Feminists in Israel arrested for ‘encouraging’ draft-dodging

// 29 April 2009

Seven members of Israeli feminist group New Profile have been arrested, reports Haaretz, “for allegedly encouraging Israeli teens to refuse entry into the Israel Defense Forces”.

A coalition of 20 Israeli feminist groups has writen to Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, threatening to “flood the interrogation rooms” of the police station where the investigation is being carried out, in protest at the arrests:

“We are strenuously insisting on upholding the right to protest against the militarism and the belligerence of Israeli society, and we are expressing our repugnance at the attempts to silence it,” the groups wrote in a letter to Aharonovitch.

“We are watching with trepidation the assault on the rights and the civilian freedoms of Palestinians and Jews in Israel, which has escalated since the attack on Gaza in January of this year,” the letter continued.

“We view the investigation against New Profile as another step in the regime’s efforts to clamp down on the democratic plain and to suppress political protest. We call for the immediate cessation of the investigation, the attempts to sow fear, and all effort to oppress and persecute political activists.”

Women’s groups are planning a demonstration in front of the police station on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv, where the questioning of the activists is taking place. The feminists say they plan to submit voluntarily to police questioning “because all of us are fighting for a just and democratic society.

The English version of New Profile’s website hasn’t been updated all that recently, but you can follow their latest info on what has happened to conscientious objectors here, including details on useful letter-writing etc that can be done in support. Jewish Voice for Peace in the US has put together a form-letter/email to Israeli Attorney General Menahem Mazuz as well.

New Profile is an interesting group, for sure. In their English about section, they say:

We oppose the use of the army, police, security forces in the ongoing oppression and discrimination of the Palestinian citizens of Israel, while demolishing their homes, denying them building and development rights, using violence to disperse their demonstrations. Given the widespread opposition to the kind of roles assigned the Israeli army for many years, thousands of young women and men are currently avoiding conscription or avoiding combat duty. Some 25% of the annual candidate recruits are presently exempted for health-related reasons or found “unfit” for service. It is common knowledge that a large proportion of these in fact choose not to serve. They feel unable to identify with the implications and meaning of military service in Israel today. Faced with no legal option for conscientious objection, a discharge on grounds of unfitness or poor health is virtually their only way out. Opting out is even more widespread among reservists. Army spokesmen have stated that only a third of the reserve forces in fact do active service. We all know how pervasive the intentional avoidance of duty (“twilight refusal”) is among reservists.

This is also a fascinating slideshow, looking at how advertising and how it demonstrates/reinforces how militarised the society is – there’s a few looking at gender roles and the ‘idealised’ Israeli mother.

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