Magazine article New Internationalist

"In Our Children's Names." the Correspondence of a Young Israeli Refusing Military Service

Magazine article New Internationalist

"In Our Children's Names." the Correspondence of a Young Israeli Refusing Military Service

Article excerpt

Letter from Yair Halper

Shalom,

My name is Yair Halper and I am a conscientious objector to military service. On Wednesday 17 October 2001, I will be incarcerated for my beliefs.

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I consider myself a pacifist, and I am using that word only for the lack of a better one. I am only 18, still a child (at least in my eyes). I keep asking myself what the hell do I know about pacifism? My beliefs were never really tested. But still, 'pacifist' is the closest word I could find to describe and define what I am.

As a pacifist I object to any army universally, no matter where it is, who operates it or what purposes it serves. Furthermore, I object to service in the Israel Defence Forces in particular for political reasons. I will never carry a weapon and I refuse to wear a uniform or any symbol that represents, or that will in any way label me, as part of the army.

I see the Israeli army as a mechanism that hosts everything I oppose in its ranks. Every soldier contributes in his/her way to the perpetuation of not only the complete disregard for Palestinian human rights, but also the continuing fortification and confirmation of Military Israel.

The army brainwashes its soldiers to receive a brutal and inhumane mentality and makes the single soldier lose his/her individuality. I will not join a system that does not value human rights and that continues to rape, control and occupy the Palestinian territories.

As naive and cliched as it sounds, I know of only one way to live my life and that is by being true to myself, holding fast to my beliefs and principles and living by what they dictate to me.

Yes, I am willing and will be proud to sit in jail for what I see as right.

As Dostoevsky said: 'The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.'

I would appreciate any support, be it by letters, phone calls or any way you see fit.

Peace!

Yair Halper

Military ID 7237405, Military Prison 4, IDF Postal no 02507, Israel

Letter to Yair from Joe Lockard

Shalom Yair,

Today news arrived about you in an e-mail circular. As I read, my heart grew sick.

Your father circulated the news from Israel that you are now sitting in Military Prison 4 at Tzrifin as a conscientious objector to military service. I read the letter you wrote before entering prison.

We have not seen each other for a half-dozen years, but I have heard occasional word about you. My memories of you begin as a child, from before you could walk. There is a bitterness to think of you sitting in prison for refusing to hurt other people or deprive them of their share of the sun.

Yet, though it is small comfort, sitting in prison is only brief suffering.

Too many continue to suffer far more, far longer, at the hands of those - on both sides - who refuse co-existence in Israel/Palestine.

Years ago I listened to a friend tell me of how he had put on a uniform and had gone to fight in 1967 'so my children would not have to put on a uniform'. Your parents have done much the same for you, as I have done for my own children. Somewhere, some time, we must stop wearing uniforms and carrying weapons in our children's names.

A conscientious objector reminds us, particularly those of us who profess ourselves peace-lovers but willing to hold a weapon if necessary, that it takes courage to refuse weapons. A conscientious objector holds up those principles of peaceful co-existence that we claim and asks us to honor them with more than words.

So, after I swallow back my bitterness at your imprisonment, I am pleased that your principles have translated into principled refusals. …

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