-- A State "War" on Youth
Jewish Peace News
Ratcheting up their campaign against so-called "shirkers", Israeli
authorities have declared a new front in their "war" – as it is
termed by the news item below – on Israeli youth.
Growing numbers of young men and women currently find themselves
unable or unwilling to accept or trust the worn Israeli dictate:
"There's no other choice". Four generations and over six decades of
repeated, unending "military solutions" have engendered an expanding
movement of young people who experience and express excruciating
inner struggles and rifts in face of the legal duty to serve.
Despite the attempt of state courts, both military and civilian, to
compartmentalize such processes as either 'political', (very rarely)
'conscientious', or 'psychological', these internal conflicts are
both emotional and ideological, combining views, feelings,
convictions, ideas, beliefs, questions, personality, life experience
and sense-of-self. For some young people, they also involve highly
dangerous levels of personal distress and indeed, in recent years,
suicide has claimed the lives of more Israeli soldiers than all
other causes-of-death combined.
Rather than listening to the voice raised by these future citizens,
rather than fathoming the social change it reflects and responding
with changed, innovative policies, Israel's state institutions have
chosen to wage a "war" against these youths and the developments
they represent. Criminalizing the movement, state authorities will
now attempt to seek out illegalities in open and legal resistance
work, a move characteristic of a militarized state abusing its power
in a bid to keep in place an old, cracking order.
news item below reports on a criminal investigation now to be
conducted into the activities of the "New Profile" movement.
Attorney General Menachem Mazuz has, the piece reports, ordered a
probe into the actions of this movement, suspected among other
things of "convincing [people] to obtain exemptions from service".
have been an active member of "New Profile" since it was founded ten
years ago. We are a feminist group of both women and men that has
identified and recognized the existence of the unorganized social
movement borne by youth today in Israel. "New Profile" acknowledges
the major importance of this movement, responding to the need and
rights of the young people involved to open discussion of the
pressing questions they face, equipped with full and accurate
information about their prospects – information with which the
authorities are not forthcoming, to put it mildly. This is only one
of many ways in which "New Profile" works to change the militarized
thinking holding all of the people in Israel/Palestine hostage to
the policy of use-of-force, implemented to date by virtually every
Israeli government. While "New Profile" activities may enrage some,
whether individuals or institutions, they are totally legal.
short item below, however, written by Amos Harel, with contributions
by Yuval Azoulay, is illustrative of the type of militarized justice
and slanted exposure that state institutions and media tend to
dispense in Israel to dissenting groups. Deputy Attorney General
Shai Nitzan, whose letter the item quotes, has apparently upended
the legal principle: 'innocent until proven guilty'. Investigation
or none, on dispatching his instructions to conduct a probe he has
already determined, "the severity of [New Profile's] incitement to
draft evasion". Parroting rather than scrutinizing the claims of
this state official, journalist Amos Harel also has no use for the
yet-to-be-held investigation. He proceeds to convict "New Profile"
casually, describing it – as if he were simply recounting facts – as
a movement that "encourages draft dodging".
"New Profile" encourages, in my experience of the movement, is
posing, studying and openly discussing unobvious unorthodox
questions, taking personal and collective responsibility for some of
the answers, learning and creating ways to act on these through the
exercise of civil, human and legal rights. I believe that we speak
with and for a future that will not be silenced.
site for IDF draft dodgers faces criminal probe
Attorney General Menachem Mazuz recently ordered the police to open
a criminal investigation against the New Profile organization - the
first time a criminal probe has ever been launched against a group
that encourages draft dodging.
The probe, launched in response to a request from
the Israel Defense Forces, constitutes an intensification of the
army's war on draft dodging. It was prompted by concern over the
growing extent of this phenomenon. Military Advocate General Brig.
Gen. Avichai Mendelblit asked Mazuz to order the probe in February,
and earlier this month, Mazuz acceded to his request.
New Profile's Web site defines the group's purpose
as supplying "detailed and reliable information about the procedures
that enable one to obtain an exemption from military service," as
well as "moral support" for those seeking such an exemption.
Under Israeli law, "incitement to
draft dodging" is a crime in itself, though no group has ever before
been investigated for this offense. In addition, however, New
Profile is suspected of helping people secure exemptions
fraudulently. "The severity of [New Profile's] incitement to draft
evasion, which includes convincing [people] to obtain exemptions
from service, necessitates opening up an investigation," Deputy
Attorney General Shai Nitzan wrote in a statement informing
Mendelblit of Mazuz's decision.
The main reason for the probe's launch is
apparently the fact that New Profile's web site tells people what to
say to IDF mental health officers to create the impression that they
are psychologically unfit for service. In a document entitled "The
goal: 21," it details various ways of getting army evaluators to
assign the applicant a profile of 21, which is the IDF code for
unfit to serve. Many teens say that such advice has helped them in
obtaining draft exemptions.
Last summer, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF
Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi declared war on draft evasion, in
response to data showing that in 2007, almost 28 percent of all
draft-age males would not be drafted. Since then, the IDF has tried
various tactics: media campaigns aimed at increasing motivation to
serve, closer cooperation with high schools and municipalities, and
barring artists who did not serve from performing for the troops.
The IDF's Personnel Directorate claims that these
efforts, coupled with a stricter attitude on the part of the army's
mental health officers, have begun to bear fruit: This year, the
proportion of draft-age males who obtained mental-health exemptions
fell to 5.1 percent, from 5.5 percent last year, and the number of
soldiers who obtained mental-health exemptions during their service
Army sources expressed satisfaction with Mazuz's
decision. "Thorough legal treatment of this movement is very
important to deter evaders and those who urge them to evade,"
IDF Spokesman Avi Benayahu termed the decision
"another important step" in the war on draft dodging. This war, he
added, "must be a joint effort by the IDF, the state authorities and
Israeli society in general."
Yuval Azoulay adds: Sergei Sandler, one of New
Profile's leaders, said in response: "Our activity is completely
legal. We give information to young people about to be drafted about
the various procedures open to them, which the army obviously has an
interest in hiding. The decision to open an investigation against
New Profile contains an element of persecution. Every such decision
is ultimately a political decision aimed at shutting our mouths and
protecting a certain kind of social order. But if they want to
investigate, let them. Our activity is legal; we don't encourage
fraud; and we're proud of our activity."