One Refuser to Another


[A letter from Matan Kaminer, on trial - Israeli military court, to Stephen Funk US Marines]


‘Open Detention’, Tel Hashomer Camp, Israel

August 12, 2003

Dear Stephen,

Is this what they call “globalization”?

We live half a world from each other, we have led quite different lives, and yet we are both in the same situation: conscientious objectors to imperial war and occupation, we are both standing military trial this summer. Reading your statement I couldn’t help but smile at the basic sameness of military logic around the world – including its inability to understand how anybody could be enough against a war to resist going to kill and die in it.

But I’ve been presuming you’re familiar with my situation. In case you aren’t, let me fill you in briefly. I was slated for induction into the Israeli army in December 2002. After a year of volunteer work in a Jewish-Arab youth movement, I had made up my mind to refuse to enlist. Together with other young people in my situation, I signed the High School Seniors’ Letter to PM Sharon, and to make myself absolutely clear I sent a personal letter to the military authorities notifying them that I was going to refuse.

They let me know they weren’t about to let me go: the army only exempts pacifists (at least that’s what it claims) and I didn’t meet their definition of a pacifist. So beginning in December I was sentenced by ‘disciplinary proceedings’ (do they have this ridiculous institution in the Marines too?) to 28 days in military prison – three consecutive times. After my third time in jail, I asked to join my friend Haggai Matar, who was being court-martialed, and within a few weeks three of our friends – Noam, Shimri and Adam – joined us.

Now we are on trial and stand to get up to three years in prison for refusing the order to enlist.

Sounds familiar, huh? But it’s not just what they’re doing to us that’s similar, it’s what they’re doing to others: occupying a foreign land and oppressing another people in the name of preventing terror. People like you and me know that’s just an excuse for furthering economic and political interests of the ruling elite. But it’s not the elite that pays the price.

The people who pay the price are in Jenin and Fallujah, in Ramallah and Baghdad, in Tikrit and in Hebron. They are the Iraqi and Palestinian children, hogtied face-down on the floor or shot at on the way to school. But they are also the Israeli and American soldiers, treated as cannon fodder by generals in air-conditioned offices, whose only way to deal with their situation is dehumanization – first of the strange-looking foreigners who want them dead, next of themselves. You can ask your Vietnam veterans or our own.

Stephen, people our age should be out learning, working and transforming the world. People our age should be going to parties and protests, meeting people, falling in love and arguing about what our world should look like. People our age should not be moving targets, denied their human and civil rights; they should not be military grunts, exposed to harm in mind and body, lugging around M-16′s and guilty consciences; they should not be thrown behind bars for not wanting to kill and die.

Your trial is set to begin soon. Mine has already begun so maybe I can give you a few pointers.

Look the judges in the eyes. Use every opportunity you have to explain why you stand there. They are human just like you, but they try to deny it to themselves. Don’t let them. War is shit and they know it. They should let you go and they know it.

It’s likely that we’ll both get thrown in prison when this all ends. There will be dark moments in prison, moments when it seems that the outside world has forgotten all about us, that what we did and refused to do was in vain. Well, I know what I’ll do in those moments: I’ll think of you, Stephen, and I’ll know that nothing we do for humanity’s sake is ever in vain.

With greatest solidarity, Matan Kaminer

Leave a comment