Young conscientious objector to serve second jail term for refusal to enlist in IDF

‘We can choose non-violence over violence’ says 18-year-old Tal Mitnick


Tal Mitnick, an 18-year-old Israeli teenager who was jailed for 30 days after refusing to enlist in the IDF amid the Israel-Hamas war, is preparing to go to prison again for his pacifist beliefs.

“Violence doesn’t solve problems,” the young conscientious objector said during an interview with Sky News on Monday. “For 70 years we’ve been seeing the same policy of occupation, of siege, and I can’t take part in it, and the war has only strengthened my opinion.”

Mitnick was tried and sentenced in late December after declaring his refusal to enlist at the Tel Hashomer military base, becoming the first Israeli to be imprisoned for conscientious objection since the war with Hamas began. He spent the last month in a military prison and was released on Friday.

Responding to accusations of being a "traitor” for his refusal to enlist, Mitnick said: “I don’t consider myself a traitor obviously. I think that I’m working for both the best interests of Israelis and Palestinians because none of us are free until we are all free. It’s only peace and it’s only freedom that will bring us security.”

Mitnick said the objectives of the IDF’s continued attack on Gaza – to eliminate Hamas and bring back the hostages – “can’t be achieved with more and more fighting.” Instead, Mitnick argues that the release of the hostages should be negotiated through another prisoner exchange like that which occurred in November during a week-long ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

As for removing Hamas from power in Gaza, Mitnick believes this will only occur when “the Gazan civilians will lose trust in them, and the only way to make that happen is by showing people that there is another way.”

On Tuesday, Mitnick will be called to enlist in the IDF again. He told Sky News he will refuse, even with the knowledge that doing so will place him back in a military prison.

“They think that sentencing me for 30 days will somehow make me feel threatened, but I don’t feel threatened. I stay with my beliefs, and I’ll refuse to serve once again.”

Mitnick has been expressing these beliefs since before Israel’s war with Hamas began. When he was 17, 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. He also helped organise the Youth Against Dictatorship initiative as part of the 2023 judicial reform protests, taking part alongside hundreds of Israeli teens who also refused to join the IDF.

“I think to myself that I’ve gone through 30, I can take another 30, and I can take another 30 after that,” Mitnick said. "I know that a lot of people support me and I’m succeeding in making a change and showing the world there’s another way. We can choose non-violence over violence.”

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