An 18-year-old Israeli teenager has been sentenced to 30 days in military jail for refusing to enlist in the army amid the Israel-Hamas war and the region’s continued “cycle of bloodshed”.
Tel Aviv resident Tal Mitnick was tried and sentenced on Tuesday after declaring his refusal to enlist at the Tel Hashomer military base. He was accompanied by other young activists from Mesarvot, an organisation connecting and supporting conscientious objectors in Israel.
“I believe that slaughter cannot solve slaughter,” Mitnick said in a video posted on the X account of Mesarvot. “The criminal attack on Gaza won’t solve the atrocious slaughter that Hamas executed. Violence won’t solve violence, and that is why I refuse.”
Israeli law requires that all Jewish, Druze, and Circassian Israeli citizens over the age of 18 serve in the IDF, with exemptions for Israeli Arabs, religious women, married individuals, and those deemed unfit medically or mentally, according to the IDF website. Some Charedi Israelis are also exempt from service.
Conscientious objectors – or refuseniks – often serve multiple sentences for refusing to enlist as they are called back to recruitment centres repeatedly following their prison sentences. Political rationale is not considered a valid objection to military service.
In a statement shared on Tuesday, Mitnick said: “There is no military solution to a political problem. I refuse to enlist in an army that believes that the real problem can be ignored, under a government that only continues the bereavement and pain.”
Mitnick said that he decided to refuse to enlist before the war began, but “since it started, I am only more and more sure of my decision.”
In September, Mitnick was part of a movement of teenagers refusing to serve in the military in protest of the government’s judicial overhaul push and Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. Mitnick, then 17, helped organise the Youth Against Dictatorship initiative as part of the 2023 judicial reform protests, joining hundreds of Israeli teens in a collective refusal to join the IDF.
In November, Mitnick spoke to Turkish broadcaster TRT World, explaining: "The army that we have in this country is the operational wing of Jewish supremacy in the area and it's bent on the oppression of the Palestinian people, and I refuse to take part in that oppression and instead fight against it in my activism."
Mitnick is the first Israeli conscientious objector of the Gaza war. In his recent statement on social media, the young activist said: “Diplomacy, political effort, and policy change are the only way to prevent further death and destruction on both sides.”