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Tair, 19: Israel, “Will you put me in jail for a murder I will not commit?”

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Human Rights, Middle East & North Africa, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Uncategorized, War Crimes, World Law on April 27, 2016 at 9:30 AM

By Bernard Henry

In 1987 a British new wave group called Johnny Hates Jazz topped the charts with a song called I Don’t Want to Be a Hero, whose standardized, rather soulless music hid lyrics that were anything but common in the pop song industry of that era. No phony story of an impossible love romance – the song was really a fierce anti-war statement.

Among the lyrics, a question asked by the young man stating his refusal of conscription stands out:

“And what if I fail?
Will you put me in jail
For a murder I will not commit?”

By the time the song was released, the United Kingdom had long renounced conscription, as had the United States, Canada, and Australia. In the Western world, only in Europe could a draft be found, although the practice had gradually disappeared from the continent when the twentieth century ended. Except for Norway, Finland, Austria and Greece – plus neutral Switzerland – the then NATO allies of Britain against the Warsaw Pact are now all draft-free.

In what is generally called “the West”, only one non-European country retains a strong draft – Israel.

Ever since the Jewish State was created in 1948, its armed forces regrouped under the Hebrew acronym Tsahal, literally Tsva Haganah Lé-Yisrael, “Israeli Defense Force” (IDF), have taken in young people of both genders, male and female. Having been often at war with its Arab neighbors, being constantly in need of military personnel to maintain its occupation of the West Bank and the Golan Heights, Israel has traditionally had all of its sons and daughters wear the uniform for a few years – three for the boys, two for the girls. Exemptions are given, though, to observant religious Jews and, on quite different grounds, to non-Druze Arab Israeli citizens.

Then comes the problem when you “don’t want to be a hero”, in short, when you declare yourself a conscientious objector (CO), thus joining the number of the country’s shministim, “twelfth-graders”, students who refuse to comply with the law and enter the IDF once they have completed their high school studies as the law requires. You must appear before an IDF board, and if you fail to obtain exemption from military service, you will be ordered to enlist at once – or go to jail.

That is what happened this year to Tair Kaminer, 19. A member of Mesarvot – Jews for Justice for Palestinians, the young woman filed for conscientious objection but was turned down by the board. Sent to jail a first time, she was released and jailed again, and then jailed and released three more times. “The last military officer who sent me to jail told me that he was a member of the conscientious objection board,” says Kaminer. “He added that I had no chance of obtaining CO status and he would send me back to jail ‘for the rest of my life’ if I continued to resist.”

While serving her current sentence, Kaminer was given two weeks’ leave for the Jewish Passover, a national holiday in Israel. But upon leaving the military prison, she was told to return the next day. She chose to fully observe the two weeks’ leave and, instead of reporting to the prison as ordered, she stayed at home. “I am not ending my protest”, she insists. “I will return to the prison.” But she will have the IDF keep their word.


Tair Kaminer

Kaminer is by no means the first Israeli conscript to refuse enlistment. The issue has been with the IDF since 1970, when a first Shministim movement was created, followed in 1982 by the Yesh Gvul “There is a Limit/Frontier” organization of reservists who refused to serve in the Lebanon War, and a surge of CO initiatives under the premiership of the hawkish former IDF general and Defense Minister, Ariel Sharon, in the early 2000s. The latest two IDF military campaigns against Gaza, “Cast Lead” in 2009 and “Protective Edge” in 2014, also resulted in more CO applications from young Israelis, as has the announced expansion of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. As for today’s Shministim movement, it is comprised by an estimated 3,000 high school students.

This only makes it harder to understand why the IDF has proved so adamant about punishing Kaminer specifically, putting her in jail, as Johnny Hates Jazz sang, for “a murder (she) will not commit”.

In a country like Israel where such people as former Prime Ministers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert died without being prosecuted for the gross human rights abuses committed under their command by, respectively, IDF proxies in Lebanon and the IDF proper in Gaza – and to date, the incumbent, Benyamin Netanyahu, remains immune from domestic or international prosecution over the IDF’s campaign on Gaza’s civilian population in 2014, there must be room for the honest refusal of war stated with courage by young people whose love for their country will not be turned into hatred of their neighbors.

Hopefully, Tair’s sacrifice of her own freedom will let the Israeli government see that, in the very words of Johnny Hates Jazz, “It’s time to forget and forgive” its COs at last.

Johnny Hates Jazz, “I Don’t Want to Be a Hero”

Bernard Henry is the External Relations Officer of the Association of World Citizens.

The Yemen Conflict: Solutions to an Unnecessary War

In Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Human Rights, International Justice, Middle East & North Africa, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law on April 23, 2016 at 2:58 PM


By René Wadlow


During the Second World War, in the United States (U. S.) there was a government-sponsored publicity campaign to save automobile gas with the slogan “Is this trip necessary?” The aim was to show that if one really asked the question, many trips were not really necessary. We can ask the same question about wars today. In Yemen, is the Saudi-led war really necessary?

A new round of conflict-resolution meetings has started on April 20 in Kuwait, facilitated by the United Nations (UN) and led by Ould Cheikh Ahmed of Mauritania who had earlier been the UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen and so knows the country and its many factions well. There was an exchange of prisoners at the start as a goodwill measure.

A four-step conflict resolution outline has been proposed by a number of governments and nongovernmental organizations (NGO), including the Association of World Citizens (AWC):

1) an immediate ceasefire ending all foreign military attacks;

2) humanitarian assistance, especially important for hard-to-reach zones;

3) a broad national dialogue;

4) through this dialogue, the establishment of an inclusive unity government.


Smoke rises from a weapons dump outside Sanaa, the capital city of Yemen, after being hit in an airstrike. (C) Reuters

The title of the aggression of Saudi Arabia against Yemen changed its name from “Operation Decisive Storm” to “Operation Restoring Hope” probably on the advice of the public relations firm which advises the U. S. Pentagon on the names of its operations. Saudi bombing from the air of cities, hospitals and refugee camps, created a storm, but the results were in no way “decisive.” It is not likely that Saudi bombing will “Restore Hope.”

There is wide agreement in UN circles and among conflict-resolution NGOs that Yemen is a quagmire, with a free-fall of its economic and social infrastructure and with constant violations of the laws of war. The country is on the eve of a new division between the north and the south. Yemen’s present form dates from 1990 when south Yemen (Aden) was more or less integrated into the north, but the country remains highly fractured on tribal, sectarian, and ideological lines, with the tribal structures being the most important.


(C) CTV News, Canada

Negotiations among the multitude of factions in Yemen will be difficult. The most likely pattern will be for the country to split into two again with each half having a number of relatively autonomous regions. In the best of worlds, one could envisage a federal Yemen with the rule of law. More realistically, we can hope that these autonomous tribal areas do not fight each other actively. On a short term basis, we can hope that there will be minimum cooperation among the factions to allow necessary food imports and medical supplies.

Poverty and the lack of a peaceful political horizon seem to be the continuing fate of Yemen, but violent internal conflict and Saudi aggression may not be permanent. With the start of negotiations, there is a role for NGOs to encourage the efforts in contacting organizations and individuals that might have a positive impact on events. There are many geopolitical and economic interests who want “peace” on their terms. Thus, our role as World Citizens seeking a relatively just compromise solution is ever more important.

Prof. René Wadlow is President and a representative to the United Nations, Geneva, of the Association of World Citizens.

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