‘People say I’m naive, antisemitic, a traitor’: Israeli teen jailed for draft refusal

Conscientious objector Sofia Orr explains why she never wavered in her decision despite the crackdown in Israel against opponents of the war.

Sofia Orr

Oren Ziv reports in +972 on 26 February 2024:

On Sunday morning, 18-year-old Israeli conscientious objector Sofia Orr arrived at the army’s recruitment center near Tel Aviv and declared her refusal to enlist in mandatory military service in protest of Israel’s war on Gaza and long-standing occupation. The second Israeli teenager to publicly refuse the draft for political reasons since October 7 — following Tal Mitnick who did so in December — Orr was sentenced to an initial 20 days in Neve Tzedek military prison, which will likely be extended if she continues to refuse to enlist.

“The current atmosphere is much more violent against my beliefs, so obviously I’m more afraid, but I think that in these times the most important thing is to express a voice of resistance,” she told +972 and Local Call in an interview last week. “I choose to refuse because there are no winners in war. We’re seeing it now more than ever. All people, from the Jordan River to the [Mediterranean] sea, are suffering from this war, and only peace, a political solution, and the presentation of an alternative can lead to real security.”

Orr explained that she had already decided to refuse her mandatory conscription long before the war began, because of “the occupation and oppression that the army enforces against Palestinians in the West Bank.” The Hamas-led October 7 attacks, she said, “showed us once again that violence only leads to more violence and that we must solve this peacefully rather than through more violence.”

Approximately 30 left-wing activists, most of them teenagers, accompanied Orr to the recruitment center. They held a protest in support of her decision to refuse, arousing the interest of several ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students who had come to get exemptions from military service.

Thousands of Israeli teenagers are exempted from the draft every year, primarily on religious grounds, but only a handful declare themselves to be politically opposed to military service. In addition to variable prison time, conscientious objection can shrink career prospects and result in social stigmatization.

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