Ben Arad, young Israeli conscientious objector: “I will not take part in a war of vengeance”

Ben Arad is the third young Israeli to refuse enlistment in protest over the war in Gaza publicly; this morning he was sentenced to 20 days in military prison. 

Ben Arad, an 18-year-old from Ramat Hasharon, arrived this morning at the Tel Hashomer enlistment camp and refused to enlist in the Israeli army in protest over the war in Gaza. He was sentenced to 20 days in military prison, expected to be prolonged when he refuses enlistment again.

Arad will join Tal Mitnick and Sofia Orr, who are serving sentences of 105 and 40 days, respectively, for their refusal. 

Ben Arad decided to refuse because of the war in Gaza. He noted Tal Mitnich’s refusal as showing him that there is value in publicly refusing. 

This is his Refusal Statement.

My name is Ben Arad, I’m 18 years old, and I refuse to enlist in the IDF. I oppose senseless killing, the policy of intentional starvation and sickness, and the sacrifice of soldiers, civilians, and hostages for a war that cannot and will not achieve its declared objectives and that could escalate into a regional war. For these reasons and more, I refuse to enlist.

I will not take part in a war of vengeance, that only leads to destruction and will not bring security to the citizens of Israel.

“If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” – I constantly think about this sentence when I consider Israel’s behavior since the beginning of the war. The only tool we know is the military. Therefore, the solution to every problem must be a military one.

But our deterrence strategy does not prove itself. Terrorism is not something that can be stopped with threats because terrorists don’t have much to lose. Moreover, the unprecedented killing of uninvolved citizens in Gaza, the hunger, the sickness, and the destruction of property only fuels Hamas’ flame of hate and terror, and sooner or later, we will pay for the grief of the Palestinians.

On October 7th, Israel woke up to a brutal attack it had never seen before. Children, women, and the elderly became victims of atrocities that no person should be exposed to. The barbarity and heartlessness of the attack were supposed to eradicate all hope for peace and a shared future. The impact of October 7th on the people of Israel is still immense, especially since more than 130 hostages are still being held captive in the Gaza Strip.

Since that Saturday, Israel has been conducting an unprecedented murderous campaign, not only against Hamas, but also against the entire Palestinian people. In Gaza, there are at least 30,000 dead – of which 70% are estimated to be women and children. Daily, Israeli officials are threatening a ground offensive in Rafah, where more than 1.5 million evacuated Palestinians are sheltering. Israeli entry into Rafah will claim the lives of dozens or hundreds of Israeli soldiers and thousands or tens of thousands of Palestinians. It will endanger the lives of the hostages and will significantly escalate the fighting with Hezbollah in Lebanon.

And for what? What does this fighting achieve? Fighting will not bring back the hostages. It will not resurrect the dead. It will not liberate the Gazans from Hamas and will not bring about peace. The contrary is true – the fighting will keep on killing hostages, it will put more Jews and Palestinians under threat, it will perpetuate the rule of terrorist organizations in Gaza, and it will guarantee that there will be no peaceful horizon.

The Israeli public is facing a choice: do we uphold the current cycle of violence and sustain a reality of destruction that will deepen the hate and create escalation on all fronts? Or do we choose another path – one based on the sanctity of life, in which we’ll stop sending beautiful people to be killed or injured in ugly battles? Could we guarantee the return of all living hostages, stop the senseless killing in Gaza, condemn settler violence in the West Bank, and prevent the breakout of another war against Hezbollah and the Axis of Resistance.

We are the public. We have a great power that the corrupt governments and organizations that represent us do not. Therefore, the push for change must come from us. We can move toward peace only through an uncompromising social movement that strives for communication and de-escalation. We must always use critical thinking, look at the bigger picture, and fight for peace, equality, and the truth.

April 1st, 2024