Moral Low Ground

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‘The Moral High Ground’: Israeli Soldier Yaniv Mazor Goes on Hunger Strike in Solidarity with Palestinian Prisoners

(Photo: +972 Magazine)

A reservist in the Israeli Defense Forces already jailed for refusing to participate in his country’s illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories has gone on a hunger strike to protest the ongoing Israeli practice of indefinitely imprisoning Palestinians without charge or trial in a practice known as administrative detention.

Agence France-Presse reports that Yaniv Mazor, a Jerusalem resident and chief sergeant in the IDF reserves, was sentenced last week to 20 days in jail for refusing to fulfill his service duties. He celebrated his 31st birthday on the day of his sentencing.

“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,” Mazor told +972 Magazine. Mazor, who is a tour guide by profession, said that the decision to become a conscientious objector came slowly over the past seven years as he learned about Israeli crimes 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,” Mazor told +972 Magazine on his way to jail.

“When you go to school in Israel they don’t really tell you what it is the army does in the occupied territories,” he added. “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.”

When called up for a training session with his reserve unit, Mazor told his commanding officer that he could no longer serve. He was given the option of performing non-combat tasks but decided that any IDF service was enabling the occupation. After repeated chances to change his mind he was sentenced to 20 days behind bars.

“Although this is my first time in prison, I feel totally fine with it,” he told +972 Magazine. “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.”

A day after being locked away in the IDF’s Tzrifin Prison, Mazor launched a hunger strike in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners being held in administrative detention by Israel, a form of indefinite imprisonment in which detainees are held without charge or trial for renewable six month periods. Israel has held thousands of Palestinians in administrative detention, some of them for years. According to Amnesty International, one man has been imprisoned for more than five years.

Last month, some 1,600 Palestinian prisoners went on a massive hunger strike to demand improved prison conditions and an end to administrative detention. Mahmoud Sarsak, a member of the Palestinian national soccer team who was arrested by Israeli forces in July 2009 while traveling from his home in Gaza to a match in the West Bank, ended a hunger strike of more than three months on Monday after Israeli officials agreed to release him on July 10. Sarsak has been held for nearly three years without charge or trial. He has lost half his body weight while on his hunger strike.

According to Haaretz, conscientious objector Mazor told his attorney that he had “become appalled over the last few months by the hunger strike initiated by Palestinian administrative prisoners” and decided to launch his own strike in solidarity with them.

“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,” he told +972 Magazine.

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