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My Draft Resistance
by Danya Vaknin
6:14pm Sat Mar 8 '03
Danya Vaknin, 19, is from Mevaseret Zion. She is currently doing national service at a school in Tel-Aviv. She is active with New Profile and with the Seniorsâ€™ Letter group (Shministim). This is her fourth year as a volunteer at the Magen David Adom ambulance service.
I canâ€™t remember exactly when I decided I wasnâ€™t prepared to take an active role in the army. I remember I started talking about it, I decided to open up questions that I was afraid to ask, hard questions that the society I lived in always took for granted, as pre-determined. Pretty spontaneously I announced to my friends that I didnâ€™t intend to enlist in the IDF.
The problem was that, even for myself, I couldnâ€™t explain exactly why. I knew about the occupation and I knew about the oppression but it was so far away. I guess I was wrong and it was actually so close by.
My best friend couldnâ€™t take my decision. She told me she didnâ€™t respect me, that we have no choice, that we have to fight.
Other friends didnâ€™t take me seriously and said I was just creating a provocation (is refusing the occupation a provocation??)
I could never understand why people believe that the right way is to fight. The sense weâ€™re in an unending war creates that feeling; they say thereâ€™s no other choice and we simply have to defend ourselves, that the only solution to the conflict is a military one. And weâ€™re taught not to ask ‘why.â€™ I donâ€™t believe in wars, I never did. Iâ€™m told that the army protects us. I feel scared and tense and very unprotected when I see the army around me.
When I was doing volunteer work at a hospital trauma unit, a wounded terrorist was brought in.
I heard the doctors whispering, there were rumors he was a terrorist.
When I asked the head nurse she yelled at me and said it made no difference whether or not he was a terrorist and that if I had a problem with it I should leave and not come back.
Sheâ€™s right. It doesnâ€™t matter if heâ€™s a terrorist or not, everyone is entitled to medical treatment and Iâ€™m certainly not the one to decide they arenâ€™t. I looked straight into the terroristâ€™s eyes, after he had hurt someone I knew. He asked me politely for a piece of gum, I told him he couldnâ€™t, that they were going to take an X-ray.
When I told my friends about it they were stunned. Some of them were angry and said if they had been there, they would have let him die, and how could I even talk about something so immoral.
“Should I be the one to decide who deserves to die and who doesnâ€™t,” I answered. But it was hopeless. They said a terrorist wasnâ€™t a human being, that it would have been more moral to kill him.
A few months went by, I got my first summons to the conscription center for examinations, and I went through all kinds of screening for jobs in the IDF. I did it out of fear, fear to face my resistance. I was afraid that once again it would arouse harsh responses around. That it would confront me again with thoughts and questions that were hard to handle.
At one point, I canâ€™t remember exactly when, I knew I intended to get an exemption from service in the IDF. I didnâ€™t know how to name it and I couldnâ€™t explain my reasons. People called it “pacifism.” I was afraid of that definition.
I began a journey, looking for answers, talking to people, looking on the web. I joined the vigils of “Women in Black,” I went to demonstrations and I signed the High School Seniorsâ€™ Letter. Looking back, that turned to be one of the most significant things Iâ€™ve done.
My fear of pacifism passed, when my whole class went to play “Paintball” as a social outing. The trainer explained the semi-automatic paint rifles, the correct defensive moves, how to aim at the “enemy,” how to switch magazines.
I didnâ€™t take part in that game. I came home a pacifist.
I started standing up for what I was saying and tried to explain myself like I had always wanted to. I know what I think of the situation in Israel and how to solve this long, ongoing conflict. I just know that I myself along with other conscientious objectors, resisting the draft, or inside the army, or resisting in reserves, have made the most moral choice possible. Weâ€™ve refused to enlist in the IDF. Weâ€™ve disrupted a very broad consensus, but itâ€™s very important to disrupt it, important for people to start asking questions.
I was summoned to the “conscience committee.”
The committee was a big joke, an insult to intelligence. In a set, very short time I was supposed to prove that I have a conscience and that Iâ€™m a pacifist. What had taken me so long to formulate was supposed to fit into seven whole minutes.
I got through the committee. A heavy burden was lifted. I know what I did was brave and moral but in the society I live in Iâ€™m often challenged.
A lot of people say that if I were a man it would be different. Then they wouldnâ€™t accept me at all. Men are more vital to the IDF, thatâ€™s a fact, but the message I wanted to get across is the same as any message a male draft resister might want to sound. Many people miss that point. For them, thereâ€™s no place for draft resistance in this country and they donâ€™t even think about the motives. People simply accept that thereâ€™s no choice.
Draft resistance doesnâ€™t end when the exemption certificate arrives. Draft resistance is something I have to deal with day by day, when I see soldiers, when people ask me whether Iâ€™m done serving yet, when they ask me when Iâ€™m scheduled to enlist, or whether Iâ€™m entitled to a soldiersâ€™ discount when I buy a movie ticket.
At times it seems like it would have been easier to enlist. The price of resistance is high. Iâ€™ve lost most of my friends. My friends are in the army now. They canâ€™t talk to me without getting angry or without dealing with a lot of emotions.
I know I wonâ€™t stand for it, that I wonâ€™t accept the “no choice” outlook, that I canâ€™t be part of the army, that I canâ€™t occupy, that I canâ€™t oppress. After all, the value system Iâ€™ve constructed clashes so clearly with serving in the IDF. Today more than ever, I have no problem saying that and really meaning it.
New Profile - Movement for the Civil-ization of Israeli Society
POB 48005, Tel-Aviv 61480, Israel
Voice box: ++972-(0)3-516-01-19
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Much love to you
2:15am Sun Mar 16 '03
I just wanted to say I support you.
Most Americans who are aware of your options
would side with you. Of course most are not
aware due to our prohibitive media.
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12:02am Thu May 1 '03
Thank you Danya for standing up for what you believe. It certainly is hard in our militant society to find like-minded people/friends.
I'm sorry to hear that you lost most of your friends. I know the feeling too.
At times I feel that the easiest option would be to just pick up and leave this place, put this all behind me.
Here I still am though, with my son soon to face his first conscription interview.
The times are certainly difficult. I applaud your courage, and the courage of the refusnik "boys" in our jails.
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