Since 2017, Na’ama has been maintaining a popular parody account about US pop sensation Taylor Swift, to keep fans up to date on Taylor’s (not so real) activities – like buying Spain. But for two months, dedicated “Swifties” were deprived of updates, as the 19-year-old megafan was serving time in an Israeli prison for refusing to join the military.
Although always aware of the conflict Na’ama began to take notice of the Palestinian cause when she was 17, “Only when I read foreign news and met Palestinian people did I understand the scope of it. I then turned to the UN reports on Palestine, and from there the rest is history.”
Her self-education on Palestine was what pushed her to refuse to join the Israeli army. “After I got educated, I saw that the scales weren’t balanced at all. I couldn’t tip them any further, so I refused to enlist.”
“This happens pretty often in Israel with teens who are moral objectors, so I’m really not some sort of pioneer, but I’m happy to help.”
Her main concerns, she explains, with Israel’s actions towards Palestine is its disregard for Palestinian civilians.
Over 6,000 people in Gaza alone were shot last year. That’s not normal, none of this is normal, and the international community should do something to stop it.
Another issue she raises is the fact that many Palestinians are not allowed to move within the land freely: “I personally know people who haven’t seen their own relatives in years because they live in different areas of Palestine.”
Her time in prison was further testament to the difference in treatment which Palestinians face compared to Israelis. While Palestinians are held in jails which do not meet the basic humanitarian standards, Na’ama describes her prison experience as “fine”.
“Prison was fine. Really boring, but just fine. I didn’t feel like a hero or anything because there were others who were just like me, and it didn’t feel like a big deal.”
“I sort of tried to avoid any inmates who were IDF soldiers imprisoned for their military crimes.”
Though visiting hours only took place once every two weeks, Na’ama did her best to stay abreast of Taylor Swift’s news, and even managed to write out a tweet for her friend to send out for her.
“I’m still in prison, lmao but I asked a visiting friend to post this: Can ya’ll… stop making comments on Taylor Swift’s body… she’ll let us know when/if she’s pregnant. Calm down.”
— Taylor Swift Updates (@LegitTayUpdates) February 25, 2019
Her willingness to serve time for refusing to enlist, she continues, is not a means of endorsing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, however, she does support sanctions on the Israeli army.
“I’m not strictly against every Israeli citizen’s existence, I’m just against the government. I do support sanctions on the [Israeli army] that would limit their power or at least force them to fine-tune their war on terror so that no civilians are harmed.”
Her situation has brought the Israel-Palestine conflict to the attention of a lot of “Swifties”, who have become interested in getting educated and taking action on the issue; something Na’ama says she’s pleased has happened.
“I’ve had Israeli teens message me asking about my experience and what they should do. I’m not a legal expert, but I had the resources to direct them to people who could help.”
“Those messages really brightened my day, and I’m happy more and more people are thinking for themselves.”
Despite the attention her story has attracted, her parents are unaware of the huge influx of support and attention she has been receiving. Although they disagree with their daughter, Na’ama believes they are slowly coming around to her way of thinking.
“My family disagree with me, but I see them coming around. Kind of hard to ignore the Palestine conversation at the dinner table if I keep bringing it up. Hopefully, when they find out about all this in a couple of years, they’ll still be supportive.”
In a country where national service is mandatory, refusing to enlist can also cripple earning potential and job prospects. As a result, Na’ama is currently studying for her SATs and hopes to abroad to continue her studies.
“I’ve been planning to move to the US so my pro-Palestine activism won’t negatively impact my family, friends, or community. Staying in Israel would mean struggling to find work. Just in the past couple of days I’ve looked through ‘help wanted’ forums and found next to nothing for those with no military service record.”
She says she’s not doing any of this for attention, but wants to use the opportunity to raise awareness about Palestine, and has even set up a fundraiser for the Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund, which addresses the medical and humanitarian crisis facing Palestinian youths.
“The attention can be nice but it’s not the reason for all of this. If it was, I’d probably go public with my face and full name, but I don’t want that kind of attention, and I don’t want myself or those around me to be marked by this forever.”