Advertisement

Tal Mitnick: Israeli man jailed for refusing to serve in military says he is prepared to go to prison again

An 18-year-old Israeli man, who was jailed for refusing to serve in the Israeli military, has told Sky News he is prepared to go to prison again.

Tal Mitnick says this is because, in his opinion, the war in Gaza is not the way to achieve peace with Palestinians.

Mr Mitnick is the first Israeli to be jailed as a conscientious objector in this war. He was released from an Israeli military prison on Friday after serving 30 days, said he has been labelled a traitor, but is sticking to his pacifist beliefs.

Speaking from near his home in Tel Aviv, he explained: "I think that the way the government and the regime are trying to frame this is that the objective of the war is to eliminate Hamas and to bring back the hostages.

"I feel like both of these objectives can't be achieved with more and more fighting because like we saw, the way that we brought back the hostages at the end of the day was a deal where we exchanged prisoners for hostages.

"And the more and more fighting we see, that kills hostages, for example, the IDF [Israel Defence Forces] killed three hostages a couple of weeks ago because they thought that they were Palestinian. And the second objective of eliminating Hamas also will not be achieved with fighting."

More than 130 hostages are thought to still be in Gaza and negotiations to free them have been moving slowly.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is coming under increased pressure to agree a new deal with Hamas, via mediators; relatives of hostages have pitched tents outside his residence in Jerusalem.

Describing conditions inside jail, Mr Mitnick said the prisoners are treated as soldiers.

"You wake up early, you always clean your cell, you have to stand still for long periods of time, and other people there are actual soldiers, most people have served and a lot of them are deserters of their position," he said.

"Right now we're seeing a real change in the sentencing to deserters of people's position. People that deserted for three months, for example, to go and help their family or go take care of their siblings are being sentenced to six months in military prison."

Read more:
Relatives of Israeli hostages storm parliament
Navy Seals declared dead after raid on boat 'carrying weapons to Houthis'
West is now embroiled in widening Middle East conflict - is it winnable?

IDF calls on him to report for duty

Mr Mitnick received a call from the IDF as we were speaking, instructing him to report for duty on Tuesday morning. He told us he would attend and refuse again.

"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," he said.

"On Tuesday afternoon or evening. I'll be sent back to prison for another sentence.

"I think to myself that I've gone through 30 [days].

"I can take another 30 and I can take another 30 after that because I know that a lot of people support me and that I'm succeeding in making a change and showing the world that there's another way and that we can choose nonviolence over violence.

"I think that for 70 years we've been seeing the same policy of occupation, of siege and of Jewish supremacy between the river and the sea, and I can't take part in it.

"The war has only strengthened my opinion. I feel like we need to stop the cycle of violence. Somehow it's going to stop and I believe that every person should work to stop the violence from their own position."

'Not wanting to serve is not a mental problem'

Mr Mitnick was not due to serve on the frontline. Instead, he had been earmarked for a position in military intelligence.

But he said he is a conscientious objector and doesn't believe he should be punished for refusing to fight.

"I feel like not wanting to serve is not a mental problem and it shouldn't be seen as such," he said.

"I want to show that I don't want to serve because of my beliefs and because of my values, and that is not a mental problem."

Mesarvot, a group whose name means "objectors", say it has dozens of supporters but the exact number of conscientious objectors like Mr Mitnick is not clear because many have not gone public or have not received letters of enlistment during this conflict.

When approached by Sky News, the IDF said they had no comment to add to the story.