Israeli objector launches own war against compulsory army service

Pacifist teenager, a rarity in Israel, is locked up each time he refuses to serve in the armed forces

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 April, 2013, 3:57am


It is a routine Nathan Blanc knows well. At 9am today, the 19-year-old is to report, as instructed in his draft papers, to a military base near Tel Aviv.

There he will state his objection to serving in the Israeli army. Following his refusal to enlist, Blanc expects to be arrested and sentenced to between 10 and 20 days in jail.

He will then be taken to Military Prison Number 6 to serve his time. And then, following his release, the cycle will begin again.

This will be the eighth time the teenage conscientious objector has been jailed in the past 19 weeks. Since his original call-up, Blanc has spent more than 100 days in prison.

Blanc began to consider refusing the draft several years ago. The turning point was Operation Cast Lead, the war in Gaza that began in late 2008 and ended three weeks later with a Palestinian death toll of about 1,400.

The government, he said, was "not interested in finding a solution to the existing situation, but rather in preserving it ... We, as citizens and human beings, have a moral duty to refuse to participate in this cynical game."

The war going on in this country for more than 60 years could have ended a long time ago. But both sides are giving in to extremists and fundamentalists

In an interview, he said: "The war going on in this country for more than 60 years could have ended a long time ago. But both sides are giving in to extremists and fundamentalists."

Most Israelis grow up knowing that compulsory military service - three years for boys, two for girls - lies at the end of their schooldays.

"Going to the army" is a deeply ingrained, collective experience in Israeli national identity. Blanc says that since November, he has been the only conscientious objector among the 300 to 400 inmates in Military Prison Number 6.

Most friends have come to accept his position - "we had the arguments a long time ago"- and some serving as combat soldiers now say they admire it. His parents, despite some anxiety, are supportive.

Blanc rejected the option taken by some objectors of claiming a medical condition that would exempt him from military service. "I didn't want to lie. This is a point of principle." Neither could he seek exemption on the grounds of pacifism.

"The army has a narrow definition of pacifism; someone who would never apply force in any circumstances. I think force should be used rarely, but it can't be completely ruled out."

Blanc is willing to undertake national service in lieu of the compulsory stint in the army, but thus far the military has refused to countenance this.

The IDF said it could not comment on Blanc's specific case, but conscription was a result of Israel's security situation.