The bloody times in which I live (consisting of assassinations, aggression, bombings, shootings) results in increasing numbers of victims on both sides. It is a vicious circle that emanates from the fact that both sides elect to engage in violence. This choice I refuse to take part in.”

A peaceful demonstration was organized in support of Sahar before her first sentence in military prison on August 25, 2008. About 80 people joined the demonstration, and were met by a small counter-demonstration organized by a pro-military group. The pro-military group confronted the original protesters aggressively and head-butted one of the demonstrators and drove a motorcycle into the crowd.


Full declaration of refusal:

I first set eyes on the occupation as a 12 year old girl. It was in a small Palestinian village south-west of Jerusalem inhabited by some 25 families most of whom well educated, constructers, PEO employees. They did not seem to be any different to me than most people I sow walking dawn the streets. The only visible difference was that they had green ID’s.

As a 12 year old who came to the village to replace the one inch water pipe pf the village to a 2 inch pipe, I did not understand the full meaning of the different colour of the ID, but I did understand the simple meaning: separation.

The fact that the road to the village from Jerusalem was blocked by the IDF, the fact that a fence separated the village from its neighboring village and the deferent IDs – all of these came to separate me from “them” and to prove beyond a doubt that we are not equal.

I brought up at school, and at home as well, on the so called obvious core values such as justice, freedom, human rights and equality, and here I fund out, before I even began junior high, that the state in which I live does not care fir these values, and not only does it not care for them, it violates them and suppresses millions of people so that I could enjoy the “freedom” they taught me everyone deserves.

Since I have visited the occupied territories countless times, and as much as I tried to convince myself that the soldier in the checkpoint is not to be blamed for the suppressing policy of Israel, I could not strip that soldier from his responsibly for his own actions. I don’t speak only of the political implications of guarding a settlement, or the legal implications of the murders we perform in the occupied territories. I speak of the human responsibly of every one of us not to harm our fellow man.

The clause in the Geneva Convention that speaks of freedom of thought, conscience and religion grants every person the right to act or refuse to act according to his or her conscience, but in my opinion in it is not a matter of right, but of obligation. It is our obligation as human beings not to hurt others, to protect their rights and to treat others like we would wish to be treated ourselves.

If this is our obligation, is it one our obligation to refuse to take part in any action that includes harming others, even one that we our abridged to perform by the law in our state? Do we not have the moral, human and even legal obligation to refuse to prevent people pf their freedom of movement, of housing, of occupation, and above all these the right to live?

For all of these I can not stand in a checkpoint and separate one race from another, one ID from another, and I can not bombard cities filled with men women and children even if it is done as a part of a war, and I can not punish millions if innocents for the crimes of few. This is not only because I refuse to be a pawn of politicians, but because I refuse to cause suffering. I refuse to act violently under orders or not.

Many will say that sometimes violence is needed to prevent greater violence, but to thee people I will address two questions: the first is if we are really trying to prevent more violence or are we only trying to prevent violence toward ourselves by the use of more violence? The second question is if it is possible to prevent suffering by implementing it? Does it not stand in contradiction of itself? Did the use of violence and “counter-violence” by the human race throughout history end violence?

The blood cycle in which I live, that composed of bombings, and suicide attacks, and shootings and more and more victims on both sides is a cycle perpetuated by the choice of both sides to react violently, a choice I refuse to be a part of.

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