As this issue of Fire This Time goes to print, a 19-year-old Israeli woman, Tair Kaminer, is preparing to serve multiple prison sentences in Israeli jail. Her crime? Refusing to participate in Israel’s military conscription. Military service is mandatory for all Israeli citizens over the age of 18. Service for men is 3 years and women 2 years. Some exemptions are made on the grounds of religious, physical or psychological reasons. However, unfortunately for Tair, being a conscientious objector is not an easy win in the eyes of the Israeli legal system. Tair Kaminer has become part of a popular and growing movement of young Israelis called “Refuseniks”. Israeli conscripts that for moral or political reasons object to serving in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF).
Kaminer served previously as an Israeli Scout. She volunteered with children affected by injuries caused by Israel’s brutal assaults on Gaza. “The children I worked with grew up in the heart of the conflict and have had extremely difficult experiences from a young age, experiences that caused them to feel hatred, which can be understood, especially when it comes from young children,” wrote Kaminer in a statement about her refusal. “I realized I did not want to take part, nor to contribute to further hatred and fear, and not to take part in the occupation.” Tair has become a hero among many sympathizers of the Palestinian cause as well as many Israeli youth who in growing numbers are beginning to question: What are we fighting for?
Since the beginning of October, 2015 a major shakeup has been rocking through occupied Palestine not only in the Gaza Strip but has spread through Palestinians in the West Bank, throughout the refugee camps and inside Israel itself. This shakeup is being called the “Third Intifada” or uprising. The history of the first and second Intifadas can be summed up simply as an uprising of Palestinian people in response to the brutal and dismal conditions created by 67 years of Zionist occupation. The third is no different. Led by young Palestinians both men and women is a response to the complete lack of a possibility for a decent and dignified future for Palestinians.
In 2015 The World Bank reported, “43% of Gaza's 1.8 million residents are unemployed,” that number is closer to 60% among youth. "The ongoing blockade and the 2014 war have taken a toll on Gaza's economy and people's livelihoods," the report continued. You can take the desperation demonstrated in Gaza’s unemployment rate and easily extend it to the healthcare system, access to education, electricity, food and on and on. The situation for Palestinians in the West Bank is not much better and is daily getting worse.
So it’s no wonder why the Refuseniks like Tair Kaminer don’t want to be part of suppression of Palestinians. They are searching for solutions based on humanity. But as Kaminer pointed out in a recent interview, “Whenever they start negotiations between Israel and Palestine there's a problem because we are a more powerful state...we control them.”
International Frustration to Palestinian Problem
At the end of January, discussions heated up on the topic of the Palestine-Israeli conflict at the United Nations (UN). This debate began as it was announced that Israel had again illegally approved the construction of 150 new settlements on Palestinian land in the West Bank. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon spoke out criticizing Israel’s actions. Ban Ki-moon’s comments provoked a typically ignorant and arrogant response from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who claimed the comments “give a tail wind to terrorism." The Secretary General took to an opinion piece in the New York Times to clear up his position stating, “Israeli settlements keep expanding. The government has approved plans for over 150 new homes in illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank. Last month, 370 acres in the West Bank were declared “state land,” a status that typically leads to exclusive Israeli settler use… As oppressed peoples have demonstrated throughout the ages, it is human nature to react to occupation."
Cuba a Real Friend of Palestine
However Ban Ki-moon’s lip service towards the Palestinian cause is nothing new and the Palestinians long time friend Cuba was at hand to point out that fact. “Why does this entity not fulfill its responsibilities? What are they waiting for? Who are they trying to protect by not taking action? Why, when there is a clear violation of peace and security, do they not take concrete actions?” responded Cuba’s Ambassador to the U.N. Ana Silvia Rodriguez. “The persistent opposition by the United States, through their veto powers, has prevented this organization from making a decision with regards to Palestine,” She concluded during discussion.
Both Kaminer and Cuba hit the nail on the head with their comments. As of September 2015, 136 of 193 member countries of the UN recognize a state of Palestine and at this very moment France is considering adding itself as a member country in favor. So why has nothing happened? As Palestine has a long time friend in Cuba so too does Israel have its long time backer and pay roller the U.S. With the U.S.’s advice and support every major resolution against Israel has been blocked by veto by the U.S. Every major negotiation has fallen apart. The much anticipated “Two-State Solution” has become ever more distant even in the eyes of some of its advocates. Israel has shown over the almost 70 years of occupation, bombing, illegal construction and the apartheid wall that a Palestinian state is not possible and not an option for the Zionist occupiers.
Which Way Forward?
However there is hope. Tair Kaminer and many in a generation just like her are looking for a new way forward. This sentiment among young Jews living in Israel could prove to be a pivotal turn in the Palestine-Israeli conflict. Tair witnessed herself the pain, suffering and hopelessness imposed on Palestinian people by the Zionist occupation. She made a choice to go to jail rather than be a part of it. Kaminer has proven exactly what the Zionists and their friends in the U.S. ruling class have tried to hide: That Jews and Palestinians can get along, that Jews and Palestinians can sympathize with each other. That indeed perhaps they could live together!
If the above statement could be true, then what is the problem? The State of Israel. The Zionist occupation built on the destruction of Palestine is the main block towards peace for both people. In fact upon the realization that Palestinians and Jews could live side-by-side we could propose an alternative to the “Two-State Solution”. How about a “One-State Solution”! It could be a democratic and secular country called Palestine. With the right of return for all Palestinians expelled from their land, all citizens could have their right to vote and determine the future of their country. Sound familiar? South Africa went through a similar process of reconciliation. Although certainly there are enormous social problems that need to be solved in South Africa, what was once thought to be impossible, Black and White South Africans living more or less peacefully and equally, has began to become a reality. Someone who knew this was South African liberation leader Nelson Mandela who once said, “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.” The same could be said for Tair Kaminer and the rest of people especially youth living in Israel. Palestinian liberation from Israeli Zionist occupation is a liberation for us all.
Let’s unite and demand an end to the occupation of Palestine by Israel! All together in one state with equal rights! Unity and not division could be our solution!
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