[Fwd: [newprofile message:2221] The Guardian_New Profile Under Investigation]
- Dear Friends,
As the below letter states, "[New Profile's] goal is to transform Israel from being a militarized society into a civil-ized one. Militarism touches much more than the issue of whether a country should or should not have an army. Militarism touches every aspect of societyfrom education of our children, to the place of women in society, and much more."
Please read on,
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Subject: [newprofile message:2221] The Guardian_New Profile Under Investigation Date: Thu, 02 Oct 2008 19:54:28 +0300 From: Dorothy <dor_naor@...> Reply-To: dor_naor@... To: Alef <alef@...>
Thanks to Adi for forwarding this, apparently the first media report about NPs current problem.
As you know, Israels Attorney General, Mani Mazuz, has called for a criminal investigation against New Profile. The charge appears to be that our website incites to draft-dodging. In Israel the draft is mandatory for all 18 year olds, except for individuals excused by the military.
The report below focuses on the one activity that New Profile engages in with respect to conscription: advising those who are do not wish to enlist in the military and who request help from NP. Needless to say, the support we offer is legitimate and legal.
Given this, NPs purpose and raison detre is not to help COs to not enlist. We do this by informing them of their rights, and guiding them in how to practice these. But this is not the main function or purpose of New Profile, as anyone who reads our charter (www.newprofile.org) can see at a glance. NPs goal is to transform Israel from being a militarized society into a civil-ized one. Militarism touches much more than the issue of whether a country should or should not have an army. Militarism touches every aspect of societyfrom education of our children, to the place of women in society, and much more.
New Profile came into being about a year or slightly more before the outbreak of the 2nd Intifada. It began as a study group. However, with the outbreak of the 2nd intifada NP was approached by youngsters who did not wish to participate in the Occupation, either because they were pacifists or because they opposed what Israel was doing, and who could not find anyone to help or support them. NP, which also opposes the Occupation, became more and more involved in researching the issue and doing what it could to guide and support these youngsters. Due to the circumstances, this aspect takes much NP time. But our aimour raison detreremains the original one: that of transforming Israel from a militaristic society into a civilian and civilized one.
Conscientious objection is despicable, unless, of course, you're from the ultra-orthodox community
Conscription in the Israeli defence forces (IDF) is a particularly sensitive topic in Israel; unsurprisingly, given that the majority of families will send at least one of their offspring to don the uniform in defence of their country. Refusal to play the game and join up is tantamount to treason in many people's eyes, so much so that politicians have realised there is huge political capital to be made out of relentlessly hounding and scapegoating those who fail to do their time in the forces.
The latest target for the wrath of the righteous is New Profile, an NGO dedicated to assisting would-be soldiers to avoid the draft. The pursuit of New Profile is part of the all-out war being waged by the authorities against the burgeoning section of Israeli youth that successfully eludes the IDF's clutches. Last year, nearly a third of eligible males managed to evade enlistment, causing a national outcry that has yet to die down.
The main culprits are the children of Israel's ultra-orthodox community, which has been exempt from serving ever since Ben-Gurion caved in to the demands of the haredi leaders during Israel's formative years. Ben-Gurion's accession to the Chazon Ish's request covered a few hundred young men who preferred to study in seminaries rather than take up arms for the fledgling state; now, however, almost 50,000 young Israelis can invoke this ruling in order to avoid serving.
But pursuing the haredi community is not a politically expedient move for today's politicians. They are well aware of the collective power that the ultra-orthodox wield, and are far too diplomatically adroit to make waves in such potentially deadly waters. Instead, they have opted to go for the soft underbelly of the refusenik brigade: those who claim conscientious objection as the reason for their reluctance to serve.
Conscientious objectors are not a new phenomenon in Israel, although this summer has seen a particularly vocal and well-publicised slew of draftees opting to spend time in military jail rather than lace up their combat boots and embark on a tour of duty. New Profile says that the assistance it provides to those seeking a way out of military service is based on the group's advocacy of pacifism and "determined peace politics", and it insists that it is simply endorsing "the basic human right to conscientious objection".
Incitement to draft-dodging is a crime under Israeli law, and the activities of New Profile appear to fall well within the definition. The group provides all kinds of advice on how new recruits can achieve a "21 [unfit to serve] profile" to convince the army psychologists of their unsuitability. Their actions have been widely condemned, especially in the rightwing, nationalist sector of the Israeli press, where commentators have had a field day painting New Profile and its devotees as workshy traitors, hell-bent on destroying Israeli society from within.
There is, of course, the danger that New Profile's services are being used by those teenagers for whom the mere thought of making altruistic efforts is anathema; namely the rich and spoilt offspring of the Israeli upper class, whose resistance to the call of duty continues a long tradition of pampered youth worming their way out of national service. However, that an NGO, which provides much-needed support to real conscientious objectors, should be labelled criminal shows up its accusers as being motivated more by malice than by well thought out, rational intentions.
Being forced to serve just because it's the done thing does not make it acceptable or palatable to every young Israeli, all the more so when the matter of aiding the illegal occupation of the West Bank is thrown into the mix. Under international law, not serving over the Green Line is actually a far more moral position for an Israeli to take than blindly following the herd and doing the IDF's bidding without a second thought.
However, as usual, considerations of international law come a distant second to kneejerk, nationalistic posturing. As word of New Profile's activities spread, more and more people are jumping on the bandwagon of castigation, working themselves into a frenzy about the corrupting influence that the group supposedly exerts on the nation's youth. According to this view, anyone defying the order to serve should be branded with the mark of Cain and exposed as a dangerous revolutionary.
Unless, of course, they are ultra-orthodox, in which case it's just business as usual, and no one dares speak out for fear of incurring the wrath of the omnipotent rabbinate. What's sauce for the haredi goose is not considered sauce for the conscientious gander, and the Israeli army, authorities and media seem more than content to play along in this duplicitous game.
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