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Israeli conscientious objector in New Zealand

Rotem Mor: “refusenik”

Israeli conscientious objector in New Zealand

"For a long time, I have had doubts about the honesty of military service. These questions began to arise long before I was drafted. They stemmed from information I had acquired about the Israeli-Arab conflict, and from discovering the false information about it, to which I was exposed for years. As I learned more, I was increasingly sceptical about the official Israeli version of what happened. This official version is the basis on which most of Israeli youth justifies its military service. I started to understand to what extent fear and hatred had been instilled in me from a very early age. I discovered that I do not believe in the existence of an "enemy," but rather in the existence of people of different cultures, who are frightened and angry, just like me."

Two days after making this statement, Rotem Mor was sent to Prison No. 4, after the IDF had sentenced him to 28 days of prison and 28 days of probation. Mor, who was 20 years old, finished high school in the summer of 1999 and took the matriculation exams. In February 2000, he was drafted. He served for a while in the liaison unit with foreign forces in Eilat, and then took a course for soldier-teachers, which in the past was open only to women. Mor admitted that he was not always a disciplined soldier, but he liked working with teenagers, and was willing to invest his time and talent for their benefit.

When he made his decision to be a conscientious objector, he removed his uniform and showed up at his military unit in civilian clothing. Even when he came to the IDF Conscientious Objectors Committee, he wore civilian clothes, and in reaction, the committee refused to hear his arguments. Mor told his friends that for him, military service had become "slavery," and that he didn't feel that the IDF was protecting him.

Raised near Jerusalem, Mor spent four years in Canada where his father worked for a Zionist organisation. Slowly, he began questioning the accepted political wisdoms he had grown up with. But it wasn't until he was drafted on February 15, 2000, that he confronted them head on.

After 18 months, feeling more and more like an impostor, he did the increasingly-thinkable, requesting a release from the Ministry of Defence, on grounds of conscience, and sending copies of his letter to the UN, Amnesty International and Israeli Peace Groups.

"I had personal issues about the way you were treated in the army but, more importantly, I was concerned about what was becoming of my country," he explained. As a citizen, I am very concerned about what is happening in the territories right now and what happened, historically, in Lebanon in the name of Israel. As a soldier, I am worried about the occupation but I am also worried about the power of the military. You look at its influence on the Israeli Government, public companies and private companies. I didn't want to serve political fanatics and I didn't want to serve the Settlers, so I made my decision”.

He is buoyed by growth in the Refusenik movement. Hundreds have quit the armed forces to face prison and other sanctions. More than 1000 younger compatriots have indicated they will resist the draft.

"I'm doing this because I love my country and its people," he explains. "I care what becomes of us and our neighbours. If I didn't, I would just start a new life and forget about the place."

Rotem is currently travelling around the South Island. He is available for an interview on these dates:

Saturday, November 17

Sunday, November 18

Wednesday, November 27

Thursday, November 28

To arrange an interview, his e-mail address is: mailto:rotemdanmor@hotmail.com

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