Intifada contributor Jillian
Kestler-DíAmours spoke with Gur
about what influenced her decision
to refuse military service, what the
response has been so far and what
she wants other young Israelis to
know about the realities of serving
in the Israeli army.
have you decided to refuse your
since it was established, is
committing war crimes and crimes
against humanity, from theNakba[the
forced displacement of 750,000
Palestinians in 1947-48] until
today. We see this in the last
massacre in Gaza, we see this in the
everyday life of Palestinians under
occupation in Gaza and the West
Bank, and we see this in
Palestinians living inside Israel in
how theyíre being treated.
I donít think that I
belong in this place. I donít think
I can personally take part in these
crimes and I think that we have to
criticize this institution, these
crimes and go out publicly saying
that we will not serve in the army
as long as it occupies other people.
leads to another question, which is
why did you decide to publicly state
your refusal, instead of ó as
Israelis who get out of their
military service often do ó using
some other kind of excuse?
years ago, there was a huge movement
of refuseniks and in the last two or
three years, itís kind of
disappeared. Iím the only refusenik
this year, so for me it was trying
to let people know that it still
exists, first of all.
Second of all, I
donít want to be silent. I feel like
[since] high school, weíve always
been silent. We always let our
criticism be known only in small
circles. The world doesnít know,
Palestinians donít know. I donít
know if it will change anything, but
I can only try. I feel better with
myself knowing that I tried to make
even the smallest change.
your family or upbringing have any
influence on your decision to refuse
parents are really not political.
Both of my parents went to the army.
My father took part in the first
Lebanon war and was injured there.
My mom, the same thing. My big
sister was in the border police. My
story was that I would finish high
school and I would go to the army.
That was the path for me.
I guess from the age
of 15, I started to take an interest
in the Nakba of 1948. I started
reading and seeing the whole
picture. I donít know really why,
but it just kind of happened. Then
later, I started reading testimonies
from the West Bank by Palestinians
and former soldiers. I started to
have Palestinian friends, and then
eventually taking part in protests
in the West Bank and seeing whatís
going on through my own eyes.
At the age of 16, I
decided I wouldnít serve in the
reaction have you received after you
publicly announced your refusal?
parents are really not supportive. I
guess my mom knows and my dad knows
that they donít have an option to
resist [my refusal] because itís my
opinion and Iím 18 years old. I did
not remain in contact with most of
my friends from high school; most of
them went to the army.
I received a lot of
good feedback in the last few days,
but also Iíve received really not
have the negative comments made you
made me feel that I should keep on
with what Iím doing. Most of the
comments made me feel Ö even if they
were bad and not supportive, really
made me see that itís the right
thing to do because Iím following
what I believe in. Itís what I think
is right and I donít really care
what other people might have to say
will happen when you formally submit
your refusal to serve?
16 April, I will have to be in the
recruiting center in Ramat Gan. I
will go in and I will have to
declare that Iím refusing. I will
stay there for a few hours and then
later I will be sentenced, for
[between] a week to a month. I will
serve my time in one of the womenís
jails, then I will be released. When
I will be released, I will have to
go again to Ramat Gan. Again, [I
will receive] a judgment from
[between] a week to a month, and
this will continue until the army
decides to stop.
needs to change within Israeli
society for more young people to
refuse their military service?
not sure if itís possible. I think
weíre at a place of no return. I
really do think that if we want to
change anything in the Israeli
society, the pressure needs to be
really, really strong from outside.
Thatís why I support the boycott,
divestment and sanctions call. Itís
really going to be hard to change it
from within. I think itís kind of
would you say to other 18-year-old
Israelis who are about to start
their military service?
think itís important that everyone
look into what they are doing. I
think that most of the 18-year-olds,
from my personal experience, donít
really know what theyíre going into.
They donít really know whatís going
on in [the West Bank and Gaza
Strip]. The only way they will see
Palestinians for the first time will
be once they will be soldiers.
It will be really
smart move to start, before getting
enlisted to the army, to see whatís
really going on. Try to realize,
talk to people Ö itís not that
scary. Try to read what people have
to say. I think itís really
important to see what youíre going
Jillian Kestler-DíAmours is a
reporter and documentary filmmaker
based in Jerusalem. More of her work
can be found athttp://jkdamours.com/.