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Sunday, October 26 – At 7.30 a.m. tomorrow morning, Mia Tamarin, a 19-year-old high school graduate, will return to military prison. Her bag is packed and she knows the routine: it’s her third time in two months.

“I am a little tired, a little scared,” she says in a phone interview from Tel Aviv, Israel, just hours before she reports for incarceration.

Mia is a pacifist and a conscientious objector. She is being punished for the crime of refusing to serve in the Israeli military, where conscription is compulsory for men and women.

For Israelis, military service is not only considered a basic pillar in the defense of the country, but also a barometer of acceptance in society. Refuseniks, as conscientious objectors are sometimes called, are usually considered traitors and enjoy very little support, even from political parties and groups that stand firmly within the “peace camp.”

“My family’s reaction was the hardest,” says Mia. “They dislike the way I am doing things, it bothers them. Of course they are worried about me, and every pain I feel hurts them too, but my father thinks I should serve.” For him, refusal stands in complete contradiction with loving and supporting the country, she explains.

For Israelis, refusing to serve in the army is a murky and complicated process. While the Israeli army accepts refusal on the basis of religion or pacifism, it does so very selectively in the latter case, only rarely accepting a radical interpretation of universal pacifism. All other motives – such as political refusal or “partial refusal” to serve in the occupied territories – are considered, in the words of former Chief of Staff Moshe Ya’alon, “incitement and defiance of the foundations of the government and of democracy.” (more…)

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