Readings in Nonviolence features extracts from our favourite books, pamphlets, articles or other material on nonviolence and related areas, or reviews of important works in the field (suggestions and contributions welcome).
Personal resistance to war: The case of Hallel Rabin
There are many different forms of resistance to war and warmaking. Directly it can include a refusal to work for or support the armaments industry, and a refusal by ordinary citizens to be misled by government propaganda and specious cases for going to war. Citizens can refuse to pay war taxes but given the way tax systems operate this can be a difficult and uphill task. It can also include refusal to serve in (or supply) the military, whether as a volunteer or a conscript, the latter in places which still have conscription. And soldiers who develop a conscientious objection to war while in their country’s military can face a very tough time.
These options are without even mentioning all the positive moves that can be made to resist war; promoting nonviolent and peaceful alternatives including early intervention and mediation, citizen to citizen diplomacy and contact, and the provision of unbiased information, or working for justice and economic empowerment to free citizens from pressures for supporting violence. These tasks may be within or between countries or states.
The right to conscientious objection is still an issue in a number of countries in the world. The War Resisters’ International (WRI) website and project, The Right to Refuse to Kill has much info including a worldwide survey (now a bit dated) on the right to CO status. They also issue alerts regarding people currently facing prison for their stand. One such person currently is Hallel Rabin, aged 19, who is currently in prison for her refusal to serve in the army. On 19th October 2020 Rabin was sentenced to 25 days in military prison. This is Rabin’s third imprisonment. She has already spent 15 days behind bars in two terms.
Here is Hallel Rabin’s statement before imprisonment:
“Hello, my name is Hallel Rabin. I’m an 18 years old refuser from an Israeli kibbutz and tomorrow I’ll be sent to prison by the Israeli military. Just before Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, I refused to join the Israeli army and was held in military prison over the holiday.
I’ve already been jailed for 14 days, because I don’t want to become a soldier for the occupation of Palestine. I tried to ask for exemption on the grounds of conscience, but the military refused to grant it. Instead, I’ve been sent to prison time after time in order to break my spirit. This is my third incarceration period in the course of a month.
We are living in a period of both change and struggle. Everywhere in the world, young people are fighting for real democracy, and are using civil disobedience to combat racism and injustice. But for Palestinians the injustices of the past continue to prevail. In the territories occupied by Israel, basic human rights and liberties are constantly denied, while the Palestinian are deprived of the freedom to live freely.
I was raised on the values of freedom, compassion and love. Fighting to keep another nation enslaved contradicts these values. For too long, the good people of Israel have agreed to participate in the atrocities committed by the occupation. While I know my refusal is small and personal, I wish to be the change I want to see in the world, and to show that another way is possible. Little people make big changes. It is time to shout: There is no such thing as good repression, no such thing as justifiable racism and no more room for the Israeli occupation.”
Always in situations to injustice and violence there are people who resist and stand up for the opposite, justice and nonviolence. In an interview Hallel Rabin said that she was raised “on the idea of love, equality, and freedom. I never thought there should be any difference between people of different races, genders, or sexes. “.
She went on to say “I could have gone along with the system… but I decided not to because I felt like it was not honest. It would have meant avoiding taking responsibility over our reality.......“I strive to be a pacifist. I recognize the violent energies that I unfortunately have, but I strive to make change through nonviolence. Even if I were living in Switzerland, I would refuse to join their army. The essence of an army is fighting, and in Israel this has a political context.”
There is more information on the WRI website where if you click on Hallel Rabin’s case you can also see a link for making representations on her behalf.