Israel: WRI affiliate New Profile raided by police
Homes of New Profile activists searched for "incitement to draft evasion". Seven activists detained and interrogated
On 26 April 2009, six members of WRI's Israeli affiliate New Profile were detained by Israeli police, their homes raided, and their computers, and also computers of partners, seized. Among those detained was also Sergeiy Sandler, a member of the WRI Council and Executive Committee. All those detained were interrogated at Ramat Hachiyal police station in the Yarkon Region of the police. After the interrogation, all five were released, but only after agreeing to bail conditions which do not allow them to contact each other in the coming thirty days. The computers of partners were returned, but not the computers of those detained. Other Israeli activists have been summoned to report to the same police station the following day (27 April 2009). According to New Profile, 10 other activists have received summons to appear at a police station for interrogation.
The reason given by the police is an investigation against the website of New Profile (http://www.newprofile.org) and Target 21 (http://www.target-21.h1.ru/), a Russian language website for violations to article 109 of the Israeli criminal law, incitement to draft evasion. The investigation had been opened in September 2008, following an order of Israel's Attorney General Menachem Mazuz. This followed the declaration of a “war on draft evasion” by Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi in summer 2008. "The main part of the investigation has focused on locating those persons who are operating the two web sites where violations to article 109 of the criminal law, incitement for draft evasion, are being carried out," said Superintendent Nimrod Daniel, chief of investigations in the Yarkon District Police. According to Haaretz, the initial complaint against New Profile was lodged by activists from the Israeli Forum for the Promotion of Equal Share in the Burden - an organization advocating universal mandatory national service.
In a press release, New Profile condemned the raids: "The New Profile Movement expressed rage over the interrogation and the demand to not have contact with other members, which means a partial paralysis of the activities of this important organization in civil society in Israel.
Attorney Smadar Ben Nathan, who is representing New Profile, said that the investigation of the police is focusing on the website of New Profile, which has links to other sites on the internet. Ben Nathan added that the New Profile Movement is a recognized non-profit association which acts openly and publicly, in accordance with the law, and the use of a criminal investigation in this context is invalid and exaggerated, and stands in opposition to freedom of expression."
In an analysis of the investigation, New Profile writes: "The attempted criminalization of New Profile amounts to no less than a state war on youth. Rising numbers of young Jewish Israelis (as well as members of the Druze minority also subject to conscription) find themselves unable or unwilling to accept the over-used Israeli dictate: “There’s no other choice”. Despite the ongoing draft, more than half of all eligible Israelis no longer serve or complete their obligatory service in the military. Though Israeli law offers virtually no legal provision for Conscientious Objection, young people have found their own way to vote with their feet. (...)
Clearly, it’s not New Profile that they’re worried about. New Profile is an easy, visible scapegoat through which they hope to sow fear and intimidate future draft resisters, whom they stigmatize as “shirkers”. The state has declared a war against the many thousands who openly resist or dodge the draft and refuse to place their bodies, their minds, their morality at the disposal of vision-less politicians.
Israel’s war on its youth is being fought within a broader context of spiraling repression of political dissent. Activists were detained by the hundreds for protesting Israel’s attack against Gaza last January, most of them Palestinian citizens of Israel, some of whom still remain in detention. Non-violent protesters against the land-gobbling dragon of Israel’s separation wall are regularly targeted by lethal fire. Weeks ago Bassem Ibrahim Abu Rahma of Bil’in was killed by soldiers, becoming the 18th Palestinian killed while protesting the separation barrier.
In most cases, the repressive measures applied to Jewish activists still bear no comparison, in terms of arbitrariness and brutality, to the means employed against Palestinians."
War Resisters' International released a statement on 28 April, condemning the raids and the investigation against New Profile: "While New Profile is now the target of a criminal investigation, aimed at shutting down the organisation and its website for incitement to draft evasion, it has to be pointed out that not New Profile, but the state of Israel is violating international law by not providing for the right to conscientious objection (Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights). This has been repeatedly stated by several United Nations bodies.
If the Israeli government is concerned at the extent of rejection of military service by Israeli youth, then it should not harass those who offer good counsel but rather recognise the growing revulsion at the role the Israeli Defence Forces play – using criminal methods to maintain an occupation that is itself illegal."
Sources: Haaretz: Police arrest seven suspected of inciting IDF draft-dodging, 27 April 2009; Haaretz: Activists face off over draft-dodging, 1 May 2009; New Profile: Harsh police attack on freedom of expression, press release, 26 April 2009; New Profile: Context for targeting New Profile, May 2009; War Resisters' International: It is not counselling conscientious objectors that is criminal, but rather not recognising the right to conscientious objection, 28 April 2009