How To Break a Pacifist - The Story of Theodore Rubinstein
Conscientious Objector Theodore Rubinstein (Serial Number 5178660) has
already served two prison terms in military prisons, and is now facing a
Rubinstein is 27 years old. He immigrated to Israel from the former Soviet
Union. Before his induction he studied at the Hebrew University in
Already before his conscription Rubinstein had written a letter to the
Minister of Defense, explaining why he decided to refuse army service. His
grandfather had fought in the Red Army during WWII and afterwards told his
family many stories about the horrors of war he had witnessed. (His entire
family on his grandmother's side perished in the Holocaust.) Another
factor influencing him were the books of Hemmingway, Solzhenitzyn, and
Orwell. Rubinstein also was abhorred by what he learned from documentaries
of the horrors of the Vietnam War and the war in Afganistan.
During the interviews he gave to placement officers and to a military
psychologist, Rubinstein repeatedly explained his pacifist convictions
and stated that military service would be in total contradiction to his
values. But the representatives of the army ignored what he told them and
just threatened him with long prison terms. In the end, Rubinstein gave in
and allowed himself to be drafted.
He completed his basic training and then served for a year and a half as a
guard watching over armuaries. During all that period he experienced
anxiety attacks, fears and also guilt feelings at not having been
faithful to his convictions. And if all that was not enough, he was much
harassed by fellow soldiers who served with him, who were much younger
then him and thought him weird. Isolated among the soldiers he became
also a victim to disdainful and disrespectful treatment by the commanders
being several times punished for things he didn't do. In November 1998
Theodore left his base after making a final decision not to return to it.
In April 1999 Theodore Rubinstein gave himself up to the Military Police.
On April 1999, a court martial sentenced him to six months'
imprisonment. He was transferred to Military Prison 4 at Tzrifin. There he
refused to don a military uniform, which is required of prisoners, and
started a hunger strike.
During his imprisonment, Rubinstein - with the aid of a lawyer - appealed
to the proper military authorities to allow him to appear before the
army's "Commission on Conscience". When that was finally granted,
however, the commission - composed solely of military officers - treated him in a
harsh and cursory manner, failed to seriously address his motives or his
pacifist ideals, and rejected his appeal out of hand (which is the common
experience of pacifists appearing before that commission).
On August 4, 1999 under the recommendation of the Military Court of
Appeals, Rubinstein appeared before another military commission, this one
charged with deciding whether or not "the subject can adapt himself to
military life". But this commission, too, refused to grant him a
discharge. They did suggest that he be discharged under the "medical
profile 21" clause which denotes that the individual is mentally or
medically unfit to serve. That is a common way of the military authorities
to get rid of "troublemakers", and it entails a social stigma to the
former soldiers discharged under it, as well as difficulties in obtaining
a job or driving licence. Rubinstein - who has not yet totally given up on
his self esteem - refused this kind of discharge stating that there is
nothing mentally or physically wrong with him.
Theodore Rubinstein was released from prison on September 1, after his
term was reduced by 40 days for good behaviour. Upon his release, however,
he got a new order to present himself for service. Appearing at the camp
to which he was assigned he was promptly placed under "diciplinary
proceedings" and sentenced by the commanding officer to 28 days'
imprisonment (the maximum punishment possible in that kind of proceeding).
Two days ago, Friday October 1, Rubinstein was relesed at the end of his
term - and ordered to present himself for service at the same base as
before. He is likely to be reimprisoned on Sunday, and - unless the
military authorities are induced to change their attitude - to have still
a long period of repeated imprisonments ahead of him.
For further details: Ruti Hiller 09-8982396, and: