Israel: More attacks on internal dissent

May 2, 2009

Seven activists associated with Israeli anti-military recruitment groups New Profile and Target 21 have been arrested in the latest attack on internal dissent in Israel, Ha'aretz said on April 27.

They were released after questioning on the strict proviso that they do not associate with blacklisted activist groups.

The arrestees include a 70-year old artist, a retired nurse and a 20-year old activist.

The seven are suspected of operating the groups' websites, which authorities claim actively pursue "incitement to draft dodging" — offence under Israeli law punishable by up to five years jail.

In home raids in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Ramat Hasharon, Netanya and Be'er Sheva, Israeli officials seized computers and documents.

An April 30 New Profile anti-raid protest outside a Tel Aviv police station turned ugly when police beat their way through the crowd and made a further eight arrests, a New Profile report said.

Twenty-three feminist organisations sent a letter in support of New Profile to the justice ministry to protest the attack on democratic rights.

The latest incident reveals Israel's attempt to stamp out resistance from within, as it tries to weather widespread international revulsion over its ongoing oppression of the Palestinian people

In September, attorney-general Menachem Mazuz first called for New Profile to be investigated.

A September Ha'aretz report said: "The main reason for the probe's launch [is that] New Profile's web site has a document entitled 'The goal: 21', which tells people what they should say to IDF mental health officers to evade service."

"Twenty-one" refers to the Israeli Defense Force's (IDF) code for those unfit to serve.

New Profile is an anti-military feminist group that helps conscientious objectors. This includes legal and financial aid.

The group also campaigns against militarism by exposing the day-to-day realities of Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories.

A New Profile spokesperson said: "These recent acts confirm what we have been contending for many years: the militarism of society in Israel harms the sacred principles of democracy, freedom of expression and freedom of political association.

"One who believed that until now criminal files were conjured up only for Arab citizens of Israel saw this morning that none of us can be certain that s/he can freely express an opinion concerning the failures of society and rule in Israel."
Israel's war on internal dissent has come amid a shift rightwards, with the election of Likud's Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minsiter with the support of extreme racist Avigdor Lieberman.

Last year, then-defence minister Ehud Barak said 28% of draft age males did not enter the IDF in 2007.

The IDF's tactics of underage recruitment (from age 16), mass advertising, media, institution and educational interventions are clearly not working as well as authorities had hoped.

In late 2008, hundreds of high school seniors, known as the shimistim, signed onto a conscientious objector pledge. This is added to the growing refusnik (conscientious objectors) movement, which refuses to take part in Israel's ongoing attacks on the Palestinian people.

Israel's further rightwards shift is making internal dissent even more dangerous. However, it also creates an environment in which resistance becomes seen by dissidents as even more necessary.

As Neta Mishli, an 18-year-old shimistim, explained before spending 20 days in a military prison for refusing to serve in the IDF: "I am not willing to be part of an organisation committing war crimes, taking the lives of thousands of innocent civilians, an organisation that, in the name of humanism and democracy, forces me and my peers to sacrifice a period of our lives, and our lives themselves, for false calm, for no calm shall come to pass until Israel decides to give up the policy of war and turn towards peace.

"Therefore, as a small step towards stopping the cycle of bloodshed, I hereby refuse to enlist in the military."

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