‘Shining stars’ show a way to reject Occupation

February 17, 2017
Sarah Benton

Conscientious objectors Tamar Alon (left) and Tamar Ze’evi. They were arrested last November. Photo by Rami Ben Ari

Israel’s Shining Stars of Conscience: Its Conscientious Objectors

Three young women prefer to be behind bars than be part of an occupation that embitters Palestinian lives.

By Odeh Bisharat, Haaretz premium
February 06, 2017

On Monday we’ll see if the army extends the detention of conscientious objectors Tamar Ze’evi and Tamar Alon, who have spent 74 days in a military prison. Another conscientious objector, Atalia Ben Abba, will be joining them at the hearing for the first time.

It’s important to note that these three young women weren’t among those who threw bleach and stones at policemen in Amona. It’s just that they have a conscience, and the hell with where it leads. These are girls who prefer to be behind bars than be part of an occupation that embitters Palestinian lives. The price they’re paying is a denial of their freedom.

I can’t accept the claim that the oppression of another people, the denial of basic human rights, and racism and hatred are necessary for the existence of State of Israel.
Tamar Alon

I’ve been trying to figure out the nature of conscience, that wondrous creature that’s subject to repression in many places but still springs up again in all its power and glory. According to Wikipedia, conscience is “an aptitude, faculty, intuition or judgment that assists in distinguishing right from wrong.”

I’ve never seen an independent conscience wandering the streets. Nor do I know in which part of the body the conscience resides – the head, the heart, or maybe the big toe. But every time the conscience rises up – whether through conduct or by taking a stand, I tremble with pride and my eyes tear up at the realization that I’m part of the human race and I can quickly forget Benjamin Netanyahu, Bashar Assad and Donald Trump.

Don’t get me wrong; everyone has a conscience and a matching personal morality. Thus the conscience of Zionist Union’s Tzipi Livni leads her to criticize the “regularization bill” aimed at legalizing illegal settlements. The truth is, I was a bit worried about her when I heard this but quickly calmed down when I realized she’s fine.

It turns out she’s against the bill because “if we make a fuss over every mobile home, we’ll be overreaching and end up with nothing. The regularization bill does us more damage than Breaking the Silence, B’Tselem or any other organization. Passage of the bill will get Israeli soldiers taken to The Hague,” she said, referring to the International Criminal Court.

We must therefore clarify that Livni’s morals have no connection to morality, and if they met true morality, they might be called traitorous. Livni’s morality is mortgaged to the land lust that prevails here; grab as much Arab land as you can. If the legalization lets you grab more, fine. If it doesn’t embarrass Israel in front of the world, great. And if no Israeli soldiers are at risk of prosecution in The Hague, even better.
Livni’s morality is immoral. It’s like a mother telling her son, “Don’t hit too many children because your hand will hurt.”

And here we have conscientious objector Tamar Alon, whom I view as my daughter, saying clearly, “I’m not willing to accept the claim that oppressing another people, denying basic human rights, racism and hate are essential to Israel’s existence.” She refuses to serve in the occupation army not because of what the world will say, not because she fears the ICC in The Hague, but because the occupation is immoral.

But the system doesn’t embrace her and take pride in her comments, which testify to her morality. It puts her in jail for weeks. Maybe her conscience will be repaired there.

Meanwhile, 245 students at Tel Aviv’s Ironi Alef High School have signed a petition expressing their support for her. Big Brother, please note.

It’s not easy for parents when their daughters pay a heavy price for adhering to their consciences. But their stance paves a different trail for two peoples yearning for a life of peace and tranquility. The Iraqi poet Muzaffar al-Nawab wrote, “I know you cry alone, but you’ve added another lamp to the path.”

Your daughters are like shining stars in our long night.

Israeli army jails two conscientious objectors for fourth time

By the time their latest sentence comes to an end, Tamar Ze’evi, 19, and Tamar Alon, 18, will have spent a total of 74 days in jail for refusing to serve in the Israeli army.

By Yael Marom, trans by Natasha Roth, +972
January 10, 2017

Tamar Alon and Tamar Ze’evi stand outside the IDF’s Tel Hashomer induction base where they were expected to declare their refusal to serve in the army, and be sentenced to prison, Tel Aviv, November 16, 2016. Photo by Haggai Matar.

 Tamar Alon, declaration November 2016:

From a young age I met my parents’ Palestinian friends — I met people who are supposed to be my enemies who smiled at me, played with me, and spoke with me. I can’t accept the claim that the oppression of another people, the denial of basic human rights, and racism and hate are necessary for the existence of State of Israel.

[Alon added that she finalized her decision to refuse serving in the army after hearing the speeches of two bereaved brothers, an Israeli and a Palestinian, at a joint memorial day ceremony in which they both asked others to learn from their personal tragedies and instead work for peace.

On the one hand, it’s my legal and societal obligation, which I always intended and expected to fulfil — the right to safeguard the security of my home and the people most dear to me. But on the other hand, is a childhood in the shadow of terror attacks and wars real security? What about the security of those human beings on the other side of the walls? Am I, as a daughter of the people controlling the another people, responsible for their well-being? Where is the line where we stop collaborating, have we already crossed it? I am not willing to lend a hand to a situation in which two peoples are living in fear of each other, and are paying such a heavy price for dozens of years. Out of love for this land and the human beings who live in it, I want to believe, and I do believe that there is a different path and that we can effect change.

The Israeli army on Monday sent two conscientious objectors to jail for the fourth time, just five days after they had finished serving their third stint in prison. Presenting themselves at the Tel Hashomer military induction base, Tamar Ze’evi, 19, and Tamar Alon, 18, declared their refusal to join the army and take part in the occupation, for which they were sentenced to 30 days’ detention. The army also decided to separate the two women, sending them to different prisons. By the end of this latest period in jail, they will have spent a total of 74 days behind bars for refusing to serve in the army.

Standing at the entrance to the induction centre, the women said:

The choice to refuse army service is one of the stepping stones to turning life in this homeland into one of peace, freedom and fellowship. In our refusal to take part in a system of oppression, we are in solidarity with everyone who is being denied the freedom of choice.

Alon’s mother, Moria Shlomot, on Tuesday posted to Facebook:

Scared of an alliance of two brave women? Yesterday evening the two Tamars were again sentenced, receiving a 30-day jail term for their refusal to take part in the occupation.

When they arrived at Prison Six they were told that this time round they were being separated, and that Tamar Alon, my beloved daughter, was being sent back to be arrested at the induction base before being transferred to Prison Four.

At night, during the telephone conversations they were allowed to make to their parents, the two said that despite the difficulties their spirits were holding strong!

Corinne Ze’evi, Tamar Ze’evi’s mother, said on Tuesday that “Tamar’s actions again give me the hope and desire to act, before despair.”      

Alon and Ze’evi both requested that they perform civilian national service instead of military service. In her original declaration of her refusal to serve, Ze’evi, a resident of Jerusalem, wrote: “Out of love for this land and the human beings who live in it, I want to believe, and I do believe that there is a different path and that we can effect change.”

Alon, who lives in Tel Aviv, wrote in her declaration: “I can’t accept the claim that the oppression of another people, the denial of basic human rights, and racism and hatred are necessary for the existence of State of Israel.”

Tair Kaminer, age 19

On the day she was released from her third stint in jail, Alon took to Facebook to talk about her friendship with Ze’evi, to whom she was introduced by fellow refuser Tair Kaminer (who last year spent five months in military prison, the longest such period for a female conscientious objector in Israel).

Although the real partnership only began 44 days ago (depending on who’s counting), it has been through so much, and today is in the best place it can be. I am proud to say that Tamar is above all a friend, and after that an ally.

Our fight is not an easy one, together and individually we encounter people who are unappreciative, who curse us and hate us personally, but this togetherness we have created always makes me feel that despite the difficulties, there is someone with me. 

Yael Marom is Just Vision’s public engagement manager in Israel and a co-editor of Local Call, where this article was originally published in Hebrew

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