- Israeli “refusenik,” or conscientious objector, who refused the Israeli Defense Forces draft
- Speaks on numerous college campuses
Noam Bahat was born in Nirit, Israel on January 29, 1983. He dropped out of school in the tenth grade as an act of protest against what he viewed as fatal flaws in his country’s educational system, and became a youth-movement leader and children’s mentor at an Israeli moshav (cooperative agricultural community). As Bahat would later explain: “I went through a process at school, in which I stopped believing in the formal education system, a dogmatic and racist system that educates for grades and not for values. I looked around, tried to be critical and weigh things evenly, and decided to leave the educational system.”
Soon after leaving school, Bahat gained some prominence as an outspoken Israeli “refusenik,” or conscientious objector, who refused to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) when he was drafted at the age of 18. His decision was based on what he described as a moral objection to Israeli soldiers’ mistreatment of Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Golan Heights.
As a result of his refusal to obey his draft orders, Bahat served a prison sentence of 645 days. After his release in late 2004, he teamed up with fellow refusenik Shimri Zamaret and embarked on a lecture tour that took the pair through numerous U.S. cities where they addressed mostly students on college campuses. In their talks, Bahat and Zamaret consistently condemned Israel’s “occupation” of Palestinian territory and its “oppression” of Arabs in the West Bank. Such organizations as the American Friends Service Committee, the Refuser Solidarity Network, the Traprock Peace Center, and various local groups sponsored these speaking engagements. Among the public statements that Bahat issued in his talks were the following:
- “I became more aware of the horrendous things taking place in the occupied territories, and I also became aware of the nature of what it means to serve in the educational part of the army, that it means to be part of the propaganda of the occupation. Then I became aware that there’s nothing in the army I can do that I believe in, that I agree with, that I can tolerate. That’s when I decided to refuse.”
- “As a man of conscience I could not take part in the army of oppression.”
- “I realized that my country is an occupying nation. When I realized that, I knew that I must do everything I can to stop this occupation to make sure that both countries would stop paying that very high price.”
- “[T]he state of Israel, my state, my homeland, destroys the lives and rights of three million people.”
- “Palestinians have long since stopped being people in our [most Israelis’] view.”
In a 2004 interview with Peace magazine, Bahat was asked what he thought about the prospect of “a one-state solution” to the Arab-Israeli conflict. He replied: “How about a non-state solution? I don’t think peace through withdrawal of occupying forces is necessarily justice, but it is an improvement, because people stop dying. Maybe we can have a two-state solution for now and then a one-state solution later on, or maybe even something like the European Union.”
When asked about whether he felt any sense of patriotism vis à vis his homeland, Bahat said: “I object to patriotism. It’s an instrument used by politicians to manipulate citizens; the state should be a tool to serve the people. You don’t love a tool. You don’t love your microwave or your refrigerator. If the state … stops serving you, you should throw it away. Through ‘patriotism’ we are being taught to serve our politicians. Instead, we should contribute to our society.”
By the mid-2000s, Bahat had largely dropped out of the public eye. As of May 2011, he was employed in a boarding school for hearing-impaired children in Kfar Sab, Israel.
Some quotes and facts in this profile are derived, with permission, from Stand4Facts.org.