The IDF Has A Blank Space, Baby
An Israeli Taylor Swift fan who was sent to prison for refusing military service tells her story By Olivia Hallett and Matteo Gueli
If you're a Twitter user who has recently witnessed a somewhat surreal Tweet thread about a Taylor Swift fan account going to prison, you're not alone. This post by LegitTayUpdates, a 19-year-old from southern Israel who we will call N, has amassed tens of thousands of likes and retweets over the past month, inciting laughter, debate, and important discussions about the reality of involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We reached out to N via Twitter to ask her about her experiences, and, out of loyalty to her fellow swifties, she told us her story. The Israel Defense Forces, or IDF, has a policy of mandatory conscription for every non-Arab Israeli citizen over the age of 18. In 2017, around 28% of eligible citizens did not enlist. Many of them were Haredi Orthodox Jews, who are exempt for religious reasons, or people with medical grounds for exemption; only a small minority are conscientious objectors like N.
Those who object for reasons such as pacifism, anti-militarism, or, in N's case, opposition to the treatment of Palestinians under Israeli occupation, are subject to prison sentences of an undetermined length. N's sentence was just over two months long, from February 2nd to April 2nd, and, characteristically of her humorous online persona, she took it in stride. "Honestly, it was just really boring," she says. "They woke us up early, and counted us a few times a day, and we mostly just hung around and talked." While incarcerated, she had a friend visit her to keep her informed of the goings-on of the Taylor Swift Twitter community.
In March, many fans (much of The Plant’s staff included) were convinced that Swift had posted a photo of a fence with five holes in it to hint that she would be releasing a new song in five days, and, thanks to her visitor, N did not miss out on the excitement. "THERE WERE FIVE HOLES IN THE FENCE," she tells us emphatically as we mourn the tragic fact that no song was released on the anticipated date. Unlike the song (yes, we are still bitter), N was released on April 2nd, and instantly took to Twitter to explain her absence. She was shocked at the response she received. "I thought people who follow me would be happy I was back, and maybe my prison stories would make some of them laugh, but going as viral as I did? No way," she exclaims. "I mean, Vogue interviewed me. Vogue."
She took advantage of her sudden fame to divert attention to the Palestinian cause, encouraging her followers to donate to the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund, a gesture that she hopes will persist even when her story has left the headlines. "That's the kind of longevity I care about." Long Live, indeed. She has no regrets about going to prison; in typical swiftie fashion, she went in head first, fearless, encouraging others in her position to stand up as well. "Vote for what you believe in, and donate to and volunteer for pro-Palestine movements," she advises. "Stay informed and educated and don’t completely believe just one side of the story, no matter what side." When it comes to the future of the conflict, she hopes Palestine will be able to organize its government and free itself from the control of Hamas, and that peace will ultimately be achieved in the form of a two-state solution. The "Bad Blood" between Israel and Palestine is far from over, but the bravery and optimism of people like N gives us a glimmer of hope for the future; this is why we CAN have nice things. You can donate to the Palestine Children's Relief Fund at www.pcrf.net, and follow N on Twitter at @LegitTayUpdates for more legit Tay updates.