14. Resisting the funnel

On 21 March 2011, an Israeli military court sentenced Ajuad Zidan to 20 more days of imprisonment for his refusal to serve in the army.

When his current sentence ends, once again he will be ordered to report for his compulsory three-year military service.  Each time he refuses, he is sentenced again and returned to prison.  The current prison term is his seventh.

Ajuad Zidan, 18, is a Palestinian member of the Druze religious community, from the town of Beit Jann in northern Israel.  Unlike most other Palestinian citizens of Israel, members of the Druze community are conscripted into the Israeli army.

Ajuad is a conscientious objector to military service.  He told the press, “The loneliness of the prison cell is one thousand times better than standing in front of my people while pointing a gun at them, or imposing a curfew on them.”  He also confirmed his refusal to carry weapons or to be part of any military force.

In Israel military conscription is hard to resist.  Ruth Hiller, an Israeli mother and a co-founding member of New Profile (see below*) describes the induction process as a funnel that conditions Israelis from birth, and pours thousands of young people into the military, year after year.  She explains, “The formal induction process starts when you’re sixteen, when your name – your identity really – moves from the Ministry of the Interior to the Ministry of Defence.  At that point your child is not your child anymore, but the state’s.”

New Profile seeks to counter this pervasive militarization of all aspects of life by building a more civil society.  Their motto: Civil-izing Israel.  One of the organization’s primary functions is to support Israeli citizens like Ajuad Zidan who resist the military funnel.

In a chapter of Our Way to Fight, several young Israelis — shministim, refusers — speak freely to me about the life journeys that led them to refuse, their experience of prison, and their continuing resistance to militarism and the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

Ajuad Zidan needs and deserves our support.  Seven consecutive prison terms is an especially brutal punishment; more usually the military releases conscientious objectors quietly after three to four prison terms, hoping to limit public scrutiny of what they are resisting, and why.

New Profile* requests that as many people as possible write support letters to Ajuad, also letters to the military authorities and the media requesting his release as a conscientious objector.  Addresses are provided in this appeal from New Profile.

Please pass this message on to others.

One refuser told me that the support letters she received in military prison were life-lines.  “They remind you why are you doing this. In prison the authorities want you to think it doesn’t mean anything.  Then you get so many letters, and it reminds you that what you are doing matters to someone.  Maybe it makes people think, maybe it makes a small change.”

* To read about New Profile, and recent attempts to shut it down, see the chapter Civil-izing Israel, in Our Way to Fight.

About Michael Riordon

Canadian writer and documentary-maker Michael Riordon writes/ directs/produces books and articles, audio, video and film documentaries, plays for radio and stage. A primary goal of his work is to recover voices and stories of people who have been silenced or marginalized, written out of the official version: First Nations (aboriginal) youth, Mozambican farmers, inmates in Canadian prisons, traditional healers in Fiji, queer folk across Canada, Guatemalan labour activists. Michael also leads courses, workshops and seminars for community organizations, trade unions, schools, colleges and universities.
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