Marco Longari Agence France-Presse On Saturday, a small anti-war demonstration took place in Tel Aviv, which was quickly dispersed. “We are a minority” to oppose the war in Gaza, “it’s true, but we exist and the rest of the world must know it,” insists Cindy, 65, who took part in it.
Anuj Chopra – Agence France-Presse and Margaux Bergey in Tel-Aviv
- Middle East
In a Tel Aviv cafe, 17-year-old Sofia Orr discusses her refusal of military service with peace activist Nave Shabtay Levin: They speak in hushed tones, afraid of being overheard as Israel continues its war against Hamas Palestinian in the Gaza Strip.
They know they are an ultra-minority in a country traumatized by the attacks of October 7 by the Palestinian Islamist movement, which led, on the Israeli side, to the death of around 1,140 people, mostly civilians, according to a count from AFP based on official data.
According to a poll by the Midgam Institute published on January 14 in the right-wing weekly Makor Rishon, 92% of Jewish Israelis support a continued fighting until the collapse of Hamas in Gaza.
For her refusal, Sofia Orr risks military arrest. In Israel, conscription is compulsory for the majority of Israeli men and women over the age of 18, with exceptions for religious or medical reasons, but never political.
“It’s courageous to refuse” to serve, “even more so in times of war,” replies Nave Shabtay Levin, 20, who spent 115 days behind bars for his refusal last year last, before the Gaza war.
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“My conscience does not allow me to get involved,” Sofia Orr explains to AFP, who regrets that “we fight fire with fire.”
In December, Tal Mitnick, 18, became the first person to be arrested since the war began, for thirty days, for refusing to take part in what he described as “a war of vengeance,” according to Mesarvot (“We refuse” in Hebrew).
This collective of conscientious objectors has not made any other cases public since, although several of its members have said they would follow suit.
“We are a minority” to oppose the war, “it’s true, but we exist and the rest of the world must know it,” insists Cindy, 65, who came to participate on Saturday in a small demonstration quickly dispersed in Tel Aviv.
Like Cindy, many people interviewed by AFP at this demonstration did not want to give their last name. “It’s hard to express your opinion against war,” says Moran, 37, with a “Yes to Peace, No to War” sign attached to his bike.
Faced with the martial rhetoric of Israeli officials of all political stripes, conscientious objectors say they are considered “traitors” and claim to receive death threats.
The sentence imposed on Tal Mitnick (30 days) is harsher than those generally handed down before the war against political conscientious objectors, usually 10 days in prison, extended if they continue to refuse.
Mesarvot brings together a few dozen conscientious objectors, but their exact number is not known, because many do not speak out publicly.
When asked, the army refused to comment or give figures. It can boast of the support of the population in the face of criticism abroad over the toll of the war in Gaza against Hamas which, according to the Palestinian Islamist movement, has reached 24,100 deaths, mainly women, adolescents and children. .
She accuses Hamas of fighting by using its population as a human shield, which the Palestinian movement refutes.
“There is not a soldier, an officer, a pilot or a gunner who said 'this is going too far, I don't want to continue participating in this massacre'”, recently lamented the columnist Gideon Levy, who denounced a “moral blindness” in the left-wing daily Haaretz.
Sofia Orr explains that she shared the “anger” of her fellow citizens on October 7, after the bloody Hamas attacks. She knew one of the 364 people killed at the Tribe of Nova festival. But she adds that she immediately feared “the horrors” that would accompany retaliatory military operations. “Extreme violence begets extreme violence,” she said.