Support Israeli Conscientious Objectors: Jonathan Ben-Artzi


Jonathan Ben-Artzi's struggle with them military is still not over. In April 2004, the pacifist was sentenced to two month in prison, after having been exempted from military service. Jonathan Ben-Artzi appealed against the sentence, and is presently not in prison.

Jonathan Ben-Artzi, a pacifist conscientious objector, told the IDF from early on that he does not have any intention to enlist. What followed was a long prelude to the later court-martial, consisting of several hearings in front of the Conscience committee, and repeated imprisonment.

The Conscience Committee first heard his case in May 2000. At that time no decision was taken, and his enlistment - originally due in March 2001 - was postponed to July 2001. In May 2001 another hearing in front of the Conscience Committee was convened, and after a brief conversation Jonathan Ben-Artzi request to be exempted from military service for reasons of conscience was rejected.

Jonathan Ben-Artzi appealed to the Supreme Court, which decided in July 2001 that the Conscience Committee should review the case and that the claimant be allowed to have a lawyer and witnesses. In November 2001 Jonathan Ben-Artzi appeared in front of the Conscience Committee for the third time, defended by a lawyer. However, his claim was rejected again on the grounds that he is a conflictive person and therefore not a true pacifist. It was also stated that Jonathan Ben-Artzi could not conform to the military system.

Again, Jonathan Ben-Artzi appealed to the Supreme Court, on the grounds that the Conscience Committee lacked expertise and had ignored written testimonies. In May 2002 the Supreme Court decided on the form and not on the substance of the Conscience Committee's decision, and ruled that the Conscience Committee had acted according to the law.

Jonathan Ben-Artzi's imprisonment began on 8 August 2002, when he was sentenced to 28 days imprisonment in Military Prison No 4. In a statement to the IDF authorities he wrote: "I, Jonathan Ben-Artzi, am refusing to join the army on grounds of pacifism. My profound convictions in non-violence began when I was a small child, and developed over the years into a broad political philosophy. Because of my beliefs, my own country is going to imprison me, in defiance of international laws, basic moral values and fundamental human rights. I will go to prison proudly, knowing that this is the least I can do to improve this country, and the cause of pacifism."

After 7 prison terms and more than 180 days in prison, Jonathan Ben-Artzi was court martialed. The court martial lasted for several months, the verdict was given on 12 November 2003. The court ruled: "We have become convinced of the sincerity of Yoni Ben Artzi's pacifist convictions, and we are far from feeling that the Conscience Committee acted at its best when it rejected his request for exemption. The assertion that he wanted to avoid military service for personal convenience does not stand up to the proven record of his spending than a year behind bars, and to his rejecting offers of easy and comfortable military service made to him by various high officers. Nor do we accept the prosecutor's contention that his participation in the Yesh Gvul rally proves him to be a political refuser rather than a pacifist. A pacifist could have political opinions, too. Objecting to Israel's rule behind the Green Line is exactly the opinion which we would expect a pacifist to hold and we would have been surprised to find him holding a different one."

On 8 January 2004, the Minister of Defence finally decided to accept the court's recommendation, and to reconvene the Conscience Committee. Jonathan Ben-Artzi was finally released until a new decision of the Conscience Committee has been reached. This happened two month later - and the Committee finally exempted Jonathan Ben-Artzi from military service, but not for reasons of conscience, but because of his unwillingness and "incompatibility" with a military environment.

In April 2004, Jonathan Ben-Artzi was finally sentenced by the military court - to two months imprisonment plus a fine. The case continues, due to an appeal by Jonathan Ben-Artzi.

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Related peace activist(s): Jonathan Ben-Artzi
Related peace activist(s): Jonathan Ben-Artzi

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