Prison Story #1
The second time I landed in prison the situation was more complicated. I wouldn’t be able to rely on the Shministim to help – the group had more or less disbanded. In any case, I hadn’t refused to serve in the Occupied Territories; I’d made the decision not to serve at all. The whole premise of refusing was the sacred right to say ‘no’ to injustice. Every day, all around me, were my fellow soldiers, part of that great occupation beast ruling cruelly over the Palestinians as a foreign power. The olive drab clothes I had to put on every day felt like a sickening, constricting uniform of hypocrisy. My own. What was I doing in the army?
After a few days in one cell, they transferred me to a tent compound. The next morning we were informed that prisoners would be sent on work teams to various locations around the large based that houses the military prison. I asked one of the guards if I could speak to him in private. I said: I’m here because I refuse to serve in the army. I will refuse to serve on any work team you assign me to. You can count on me to say no for just about anything you ask, with the exception of keeping my bunk tidy. However, I have no interest in causing a scene or surprising the guards – hence my pulling you aside.
He took it in for a moment. And said he’d let the officer know.
The next day, I was ordered into the office of the officer in charge of our compound. He tried to persuade me to behave. He said, no one cares what you do. There are no demonstrators outside the walls, nothing is in the newspapers, no one will hear about this. You’ll just incur more severe punishment. Why bother?
I told him: what kind of incentive makes doing something I don’t believe in worthwhile? Nothing you can offer. I do this for me, not for you. Not even for a cause. It’s pure selfishness, to become something more pure by rejecting you and your army. It’s not even for the sake of Palestinians, but for the sake of not being one of you.
The next day, the guard took me aside and asked if I was still planning to refuse. (Note: they’d left me in the sun now for a few days, without ordering me to join a work team!) Of course I was. He said: we’ll put you in the isolation ward (“Agaf Ha’iksim” or “The X Ward”). And you’ll refuse to work in there as well. And then we’ll do a banana tie (“kshirat banana”) on you. That’s when we handcuff your wrists to your ankles around the bunk bed, with your back all twisted. We’ll leave you like that for six or ten hours. It takes a long time to straighten out after that. And you’ll be able to look back on your experience as an old man, because this will fuck up your spine for life. So – tomorrow we’re ordering you to work. And it’s up to you to decide how you’re going to respond.
The rest of this story gets pretty strange, and I’m not sure if I will share it online. But no, I never agreed to work while in prison. I did end up in the isolation ward. I was never tied up like a banana, thank god.
Here’s the point. I became who I wanted to be. And Israel became what it is today, a dark morass of racism, xenophobia, violence, greed, corruption, highways and inequality. If those sins lead to devastating consequences, as they surely must, I’ll be thinking of the guards that beat new prisoners in the X Ward.
The arc of the moral universe is long, mother-fuckers, but it bends towards JUSTICE.