Today marks the 15th consecutive day and 29th day in total of the imprisonment of Noa Gur Golan. Once a small girl who dreamed of becoming a pilot in the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), Noa grew up to come uneasy at the horrors being committed in a deadly conflict. She recounts her first experience of this unease and fear, when she was young and attending her “Maccabi Youth Movement” club, when sirens began to go off and all of the children had to be rushed to a shelter to seek refuge from approaching missiles. It was at that moment that Noa realised she didn’t wish for any person to grow up in such an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty. Noa from that point on wished to create a way in which her values of peace and equality could coexist with her wishes to obey her country’s law and order, but sadly she could not find a way in which this could happen, and came to the realisation that she could never join the IDF and live out the moral consequences for herself.
I had the pleasure of meeting Noa during my first year at the United World College of the Adriatic, and scholarship-based international school for students aged 16-21 from around the world, united in the aim to promote peace, co-operation, understanding and multiculturalism, where she was already in her second and final year. During that time I witnessed first hand her dedication to her values and her struggle for peace, as well as her friendships with Palestinian and other Arab students at the college. I could only imagine her pain in knowing that when she returned to her country, her state would try and coerce her into taking part of the invasion and murder of her own friend’s families and people.
During her first year home in Israel, Noa was allowed a year until her military service began, and from this point on did everything in her power to apply for military exemption and serve her military service in social and citizen services. On top of this, she began working with the movement “Woman Wage Peace”, a mass movement of Palestinian and Israeli women working together for an end to the bloody conflict taking place in their countries. Finally, after two meetings in front of military committees, her request was refused, for the reason that “her reasons of conscience were not her true motives“. It is disgraceful that not only does her government refuse her request of abstaining from a military invasion which she out rightly disagrees with, but also has the audacity to subtly call her a coward for doing so, even though one of the least cowardly actions I can imagine is taking a active stand and willing to go to prison for your values and for peace in your country.
Noa continues to be in prison to this moment, and will continue to be released and re-sentenced indefinitely until her government choose to let her go. This is a disgrace. The state of Israel was set up in order to keep the Jewish people safe from the oppression and violence which had followed them throughout history, yet now the Israeli government is choosing to not only oppress and systematically evict and kill the Palestinian people, but also oppress and imprison their own people who choose to take a stand for peace and for building a better, more progressive society, placing Noa and others in cells of over 10 people, confiscating books and pencils for sketching which their mothers bring them to help pass the many dull and mind-numbing hours inside blank, overcrowded jail cells. In a Facebook post posted during a brief few days in the outside world between re-sentencing, Noa recounts how she was playfully pulled into the sea by a 10 year old Palestinian girl called Malak whilst at a charity beach event, and for a brief moment emotional and lingual barriers were removed and they were able to connect as simply two human beings, yet this thought was cut short by another one of Malak having to pass through an Israeli checkpoint on her way home to occupied land, humiliated and oppressed in her own hometown simply for her ethnicity.
I take a stand against this oppression. I stand in solidarity of Noa and her refusal to join a war which she sees as unnecessary and illegal. I stand in solidarity with the countless others imprisoned for doing the same. I stand in solidarity with everyone who dares to fight and face the violence and coercion of the Israeli state in the struggle for peace in their homeland. And most importantly, I stand in solidarity with the Israeli and Palestinian people who are forced to live a life of violence and fear because of a choice of a few government ministers who refuse to take a stand for humanity and rather suit their own imperialist ambitions.
In the words of Noa herself:
“I want to believe that in a democratic country there is a place for all of us to live and work towards a better life. A life where all of the people of this piece of land, Israeli and Palestinians, will b free and truly independent.
I see my refusal as an active step of showing an alternative to the violent reality in which we have gotten used to living.
For the sake of true security, there must be another way.”