Originally published on The Turban Times
Yesterday, November 20, young Israeli Mattan Helman declared his refusal to serve in the Israeli military on his draft day and thereby became the latest in a growing number of young draft refusers in Israel this year. Before entering Lishkat HaGiyus (The Recruitment Bureau) in Tel HaShomer, and officially becoming a conscientious objector, a group of young former refuseniks and activists showed up outside the base in solidarity with Mattan, supporting him in his last steps before declaring his decision – continuing what has become a “tradition” for this growing activist group.
For Mattan, serving in the army means legitimising and supporting the occupation policy, which he believes is “immoral”. Knowing that he will be jailed for his decision, he is willing to go on with it. The growing community of Israeli conscientious objectors, and holding on to this belief and values, gives him the strength to keep on, he says in an interview with the Israeli media organization Social TV.
Below is a video and a full transcript of Mattan’s interview with Israel Social TV where he shares the thoughts behind his decision, one week before his draft day.
My name is Mattan Helman, I am twenty years old, from Kibbutz HaOgen, and on november 20, I will refuse to enlist for reasons of conscience.
In the ninth grade, I came upon material about the occupation and began to ask, what are we doing there, what does it do to our society, and how does it affect me?
After researching the subject – reading books, articles, and soldiers’ testimonies, and after visiting the territories, I came to the conclusion that Israeli policies oppress Palestinians, and Israelis alike.
As soon as I received my first call-up order, I realized I was not going to the army.
I told my parents. Initially they took it very hard, but then they understood and began to support me.
At first, I felt alone and that it was only I who had these views and no one else was thinking about this. Through Social TV I saw videos of draft resisters and became acquainted with this issue.
I began thinking about refusing and went to the Mesarvot organization’s site and saw that there are many conscientious objectors who think like me.
We are a growing community – this is a major reinforcement to my decision.
I know that refusal is breaking the law, but opposite to every law is morality, conscience and limitations.
There has been much social injustice in the past that was legal. The holocaust in Europe, apartheid in South Africa and slavery in the United States were all cases of legal injustice.
A law requiring enlistment in an army that oppresses an entire people is not a moral law and I do not feel compelled to obey it.
I’m not saying that there is no need for an army – I’m saying that the army should be used solely for defence.
Defending people so they will not get killed.
An army that occupies an entire people group is not defence. Occupation is not defence.
True there are those who are in the army that disagree with the policy of occupation, but they still contribute to it and are part of it.
During my time in the youth movement and in my pre-service year, they proposed I serve in the Nahal Brigade in the territories on the grounds that “I am better and more moral than those serving in the territories, and I can make the occupation better and more moral.”
I am not a better person, and not more moral than anyone else. I think that the situation in which soldiers serve in the territories is irrational and stressful, and they cannot act according to their conscience, but only to instructions and orders.
Even the most ethical person in the world will not turn the occupation into a moral position. There is no justification for ruling over others. There is no moral occupation.
I spoke to past draft resisters about prison conditions and I am trying to get used to this thought and how I will live there.
The situation is frightening and stressful, but I believe that if I keep with my values, they will strengthen and safeguard me there.