Yaniv Mazor was sentenced this morning by his commander to twenty days in prison for refusing to fulfill his reserve service duties. ‘This is an army whose main purpose is the maintenance of the occupation regime imposed on millions of people on the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip – and I cannot serve in it,’ said Mazor, who hopes others will join him.
Yaniv Mazor – a resident of Jerusalem, chief sergeant (res.) in the armed corps, and a tour guide in profession – is celebrating his 31st birthday today. Speaking to +972 on his way to jail, Mazor said the decision to refuse has been building up inside him for the past seven years, growing stronger the more he learned of Israel’s policies in the occupied territories. “I regret not having been aware of what the army does when I was enlisted, because the more I know, the clearer the understanding that I cannot serve becomes,” he said.
“I served in an armored unit from 1999 to 2002, spending most of my service in the Jordan Valley, but also deeper in the West Bank during the Second Intifada, inside and outside of a tank, and since then returned for six or seven rounds of reserve service. The decision to refuse is a sort of climax of a personal process I’ve been going through in the past seven, eight years. When you go to school in Israel they don’t really tell you what it is the army does in the occupied territories, and so I entered the army as a typical product of the education system: a good boy, obedient, serving in the occupied territories, and not thinking about it at all. Especially not thinking. Over the past few years I’ve been using my head, asking myself what the things we do over there mean. This led me at first to just avoid service, but after getting some perspective in a year long trip abroad I decided it was time to stop faking it.”
After being summoned to a training session with his unit, Mazor informed his commanding officer that he could not serve any more. The commander was sympathetic, he says, but said the decision to exempt him from service was not his to make, and transferred the request upward in the chain of command. On Wednesday, Mazor received a suspended sentence of 15 days in prison, and sent back home. “The battalion commander thought of it as an opportunity for me to take the weekend and think it over. It was actually quite nice because it gave me a chance to go with Breaking the Silence on a tour of Hebron on Friday, and to South Mount Hebron with Ta’ayush on Saturday, and that only strengthened my decision.
“Today I refused again, and the commander said he would like to find me non-combatant tasks. I told him that for me a soldier-teacher, a driver or an elite unit fighter – they’re all the same, and all represent the army. He then passed me on to the brigade commander, who sentenced me to 20 days inside. I told him that I was being locked up for my beliefs and that I hope we don’t meet again in similar circumstances, but he said he’ll keep on summoning me for service.
“Although this is my first time in prison I feel totally fine with it. I feel at peace with myself. My decision stems from what I saw in the occupied territories, things that made me realize I can no longer be part of the army. I can only hope that my action will inspire others who are now facing the draft or a reserve service and are still unsure what to do.”
In recent months several young Israelis refused to enlist in a joint action against the occupation. One of them, Noam Gur, was jailed for about a month, and then released on a mental clause. Mazor will be out of prison at the end of the month, and it is yet unknown whether he will be summoned to return to his unit immediately – and then imprisoned again – or not.