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Israeli conscientious objector sentenced to 20 days in military prison

Conscientious objector Maya Brand-Feigenbaum will serve another 20 days behind bars for her refusal to serve in the Israeli army due to its policies of occupation.

By +972 Magazine Staff

Israeli conscientious objector Maya Brand-Feigenbaum. (Ido Ramon/Mesarvot)

Israeli conscientious objector Maya Brand-Feigenbaum. ‘I am aware that we need an army to protect us against real threats. But at the same time, there is a need for people who fight for a reality free of war.’ (Ido Ramon/Mesarvot)

An IDF disciplinary body sentenced 18-year-old Israeli conscientious objector Maya Brand-Feigenbaum to 20 days in military prison on Tuesday over her refusal to serve in the military.

This is the second time Brand-Feigenbaum, from the northern town of Tivon, has been sentenced for refusing to serve since she her conscription date on July 14. Upon completing her sentence, will have spent a total of 27 days behind bars. Military conscription is mandatory for most Jewish Israelis.

“I refuse to serve in the army because I believe that this is the best and most meaningful way for me to promote my anti-war principles and help put an end to the occupation,” Brand-Feigenbaum wrote in a statement published prior to her first stint in military prison.

“The decades-long control over a nation compromises the security of the State of Israel,” continues the statement. “As a woman who loves this country, whose landscapes and people are a part of me, I cannot take part in maintaining this situation. I am aware that in our reality we need an army to protect us against real threats, but at the same time, there is a need for people who fight for a reality free of war. Anti-war activities will benefit both the country and the world to bring long-term security. Taking action to resolve the conflict and end the occupation will benefit of all residents of the land, whether Jewish, Muslim or Christian.”



Prior to her first appearance before the IDF’s conscientious objectors committee, Brand-Feigenbaum received a visit by Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh at her home in Tivon, who called Brand-Feigenbaum and her fellow conscientious objectors a “ray of humanity that lights the way toward ending the occupation and promoting peace.”

Meanwhile, the army has yet to release 20-year-old conscientious objector Roman Levin from military prison, despite a recommendation by the conscientious objector’s committee to do so. Levin has spent over 70 days in military prison. Both Levin and Brand-Feigenbaum are supported by Mesarvot — Refusing to Serve the Occupation, a grassroots network that brings together individuals and groups who refuse to enlist in the IDF in protest at the occupation.

Conscientious objector Roman Levin. 'My refusal is an act of protest against an occupation that has lasted more than 50 years and of solidarity with the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza.' (Ido Ramon/Mesarvot).

Conscientious objector Roman Levin. ‘My refusal is an act of protest against an occupation that has lasted more than 50 years and of solidarity with the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza.’ (Ido Ramon/Mesarvot).

Levin, from the city of Bat Yam just south of Tel Aviv, immigrated to Israel with a few members of his family from Ukraine when he was 3 years old. He initially believed his service would contribute to society and fulfill his duties as a citizen.

“I refuse to continue my military service,” Levin said. “My refusal is an act of protest against an occupation that has lasted more than 50 years and of solidarity with the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza.”

This is the fourth time Levin has been sentenced for refusing to serve in the army. He was previously jailed twice after a year and a half of service in the IDF as a truck driver.

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    1. Bruce Gould

      I think it’s relevant to point out that student resistance in Israel goes back to at least 1970, it’s not a new phenomenon:

      “On 28 April 1970, a group of twelfth grade high school students from Jerusalem published an open letter to Golda Meir…asking why they should go off to be killed along the Suez Canal as a result of the failure of the Israeli government to take steps to secure peace. The background to the letter was the invitation sent by…Nasser to Dr. Nachum Goldman, president of the World Zionist Congress, inviting him to Cairo for talks about the possibility of peace. Goldman requested permission from Meir to make the journey, and she flatly refused. The students criticized the increasingly militaristic mood in Israel…”

      -page 137, “War Over Peace: One Hundred Years of Israel’s Militaristic Nationalism” by Uri Ben-Eliezer.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Firentis

      Israelis have to contribute between two and three years of their lives to national service. It would make sense for those that refuse to do their national duty to spend those years and then some in prison. It would be a shame if they were allowed to enjoy their lives after so blatantly disregarding their duty while their more honorable peers are contributing their time to the defense of the country.

      20 days in prison seems a bit too lenient and hopefully they will be renewed for another 20 days around 40 or 50 times.

      Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        @Firentis: In your opinion, what should the punishment be for Israeli soldiers who refuse to follow orders because they think that following orders would be a war crime? I’m thinking of the pilot Yonatan Shapira – he was dismissed, but should he have been punished more severely?


        “In July of 2002,” Shapira recalled, “an F-16 took off from the center of Israel and killed Salah Shehadeh, a Hamas commander with blood on his hands. They dropped a one-ton bomb on his house in Gaza, killing 14 people, nine of them children. It was a war crime. You cannot fight terrorists with terrorist means.”

        Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        But you see there is a reason the army gives them light sentences. The reason is because the army and the society it comes from at some level know that these refuseniks are honorable and brave, among the bravest by far in Israeli society, and know that if they gave them severe sentences (for example a sentence they would give Palestinians) that would trigger much more resistance and the real issues would come to the surface and the resistance would spread. Because Israeli Jews would see the injustice of locking these Jews up in a way that Israeli Jews are blind to the injustice of locking Palestinians up. And the Jews would get mad. And when they got mad they would be forced to confront their own hypocrisies.
        They give them light sentences to keep it quiet and because in their hearts the army and Jewish society know the refuseniks are right, and they can’t handle this truth.

        Reply to Comment
      • Rivka Koen

        Haredi? Sure, avoid the army.

        Secular? Fuck you.

        Also, Israel is a secular liberal democracy with equal rights for all. 🙃

        Reply to Comment
    3. itshak Gordine

      All those who refuse to serve their country should spend an equivalent time in prison, whether religious or not.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Serving the occupation is not serving a country, it’s serving an apartheid system. There is a difference.

        Reply to Comment
        • itshak Gordine

          For us, no occupation at all. Liberation only. A vast majority of Israeli thinks like me.

          Reply to Comment
          • Talkback

            Expansionist occupiers who ignore international law always call their illegal conquest “liberation”. That’s part of their self righteous delusion.

            But it doesn’t change the fact that the IDF operates and the Supreme Court of Israel rules on the legal framework that this is an occupation. And it also doesn’t change the fact that Israel has been putting Palestinians under martial law for more than half a century including other violation of human rights and their fundamental right to self determination.

            So if you need to claim that this is Israel’s territory, allthough it hasn’t even been illegaly annexed and Israel had declared statehood along the lines of the partition recommendation, then it’s Apartheid is undeniable. Which means that Israel’s regime is illegitimate.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            “A vast majority of Israeli thinks like me.”

            You overstate the case, but even if you are half right, you show why Israel is an outlaw nation, a rogue state, and why very many of its citizens are best described as glazed eyed fanatics, cult members. And one does not deal with violent dangerous cult members by negotiation except as is needed to finally bring intelligent force to bear at the right moment.

            Of course, like the Branch Davidians at Waco, people like Itshak Gordine Halevy will be willing to go to any violent extreme rather than give up their comfy radical nationalist entitlements, their whole world of biblical Disneyland treats and special privileges and most importantly, their narcissistic sense of themselves and their lives as infused with a special, unique, glorious, “chosen,” god-given meaning.

            It’s a cult. Cults absorb vulnerable people and shield them from the truth of life, and by instilling in their members that they are unique, chosen, very special, cults can induce extreme, selfish, heartless behavior in their followers. Because those outside the cult are dehumanized and demonized by the cult leaders. (In Halevy’s hermetic, insular world, this is “our rabbis, our sages, who tell us….”) Someone like Halevy clearly shows this dynamic in almost every post. And the one I am responding to here is no exception.

            Reply to Comment
      • Talkback

        In democratic states conscientious objection is a legally protected civil right.

        Reply to Comment
    4. Marc Comisar

      WAR and aggression have never and will never be a resolution to human conflict. I have been a Conscientious objector since 1967. I have been teaching the non-violent martial art Aikido for over 40 years. These young people need to be heard and respected. The wars that our military industrial complex has invented have to be stopped. If we do not, the next will be a war in space.

      For the billions of people that want peace…I honor them.

      Reply to Comment