Thursday, September 25, 2008

Israelis refusing militarism and occupation

JPN editors have invited a guest editor, Haggai Matar, to introduce this posting, based on his experience as a longtime activist against the occupation, his stand and extended imprisonment as a Conscientious Objector, his extensive organizing work both as and with youth.

Recent developments in Israel, says Matar, reveal "a fascinating phase in a struggle between militarism and occupation on one side and, on the other, a civilian society" in Israel. His introduction then refers JPN readers to a selection of relevant recent items from alternative sources and mainstream press.


Three young Israeli women are being sent to prison this week. The three, members of the Shministim – a new group of Israeli teenagers openly refusing to enlist, are expected to serve several consecutive sentences in military prisons for taking this stand, amounting to several months in all, during which they will be joined by at least five of their friends. In their joint declaration, the first of the items below, the Shministim state that they "oppose the actions taken in the name of the 'defense' of the Israeli society" and "protest on the separation, control, oppression and killing policy held by the state of Israel [… which] will never lead us to peace". (To read more about the three girls sentenced this week and to learn what you can do to help see the second item hereunder).

In order to understand this new wave of declared conscientious objection one should step back and look at the dynamics of the draft refusal movement in Israel and its relation to local politics. From this perspective one can see two dominant patterns at play in the movement. The first, and perhaps more well known of the two, is that of responding to the State's use of extraordinary excess force in its wars and oppression campaigns against Palestinians. We've seen this happen during the First Intifada, during the Lebanon Wars, and during the intense first few years of the Second Intifada; young people facing the draft, alongside reserve service soldiers, realize that what they are being asked to do is in no way a form of serving their country or protecting it from a fierce external enemy, but rather an attempt by Israeli elites to continue to profit from the lands, real estate, water supply and captive markets of the occupied Palestinian territories, also lowering Israelis' popular
resistance to radical domestic neo-liberal reforms, through maintaining fear and external conflict. The waves of refusal aroused by these actions focus their stand on saying 'no' to the terrible war crimes committed in crushing the civilian Palestinian population and making its life intolerable, and 'yes' to viable alternatives to the cycles of violence. This was where I was coming from when along with many friends I refused to enlist in the bloody days of 2002.

The second pattern of declared refusal is that which arises at times of supposed peace, or peace processes. Such was the case in 1970, when few young soldiers-to-be called upon then PM Golda Meir to accept the Egyptian peace offer, and avoid another terrible war. The current wave of declared COs belongs to this kind. While Israeli media talks of ongoing negotiations and while acts of violence towards Israelis have come to a halt, it has become extremely and dangerously easy to forget, inside Israel and abroad, that the occupation has not ended. This new wave of Shministim is trying to remind the world that while we talk of peace, there is no reality of peace for Palestinians. Gaza is under siege and poverty-stricken. In the West Bank illegal settlements and the Apartheid Wall continue to grow and expand on Palestinian land. West Bank civilians, forced to live within increasingly smaller confines, need permits and encounter checkpoints in their every move. The western world currently
sees no violence in Israel/Palestine because there are no or very few terrorist attacks targeting Israeli civilians, but at the same time Palestinians continue to be subjected to brutal daily terror. Not only is this not a reality of 'peace', it is also a status that, in the longer run, will necessarily escalate again into yet another round of violent military conflict. If the former pattern of refusal reacts to very visible violence and challenges it, the challenge of groups of the latter pattern is to bring to light the violence deep rooted in the mere existence of occupation. By refusing to enlist the young women and men of the Shministim are paying a personal price in order to get this message through to politicians and to the public and to demand an alternative.

Presenting such alternatives is not easy in Israel, though, especially when it comes to delicate issues like the mandatory draft. As the Israeli establishment promotes a glorifying notion of the army, presenting it as a "people's army" and a "ticket into society", many young people find themselves confused and afraid in facing the draft, and feel they have no one to turn to with questions. While the Shministim have already found their own answers, the majority of youths have no safe space for discussions, as almost all schools and many families place the basic imperative of the draft beyond discussion. Nevertheless, today, slightly over half of all Israelis do not serve as expected of them, and the numbers are gradually growing. While declared conscientious objectors who go to prison are but a tiny minority in this general movement, thousands of young people find alternative ways of avoiding military service each year. Their reasons are countless, varying from objection to the
occupation, through religious motives, to a feeling of detachment from the State which no longer sees itself responsible for the social security of its citizens but still expects so much of them.

This massive movement of "grey refusal" is a cause of alarm to the militarized establishment, not so much because it lacks the manpower to enforce its policies, but because of the long term damage to the notion of a "people's army" which it tries to maintain. To counter this effect, the army, supported by politicians and like-minded civilians, is using many different tactics. In the past few years more and more threats have been made towards those avoiding service, implying social sanctions and denial of civilian and political rights. The army also targets those few who make their refusal known, and sentences them to long periods of prison. This persecution reached one of its heights in the army's decision to put me and my friends on a public court martial four years ago, sentencing us to some two years in prison.

Naturally, the tension between a movement of thousands who feel uneasy about accepting army service as an unquestionable given and the official stand on the matter creates an empty space. This space is filled by New Profile, an NGO of which I am a member, working for the last ten years on the demilitarization of society. Through weekly meetings of youth groups spread throughout the country and a yearly alternative summer camp, New Profile allows youths a safe haven for open discussions, offering many of them a unique chance to deal with "forbidden" issues extending far beyond military service to include, among others, feminism, gender, sexual preference, capitalist globalization and the environment. The youth activity of New Profile contains a certain tension at it core. On the one hand – New Profile promotes the cancellation of the mandatory draft, and supports those who choose not to enlist. On the other hand – in its interactions with young people who are asking questions, who
still unsure as to their plans, New Profile wishes not to encourage refusal but to offer youths a chance to think for themselves, without pressuring them one way or the other. This tension is in a way at the focal point of two articles published recently, the links to which are attached below. The first, from the Christian Science Monitor, deals with the Alternative Summer Camp (and has me speaking a little more in it), and the second, from the Jerusalem Post, is an in-depth piece on New Profile.

This complexity is not seen favorably by the establishment. A few months ago a petition was made to the High Court of Justice by an Israeli NGO promoting strict enforcement of the draft, demanding that New Profile be stripped of its NGO status because it incites draft-avoidance and refusal. While that petition is just in its initial stages, just last week the attorney general decided to launch a criminal investigation against New Profile, making similar accusations. Rela Mazali, one of the founders of New Profile and an active member since, edited last week's post on the subject (at

To sum up, Israel is now facing a fascinating phase in a struggle between militarism and occupation on one side and, on the other, a civilian society in search of alternative ways of managing itself and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, ways unlike those offered us until now.

As a guest editor I would like to thank the regular JPN editors for inviting me write here, and especially to Rela Mazali who helped greatly in the process of writing itself.

Haggai Matar

The Shministim letter of 2008:

We, high-school graduate teens, declare that we shall work against the Israeli occupation and oppression policy in the occupied territories and the territories of Israel. Therefore we will refuse to take part of these actions, which are being done under our name as part of the IDF.
Our refusal comes first and foremost as a protest on the separation, control, oppression and killing policy held by the state of Israel in the occupied territories, as we understand that this oppression, killing and routing of hatred will never lead us to peace, and they are all contradictory to the basic values a society that pretends to be democratic should have.

All the members of this group believe in developing the value of social work. We are not refusing to serve the society we live in, but are protesting against the occupation and the ways of actions which the militaristic system holds as it is today- crushing civil rights, discriminating on a racial base and acting opposing international laws.

We oppose the actions taken in the name of the "defense" of the Israeli society (Checkpoints, targeted killing, apartheid roads-available for Jews only, curfews etc.) that serve the occupation and exploitation policy , annex more conquered territories to the State of Israel and tramples the rights of the Palestinian population in an aggressive manner. These actions serve as a band-aid covering a bleeding wound, and as a limited and temporary solution that will accelerate and aggravate the conflict further.

We expostulate the plundering and the theft of territories and source of income to the Palestinians in exchange to the expansion of the settlements, reasoning to defend Israeli territories. In addition, we oppose any transformation of Palestinian cities and villages to ghettos without minimal living conditions or income sources enclosed by the separation wall.

We also protest the humiliating and disrespectful behavior of the military forces towards Palestinians in the West Bank; violence towards demonstrators, public humiliations, arrests, destruction of property regardless to any safety or defense needs, all of which violate global human rights and international law.

The wall and blockades surround the Palestinian Territories and serve as a halter around the Palestinian's neck. The soldiers who commit crimes under the patronage and protection of their commanders reflect the image of the Israeli society; a destructive and surprising society that is incapable of accepting its neighboring nation as a partner and not as an enemy.

In order to hold an effective dialogue between the two societies, we, the well-established and stronger society, have the responsibility of establishing and strengthening the other. Only with a more socially and financially established partner could we work towards peace rather than one-sided retaliation acts. Rather than supporting those citizens who have hope for peace, the military cast sanctions and pushes more and more people towards acts of extreme violence and escalation.

We hereby challenge every citizen who wonders if the military's policy in the occupied territories is conducive to the progression of the peace process, to discover by himself/ herself the truth and to lift the veil which distorts the reality of the situation; to verify statistical data; to look for the humane side in him/her and in the society which stands in front of him/her, to disprove the myths that were routed within us regarding the necessity of the IDF's in the Palestinian Occupied Territories, and to stand up against every action which he finds irrational and illegal.

In a place were there are humans, there is someone to talk to. Therefore, we ask to create a dialogue that goes beyond the power struggle, the retaliation and one-sided attrition actions; to disprove the "No Partner" myth, which is leading to a lose-lose situation of an ongoing frustration, and to move to more humane methods.

We cannot hurt in the name of defense or imprison in the name of freedom; therefore we cannot be moral and serve the occupation

An e-mail circulated recently on the sentencing of the three young COs:

Three Objectors Sentenced for Refusal to Enlist
- Please distribute widely -
Dear Friends,

Yesterday morning, three women COs - Omer Goldman, Tamar Katz and Mia Tamarin - all signatories of the 2008 high school seniors refusal letter, reported at the military Induction Base and refused to enlist into the Israeli military (all three can be seen on the right, photographed by the media at the demonstration organized for the occasion). Of the three, Omer was sentenced to 21 days in prison on the same day. Tamar and Mia were both given a conditional sentence of 7 days in prison, kept in the Induction Base until this morning (23 Sept.), and then, upon refusing to enlist, were sentenced to five days of confinement to base. They should be tried again on Sunday. Apparently the military authorities are trying to avoid sending all three to prison together.

The three signatories of the same letter, on whose imprisonment we have reported last month have finished their first prison terms, and are now awaiting the decision of the military authorities in their cases. We will, naturally, update when there are any significant developments.

This update will focus on the case of Omer Goldman, who is in prison at the moment. Fuller updates on Tamar Katz and Mia Tamarin will follow once they are sentenced again, early next week.

CO Omer Goldman, 19, from the Tel-Aviv suburb of Ramat HaSharon, has been, as mentioned above, sentenced to 21 days in military prison on 22 Sept. Further terms of imprisonment might well follow after this one ends. In her declaration of refusal she stated:

I refuse to enlist in the Israeli military. I shall not be part of an army that needlessly implements a violent policy and violates the most basic human rights on a daily basis.

Like most of my peers, I too have not dared to question the ethics of the Israeli military. But when I visited the Occupied Territories I realized I see a completely different reality, a violent, oppressive, extreme reality that must be ended.

I believe in service to the society I am part of, and that is precisely why I refuse to take part in the war crimes committed by my country. Violence will not bring any kind of solution, and I shall not commit violence, come what may.

Omer is due to be released from prison on 10 Oct., although due to the Jewish High Holidays an earlier date of release is also possible. Her prison address (note the different surname, as listed in official documents) is:
Omer Granot
Military ID 5398532
Military Prison No. 400
Military Postal Code 02447, IDF
Fax: ++972-3-9579389

Since the prison authorities often block mail from reaching imprisoned objectors, we also recommend you to send your letters of support and encouragement to Omer via e-mail to, and they will be printed out and delivered to her during visits. You can also use the e-mail address to send support messages to Tamar and Mia. They're not in prison yet, but are kept against their will in a military compound, which is not that much different from prison, and could use some support.

In addition, you may want to follow some of our recommendations for action below.

Recommended Action
First of all, please circulate this message and the information contained in it as widely as possible, not only through e-mail, but also on websites, conventional media, by word of mouth, etc.

Other recommendations for action:
1. Sending Letters of Support
Please send Omer letters of support (preferably postcards or by fax) to the prison address above.
2. Letters to Authorities
It is recommended to send letters of protest on Omer's behalf, preferably by fax, to:
Mr. Ehud Barak,
Minister of Defence,
Ministry of Defence,
37 Kaplan St.,
Tel-Aviv 61909,
E-mail: or
Fax: ++972-3-696-27-57 / ++972-3-691-69-40 / ++972-3-691-79-15

Copies of your letters can also be sent to the commander of the military prison at:
Commander of Military Prison No. 400,
Military Prison No. 400,
Military postal number 02447, IDF
Fax: ++972-3-9579389
Another useful address for sending copies would be the Military Attorney General:
Avichai Mandelblit,
Chief Military Attorney
Military postal code 9605, IDF
Fax: ++972-3-569-43-70

It would be especially useful to send your appeals to the Commander of the Induction Base in Tel-HaShomer. It is this officer that ultimately decides whether an objector is to be exempted from military service or sent to another round in prison, and it is the same officer who is ultimately in charge of the military Conscience Committee:
Gadi Agmon,
Commander of Induction Base,
Meitav, Tel-HaShomer
Military Postal Code 02718, IDF
Fax: ++972-3-737-60-52

For those of you who live outside Israel, it would be very effective to send protests to your local Israeli embassy. You can find the address of your local embassy on the web.
Here is a sample letter, which you can use, or better adapt, in sending appeals to authorities on the prisoners' behalf:
Dear Sir/Madam,

It has come to my attention that Omer Goldman, Military ID 5398532, a conscientious objector, has been imprisoned for her refusal to perform military service, and is held in Military Prison No. 400.

The imprisonment of conscientious objectors such as Omer Goldman is a violation of international law, of basic human rights and of plain morals.

I therefore call for the immediate and unconditional release from prison of Omer Goldman, without threat of further imprisonment in the future, and urge you and the system you are heading to respect the dignity and person of conscientious objectors, indeed of all human beings, in the future.


3. Letters to media in Israel and in other countries
Writing op-ed pieces and letters to editors of media in Israel and other countries could also be quite useful in indirectly but powerfully pressuring the military authorities to let go of the objectors and in bringing their plight and their cause to public attention.

Here are some contact details for the main media outlets in Israel:
Ma'ariv: 2 Karlibach St. Tel-Aviv 67132 Israel Fax: +972-3-561-06-14 e-mail:
Yedioth Aharonoth: 2 Moses St. Tel-Aviv Israel Fax: +972-3-608-25-46
Ha'aretz (Hebrew):21 Schocken st.Tel-Aviv, 61001IsraelFax: +972-3-681-00-12
Ha'aretz (English edition):21 Schocken St. Tel-Aviv, 61001 Israel Fax: +972-3-512-11-56e-mail:
Israel Hayom: 2 Hashlosha St. The B1 Building Tel-Aviv Israele-mail:
Jerusalem Post:P.O. Box 81 Jerusalem 91000 Israel Fax: +972-2-538-95-27 e-mail: or

Radio (fax numbers):Kol-Israel +972-2-531-33-15 and +972-3-694-47-09
Galei Zahal +972-3-512-67-20 Television (fax numbers):Channel 1 +972-2-530-15-36 Channel 2 +972-2-533-98-09 Channel 10 +972-3-733-16-66
We will continue updating on further developments.
Thank you for your attention and action,
Sergeiy Sandler – New Profile.

The Christian Science Monitor article about the summer camp:

A summer camp for political dissenters in Israel

By Danna Harman
The Christian Science Monitor
August 27, 2008 edition

talks with's Pat Murphy about who works at and who attends a camp for conscientious objectors in Israel.

Latrun, Israel - Weeks before her scheduled conscription into the Israeli army, at a time when most other 18-year-olds were gearing up for mandatory service, Saar Vardi was in the forest – talking about pacifism.

One of a small group of Israeli conscientious objectors, Ms. Vardi spent her last days of summer at a unique camp – counseling others who might follow in her activist footsteps.

'A lot of us don't get why we should give up years, not to mention maybe our lives, for what seems like someone else's wars,' explained Vardi, a facilitator at Alternative Camp, a program for 15- to 19-year-olds outside Neve Shalom, a cooperative Israeli-Arab village. 'Here, we talk about options.'

On Monday, instead of reporting for duty, Vardi exercised her option to refuse service and, as expected, was promptly marched into jail.

While the camp is not billed as a conscientious objectors' gathering, the theme hung over the forest as thick as the smoke from the environmentally friendly cookers. Most of the 30-odd counselors were draft dodgers, deserters, or declared conscientious objectors who hoped to foster a greater understanding of their desire not to fight.

For the third year in a row, close to 100 campers gathered here to take part in seminars on subjects ranging from 'gender, sexuality, and alternative lifestyles,' to 'animal rights,' and 'the alternative history of the occupation.' And all this, between vegan meals and field trips to deserted Arab villages.

`No. We are not mainstream,' shrugged counselor Hagai Matar, a redhead with thick sideburns and a full beard, who was recently released after two years in jail for refusing to serve. 'But we are as much a part of the fabric of this country as anyone else,' he said. 'Israel is more conflicted and complicated than it may seem.'

Military service is mandatory in Israel – two years for females, three for males, and more if one volunteers for certain elite units or stays on as an officer. Afterwards, most Israeli men, and some women, are required to report for reserve duty every year until age 40, and sometimes beyond.

For most of Israel's 60 year history, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) was a sacred cow, and the need for everyone to serve in it – part of the national consensus. But cracks in that consensus are apparent.

'Until the 1980s resisting the draft was practically unheard of … but kids today are thinking differently than [they once were.] Today it is easier, in some circles, to justify not serving,' said Ofer Neiman, an activist from Yesh Gvul ('There Is A Limit'), a reservists' resistance movement established at the start of the Lebanon War in 1982. That war saw both the beginning and the peak of the phenomenon, with 3,500 people eventually signing a Yesh Gvul petition pledge not to serve – and 200 ultimately sitting in jail.

Since then, hundreds more have resisted the call to arms on moral grounds. Some refuse to serve in the occupied territories others refuse to serve at all. And while the vast majority of these objectors are reservists, the number of 18-year-old conscripts among their ranks has also grown, despite the general social stigma.

'The occupation is weighing down on everyone,' said camp counselor Tali Lerner, who spent nine months in the air force before deserting. Eventually released on medical grounds, she became active in New Profile, an antimilitary movement that helps those who don't want to serve. New Profile – the name is a play of words on the profiling system used by the military to sort recruits into units – is an Alternative Camp sponsor.

'Israelis grow up fed the idea that serving is our ultimate responsibility to the state,' said Ms. Lerner, shaking her shaved head. 'And here we offer a weeklong break from that collective narrative.'

Between 2005 and 2007, 42 draftees – both male and female – were recognized by a special military committee as conscientious objectors and given official exemptions. Dozens of others, who were not recognized as pacifists by the IDF, eventually went to jail for refusing the order to serve.

The number of objectors is relatively small, but also hard to verify, mainly because most do not go through the process of declaring themselves objectors but rather get out of serving by feigning physical or mental incompetence.

The IDF spokesman's office confirmed that 28 percent of 18-year-old men and 43 percent of the women did not join the army this year. The vast majority of those who are not drafted are ultra-Orthodox Jews – a large population that is legally exempt. Others are exempted on medical grounds, because they have low test scores, criminal records, or are living abroad. Israeli Arabs are also exempt from service, although they can volunteer.

'It's easier to lie and pretend you are nuts or get married or say you are religious or try to leave the country, but I wanted to take a moral stand,' said Vardi, whose request for a conscientious exemption was rejected because her political activities were not deemed pacifist. 'And if you go to prison, people listen to you.'

Vardi will remain in jail until Sept. 1, when she'll be asked again to serve her term in the IDF. If she refuses, the state is expected to give her another weeklong sentence. If she continues to defy the state, Verdi could remain behind bars anywhere from 42 days to two years. Six other young Israelis are expected to choose jail time over service later this month.

When asked why they don't take their protest a step further and leave the country, the counselors at Alternative Camp were taken aback.

'I refuse to see the policy of the government and military in the territories as the sum total of society,' said Mr. Matar. 'Israel is a part of who I am.'

'Leave? Why?' wondered Lerner. 'We all belong here. Now let's talk about what kind of 'here' we want.'

The Jerusalem Post article about New Profile:
'Neither shall they study war anymore'

Sep. 4, 2008
carl hoffman , THE JERUSALEM POST

You are either going to love this group or hate it, depending on where you stand in Israel's contemporary political spectrum. There is virtually no middle ground. Looking through the lenses of our politically hyper-polarized society, you will either admire this organization as a beacon of light pointing the way toward a better Israel, or abhor it as a dangerous threat to the country's very existence.

The organization is called New Profile - A Movement for the Civil-ization of Israeli Society. Founded as a feminist organization 10 years ago to combat what it sees as the "over-militarization" of Israel, New Profile's primary objectives are to put an end to compulsory military service, provide aid and support to imprisoned refuseniks and conscientious objectors, offer counseling on "all forms of draft resistance and conscientious objection" to high-school graduates prior to their enlistment, advocate resistance to Israel's "occupation" of the West Bank, and conduct educational programs aimed toward raising public awareness of what the group believes is the over-emphasis of military themes in Israeli society and culture. One such program is a portable, traveling exhibit of photographs entitled, "Neither Shall They Study War Anymore."

The group's charter states: "We, a group of feminist women and men, are convinced that we need not live in a soldiers' state. Today, Israel is capable of a determined peace politics. It need not be a militarized society. We are convinced that we ourselves, our children, our partners, need not go on being endlessly mobilized, need not go on living as warriors… We will not go on being mobilized, raising children for mobilization, supporting mobilized partners, brothers, fathers, while those in charge of the country go on deploying the army easily, rather than building other solutions... We oppose the use of military means to enforce Israeli sovereignty beyond the Green Line. 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."

Unlike most other Israeli non-profit organizations, New Profile receives little of its income from private donations. New Profile's funding comes principally from international Christian organizations like the Quakers (United Kingdom) and Bread for the World (United States). New Profile has worked in tandem with groups like Women in Black, and in conjunction with the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions to rebuild houses of West Bank Palestinians demolished by the IDF.

But it is programs like "Think Before Enlisting" and other draft resistance campaigns that have placed the group at the opposite end of the spectrum from such organizations as Shivyon - The Israeli Forum for the Promotion of an Equal Share of the [military] Burden, with whom New Profile is often at bitter odds. The latest flashpoint has been the recent imprisonment of Udi Nir, 18, of Herzliya, who was ordered jailed on August 21 for refusing to serve in the IDF. Nir is one of a group of high-school seniors who recently signed a collective declaration of refusal to serve.

The group, who call themselves "Shministim Letter 2008 - Refusing the Occupation," have a page on and are featured as heroes of conscience on New Profile's website. Nir and his group, however, provoked the following angry comments from Shivyon spokesperson Zohara Berger-Tzur, published in The Jerusalem Post on August 22: "The situation is absurd. Suddenly everyone has a reason not to serve - the haredim have their reasons why they can't serve, and the pacifists have their reasons why they can't serve. It's demagoguery, that's what it is…There are still some who serve with pride, but there are others who simply worry about themselves. If we keep it up, we won't have anything left to defend."

Claiming some 2,000 supporters and run by "40-60" active volunteers, New Profile operates with a "feminist, non-hierarchical" system of organization. Accordingly, the group prides itself in having no leaders, no one occupying any official positions, no fixed division of labor, or even an office. New Profile members run the group from their own homes.
The organization also lacks an official spokesperson, but Dr. Diana Dolev, a founder and prominent figure within the group, agreed to talk with Metro about New Profile's general ideology and activities. Dolev, a fifth-generation Israeli - "Fifth or more, I'm not sure," she says - holds a Ph.D. in the History and Theory of Architecture and teaches at the Holon Institute of Technology. She is involved primarily with New Profile's outreach educational programs.

If I understand you correctly, New Profile's basic position is that Israel is an "over-militarized society." I have lived in some highly militarized countries, like Indonesia under General Suharto, when the army ran the country and anyone of any importance was an actively-serving army general. Few people look at Israel and see anything like that here.

If people don't see it, it's because they don't want to see it. There's this trick here of melting down the border between what is civil and what is military. So you don't see soldiers marching in good form. We don't have all that. We ridicule this kind of militarism. Our soldiers aren't tidy soldiers. They're very schlumperich [unkempt], which creates this image of a soldier that is half civilian. One of the hevre. Not a "soldierly" soldier. But I think this is a sort of cover. I think that actually, in a more concealed way, this image contributes to militaristic ideas filtering into civil society without our noticing it.

Such as?
Such as lots of advertising, based on [images] of a soldier and his mother, or a soldier and his girlfriend. We show examples of this in our exhibitions. Or, for instance, show business people posing on the covers of magazines, saluting. They're civilians - why should they be saluting? What's the idea there? And you can see today with all the political crises [about] how Tzipi Livni is being attacked as being unsuitable to be prime minister because she hasn't got experience leading the nation into war. People don't even question this idea. If you're not a general or an ex-general, you're not suitable to become prime minister.

But isn't the military's cultural importance due to the obvious fact that we're in a bad neighborhood, with dangerous enemies, under threat?
That's a very common idea. But we quote a book by Motti Golani, a professor at the University of Haifa, called Wars Do Not Just Happen. Although he comes from a very militaristic family, he has analyzed all our wars and says it's not true that the wars were all caused by our neighbors. We [took] an active part. We don't have to automatically believe everything we are told by our leaders. We have to look into things a bit deeper, and we will find out that, for different reasons, our leaders wanted the war, or they were never able to think about conflicts other than war and the force of our army.

Are you saying, then, that some of our wars were unnecessary?
The last wars, of course. This is without any question. All of the wars against Lebanon should have been avoided. But we can go back even to other wars - wars that there's a positive consensus about, and Dr. Golani says that they could have been avoided, as well. But from reading the newspapers, including yours I suppose, you can see that the discourse is always in militaristic terms. We think that if we change people's mind-sets, the discourse will change also. And then people will be searching for other solutions.

Do you really believe that whether we have war or peace is up to us?
People keep saying, "Well, it's not up to us. We have bad neighbors." But we have peace with Egypt, we have peace with Jordan. Lebanon never started a war against Israel, and Syria is [doing] its best not to attack Israel. So what are we talking about? Iran? [Laughs].

In your opinion, what is our best alternative?
The alternative is diplomacy, of course, but the problem is very complicated because the militarism here is so deeply rooted. It would take a new way of looking at our neighbors. If one of our leaders failed to speak of Arab leaders in a degrading way, he would not be considered the kind of strong leader that we want for Israel. People would think that he was weak. It's all about being strong. But in my opinion it's not about showing your muscle. Being strong is also being polite, compassionate, talking about another leader as your equal or someone you can learn from and have a dialogue with. Israeli leaders have not done that at all.

Never? Not at all?
Not at all.
Why do you think our leaders have not tried your approach?
I think it's a combination... of always seeing ourselves as the victim, thinking that the whole world is against us and that we are under constant threats to our existence. All that has been overused and has been one part of creating our militarization.

But what about the threats to our existence? What about Hizbullah, or Hamas?
Well, Hamas is a difficult question, because we've probably gone too far in undermining Palestinian society in the territories. Israel created Hamas. We created Hamas because of this idea that if we get the Palestinians to fight each other, we win. If they destroy each other, we win. This strategy has failed completely. It failed in Lebanon, and we've paid a high cost for this. Same with the Palestinians. I think Israel should simply leave them alone. We should leave them alone, pay them compensation for what we owe them for so many years of occupation, and let them go on with their lives.

We can leave the Palestinians alone, but will the Palestinians leave us alone?
It's worth trying. Up to now, the military force that we've been using against them hasn't brought us any peace and quiet, any end of danger. So maybe we should try. Maybe they will be so busy organizing their lives, maybe they'll be so overwhelmed [by] children going freely to school, being able to do business, to travel around freely without the humiliation and suffering of going through checkpoints - who knows?

So, in your opinion, how large an army does Israel actually need?
I don't often quote Ehud Barak, but I will now. He has said that Israel needs a small and smart army. When we call ourselves "New Profile for Israel" we are referring both to the centrality of the military induction "profile" that every kid gets when he goes into the army, and to changing Israel's civil profile. We think that this has to change so that the military profile will not be central at all, but will instead be marginalized in Israeli society, in our civil profile.

If military service is no longer compulsory for all young Israelis, is it not possible that only the poor and disadvantaged will actually serve, while children from better-off families will find ways of avoiding military service?
First of all, it's only a myth that everyone goes into the army. This is an idea that has been created to [make] people feel that this is something very "Israeli," and unless you go into the army you're not a true Israeli, and all that crap. The truth is that 56% of those eligible do not serve in the army. This includes the haredim and the Arabs. It includes people who started to serve, but whom the army decided it didn't want - perhaps because they didn't contribute anything, or were beyond the army's manpower needs. And also people the army has deemed "unfit." Also people in national service.
Secondly, the army is one of the tools for creating a class system in Israel. In addition to the physical "profile" kids receive when they're going into the army, they receive another classification based on family status - income, education and so on. Kids from elite families - if they want to go into the army - go to elite units. They become things like pilots very easily. This is very prestigious, both in the army and afterwards... On the other hand, Ethiopians for instance, go to the checkpoints. The myth is that the army is all colors and backgrounds working together, but it's not true. Especially regarding women. The army is one of the major tools in Israel for marginalizing women, putting them in danger of being harassed and sexually abused. The men then take this attitude toward women into civil life. So the army is a very bad place for women, and women are 51% of Israeli society.

Women continue to compose the majority of New Profile's support base. Is that by design?
No, it just so happens. We are a feminist organization, but we have male members, and youth groups of boys and girls. Maybe the fact that we're feminist brings in more women, but from my long experience in peace activism in Israel, it's mostly women who are active in peace organizations.

What is New Profile's attitude toward Israel's non-military compulsory national service?
We don't have a unanimous opinion about this, or anything we could declare as New Profile's "position" on the subject. It's a complex issue for us. Some of our members did do civil service. Some did service with political organizations like Physicians for Human Rights, and that seemed right to them. On the whole, we think people ought to be educated to contribute to society for many years - not just one or two or three. Also, we feel that [in the case of] national service, the state interferes with people's lives. And in a state where people have so much difficulty finding jobs, it's not right for the state to fund "volunteer" work that isn't volunteer at all by young people just out of school taking the place of someone who really needs the job. And also, we feel that [national service also] becomes a tool to separate people into first- and second-class citizens, depending on whether they did their service or not. We resent that.

Are there any circumstances under which you think that war is justified or necessary?
Oh, yes. I'm not a pacifist. A lot of people in New Profile are not. I guess there are such circumstances. I recall meeting a delegate to an international conference of Women in Black. I think she came from the United States. We told her how we use a tank as a visual image of war to show how militarized we are. But she said, "You know, my image of a tank is one of rescue." She was a child in Germany during the Second World War, and they were hiding in a cellar. They hid until they realized they were surrounded by US army tanks. So for her, the tank was an image of rescue, of life. So yes, I'm sure there are - there must be - circumstances in which war is justified. But what we're trying to say is that our leaders do not explore all of the other possibilities before deciding to go to war.

What kind of Israel are you trying to create?
Paradise. A country with friendlier relations with its neighbors. A more just state for all its citizens. A genuinely pluralistic society. A country that knows you don't have to be strong all the time, where real "strength" is about defending people who have been weakened. We are a very violent society… New Profile is about looking at society critically - not through nationalist lenses, but about ourselves as people in a highly militarized society - to find out how our mind-sets have been influenced. We want to open people's eyes.

ALTHOUGH A lot of New Profile's energy and resources are directed toward "educational programs" like training workshops and travelling exhibitions, the group's major focus is helping young people avoid service in the IDF. New Profile goes about this in two ways: by organizing youth groups where options and alternatives to army service are presented and discussed, and by maintaining a network of counselors who assist individual boys and girls who have decided not to serve.

Lotahn Raz, 27, is a co-founder and co-coordinator of New Profile's youth groups program. Despite having inherited a flawless American drawl from his parents, Raz was born and has spent all his life here in Israel. He was himself a conscientious objector and was imprisoned for two months in 1999 for refusing to enter the army.
What happens in a New Profile youth group?

The goal is to create a space for young people to openly think, talk and discuss issues related to military service. It's about creating a space to ask questions and think thoughts that don't have space to be thought or discussed otherwise. Our principle is that in Israeli society there is no space for young people to talk about military service. It's considered to be a non-question. But in our perspective, it's a political issue, a political question. And the fact that military service is shoved down people's throats without having the space to ask questions is undemocratic and very problematic. Space needs to be made for people to ask questions and think. And that's the idea. It's not our perspective to say what people should do; it's just to create the space to talk about things.

Do these people come to you or do you go to them?
Mostly people come to us. We get a a lot of e-mail from young people from around the country, asking for a place to talk. When we open a youth group, we go around and look for young people who we know are interested in these questions. Like any other youth group would do, we look for places where people would be interested in what we have to offer. At this point, we have groups in Jerusalem, Beersheba, Haifa, Tel Aviv… we're opening one in the Sharon, we had one last year in Rehovot and another in Pardess Hanna. And we're looking to open one in the Galilee.

Do you provide draft counseling at these youth group meetings?
No. That's done within our counseling network. Our youth groups are there to provide young people with space to think, ask questions, and make decisions. The purpose of the counseling networks is to follow individuals through the process of draft resistance. We give people information that does not exist elsewhere - what are the different possibilities, how does one go about refusing?

So what are the different possibilities?
The main one, the political one, is to go the conscientious objector route, to go before the government's conscientious objectors committee and end up being imprisoned like me, and then eventually receiving 'unfit for military service' status. And then there are the exemptions for medical reasons, mental health reasons, or other issues.
How far does New Profile actually go in counseling people about, say, medical exemptions? Would you advise a sane person to act 'crazy' or a healthy person to pretend to be sick?
We would never tell anybody to lie. That would be immoral and wrong. What we do is give information about how the system works - about how a psychiatric release from the army is decided upon, for example.

So are you saying that you inform people about how the army decides that someone is psychologically unfit for service and then tell them to take it from there?
Well, yeah. Our job is to give people information and help them through the process. People need to do the work and basically it's their decision. But remember, the ones who decide to release people from the military are the military itself. New Profile has no impact on that. It's the military's decision to decide who they want and who they don't want.

Less nuanced and far more direct are the responses of Sergei Sandler, self-described "activist" and very active member of New Profile's counseling network. Now 33, Sandler was brought to Israel by his family at age six from the former Soviet Union. Also a conscientious objector, Sandler was imprisoned for brief periods in 1994-1995 for refusing to serve in the IDF.

Do you help everyone who wants to avoid army service, regardless of their reasons for not wanting to serve?
Basically, yes.

Does it bother you that perhaps not everyone you help is a genuine conscientious objector, and that people with less "noble" motives might simply be using you to avoid service?
You're defining "conscientious objector" in the narrow sense if you take the nature of Israeli society into account. You're not living in a society where someone can freely decide whether or not he or she wants to go into the army. You're living in a society where there is tremendous social pressure on young people to enlist. And if you get someone who actually gets to a point where they resist that pressure, to the point where they say they won't enlist, that's not just any odd decision that someone is making.

We speak with people and we can tell that people who have been deliberating this know it's a very big decision. And while not all people say that their reasons are ideological, all know that they're going to disappoint their families and have all sorts of other problems. Some people don't cite any reasons in particular - they just show that they are rejecting the overall brainwashing. In any case, it's not a simple process. So in that sense, you can say that anyone deciding not to enlist is a conscientious objector, in every sense of the word.
In addition to conscientious objector status, there are also exemptions from service for medical and mental health problems. Do you simply make people aware of how these exemptions are granted or take it a step further and advise people to pretend?
We don't advise people to pretend. We really don't need to. Pyschiatric exemptions are the major gateway out of the military. If someone is serious and persistent about pursuing a psychiatric exemption - despite all of the stigma against people with mental conditions, and despite the stories the military itself is spreading around about those exemptions, which are meant to scare people off - if in spite of all this someone is really serious about getting this kind of exemption, the military reckons that this person really doesn't want to serve in the military, and the military doesn't want that person to serve. It's sort of an informal deal that the military has, actually. Attacking New Profile on this point is utter hypocrisy.
But your critics charge that you are getting people to model their behavior after the military's medical and psychiatric exemption criteria - in effect, to pretend.

I'll tell you something. It's true that we will counsel anyone who decides not to serve in the military. And that's because they have the right not to serve in the military. That's a basic right - the right to refuse to kill is a basic human right. And we don't really feel that we have to dig into people's motives. But apart from that, many people who appeal to us are soldiers already. That's a very important group of people who actually ask for our help. And many, many, many of those soldiers are in a serious state of trauma or depression. We counsel soldiers who, if the system had been working well, would have been exempted long ago. But the system doesn't work well.

The military health care system and mental health care system are there to serve the interests of the military, not the interests of the person. When you're there as a patient, you're not treated as someone who needs help, but as someone who is there to get something. Part of our work - and in many cases it has been part of our work - is to speak to people who are obviously and evidently in a state of trauma and in a state of depression, and who obviously and evidently should have been out of the military by the military's own criteria. We try to explain to them how to make those things evident enough to the people around them - in the military at large, and to military healthcare professionals.

One final question. The State of Israel indisputably has real enemies -
Yes, and it's been working very hard to make them.
Don't we need a strong, standing military force to protect us?
Well, you're actually talking about something that goes beyond the common line in New Profile. New Profile is composed of different people thinking different things, united in a common belief that the military is bloated and that the country is over-militarized. But right now, you happen to be talking to a pacifist. And as a pacifist I would say quite clearly that nobody needs an army. And I don't see how the Israeli military offers me protection. I personally am not willing to differentiate the Israeli military from that of Syria or Iran. They're all on the same team - the team that kills people - playing over the heads of the civilians. And no one is offering us protection.
In a written response to Metro's inquiry about
New Profile, The IDF refused to directly acknowledge the group or its activities:
"Even after 60 years of independence, Israeli society is forced to defend itself militarily and politically against terror organizations that have not accepted our existence in this region.
The present generation, like those before it, must bear its part of the security burden, in accordance with the Military Service Law.
IDF service is compulsory, but is also a great privilege. Every young man and woman can take part in protecting their family, their friends, and the country.

Everyone who serves in the IDF is a role model, and deserves to be honored and appreciated. The Israeli society as a whole has made IDF service its goal - the government, the school system, and the young people themselves."

This article can also be read at
Copyright 1995- 2008 The Jerusalem Post -

Jewish Peace News editors:
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
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Monday, September 22, 2008

Judaization in the Negev

The article below from Haaretz is by Dr. Erez Tzfadia, who is affiliated with BIMKOM, a highly respected organization of planners and architects which works in both Israel and the West Bank to strengthen democracy and human rights in the field of planning ( ).

The article addresses the inequality in treatment of current and future communities in the Negev based on whether said communities are Jewish or Bedouin. The author discusses "Judaization" of the Negev as the spoken or unspoken reason for different policies according to ethnicity in land use, home demolitions, education, healthcare and the environment, and the need for sustainable development in the region.

Last year I witnessed a very personal exchange that exemplifies these conditions. I went on a "Negev Unplugged" tour sponsored by BUSTAN (a Bedouin and Jewish environmental and social justice I now work for.) These tours are meant to expose visitors and residents to the real issues of the region—beyond the stereotypical "camels, carpets and coffee." On that tour, there were a few Bedouin women from Rahat who were among the participants. We stopped at one of the large Jewish farms that are described in this article, and talked at length with the owner, who was very bitter toward the Israeli government because he had not received official permission to be on the land. As it turned out, the land that the Jewish farmer was using was the historical grazing grounds of one of the Bedouin women's husbands' family. She was greatly moved to see the land for the first time, and she spoke very emotionally about the decision to move to an urban township and
what that had cost her family. She spoke without anger and she and the farmer had a very interesting exchange. At the end of the conversation, however, he made a final, illuminative comment that showed he didn't really understand the underlying issues. He clearly felt that he was not receiving the special treatment he believed he was entitled to as a Jewish Israeli. Israel, he said, with anger and incredulity, "was treating him like a Bedouin."

--Rebecca Vilkomerson

Haaretz, September 19th, 2008

In the Name of Zionism

Dr. Erez Tzfadia

Twenty-four official evacuation orders are stirring up emotions here. No, it is not West Bank settlements that have been told to shut down, but single-family farms built early in the decade in the Negev.

The Wine Route Farms, as they are known collectively, were a joint project of the Ramat Negev Regional Council, the Jewish Agency, the Jewish National Fund and the state. In approving the project, retroactively, in May 2003, the government stated that "settlement by individuals is an implementation of government policy to develop the Negev and Galilee and protect state lands in the Negev." The terminology has a subtext that suggests the need for "Judaization" of the Negev as a means of thwarting attempts by the Arab-Bedouin population to take control of public lands.

The Israel Lands Administration and the planning authorities have legal procedures for establishing single-family farms, but they were disregarded in this case, with the farms gaining approval only retroactively. No less significant was the fact that lands on which they were built were allocated without proper bids being solicited. However, like many other informal settlements that have been established to strengthen the Jewish hold on the Negev and the Galilee, neither of these facts prevented government ministries and local authorities from divvying up state land in lots of 400 dunams (100 acres), connecting the farms to the electricity and water grids, and dedicating hundreds of thousands of shekels to their development. It was assumed by all parties involved that, since the act of settling the land is deeply inherent to Zionist ideology, these farms would eventually be legalized by the authorities.

But something went wrong. A year ago, the attorney general served the farms with evacuation orders, arguing that the land had been allocated to them illegally. The farmers, it seemed, were being made to pay the price for improper decisions on the part of senior officials who thought they were acting in the name of Zionism.

In a petition to the High Court of Justice last spring (a case yet to be heard), the farmers argued that the state was discriminating against them. They claimed that Arab-Bedouin residents of the Negev consistently build illegally, but are never served evacuation orders.

The facts on the ground reveal quite a different picture. For six decades now, the state has refused to recognize the existence of 46 Bedouin villages in the Negev, some of them more than 400 years old; in other cases, their populations were transferred during the 1950s, mainly to the east of Be'er Sheva, under orders from military governors. Even a new master plan for the Be'er Sheva region, which was supposed to offer a solution for the unrecognized villages, ignores their existence, proposing instead that the Bedouin move to one of the seven permanent Bedouin townships established by the authorities in the 1970s and '80s. These townships are regularly ranked among Israel's poorest municipalities. From the Bedouin point of view, relocating to the townships means abandonment of their traditional way of life, of agriculture and of a demand - which the state rejects outright - for recognition of their ownership of the land.

For the 80,000 Bedouin residents in unrecognized villages, life in Israel means seeing their homes demolished by the hundreds, on the grounds they were built illegally. It means having their fields plowed under, and not being connected to water, electricity or sewerage infrastructure. In many cases, education and health services are provided only after petitions are made to the court. This is why the claim of discrimination by the Wine Route Farms owners is especially absurd.

Then there is the exposure to environmental hazards. Bedouin who live in Wadi al Na'am, situated near the Ramat Hovav industrial-waste dump, suffer the country's highest rates of infant mortality, illness and miscarriages.

Although the Wine Route Farms may be on the way to being dismantled, the policy of Jewish settlement in the Negev continues to be pursued. After all, many consider the Zionist imperative to settle the land to be above the law. It appears that the development of the Negev is something intended exclusively for Jews.

Nonetheless, in recent years there have been signs of change. Thanks to human rights organizations, like Bimkom: Planners for Planning Rights, and environmentalist groups, the government has recognized 10 Bedouin villages. And a new committee, headed by former Supreme Court Justice Eliezer Goldberg, has been tasked with coming up with a new overall policy for the Bedouin. At the same time, there is a growing movement pushing to stop the settlement of undeveloped parts of the Negev, on environmental grounds. Today's trend is toward more dense residential living, not sparsely inhabited and remote farms.

These developments represent very initial steps in the right direction, but real change will only be achieved when state planning takes into account the unrecognized Bedouin villages and provides a sustainable solution for their residents. Nevertheless, these steps breed hope that a new era of co-existence in the Negev may be closer than we think, and that the vision of developing Israel's south for both Jews and Arabs alike could soon begin to take form.

Dr. Erez Tzfadia is a senior lecturer of public policy and administration at Sapir College and a board member of Bimkom: Planners for Planning Rights.

Jewish Peace News editors:
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
Jewish Peace News archive and blog:
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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Uri Avnery: Today's Kadima Election - "Tzipi's Choice"

In his most recent column, Uri Avnery of Gush Shalom compares the two candidates competing to replace Ehud Olmert as chair of the Kadima Party and therefore most likely Prime Minister of Israel. Avnery focuses on Mofaz-as-military-man and gives us a clear assessment of the overwhelming dominance of security-culture in Israel, by which the military dominates state policy and budgets and military professionals dominate 'civil' institutions. The army, Avnery says, is Israel's "only real [political] party," and more: it is "an economic empire," "a political lobby," and, "in a way, a religion - with Security as its only god." The dominance of security-culture and the military mean that many, many people have a "vested interest in the absence of peace."

Avnery rightly notes that the dominance of security-culture excludes women from having an equal say in Israeli affairs, and he cites the organization New Profile ( as publicly addressing this issue (see the 9/16/2008 JPN on the new political persecution of New Profile). I would like to add to or amend Avnery's view on the exclusion of women from positions of power, because the issue at hand is not _only_ the exclusion of women. If that were the case, then the just struggle would be for women's inclusion, which is a position that numerous feminist groups have taken. Rightly understanding that military service is the dominant path to power in Israeli society, these feminist groups have worked to unlock the gates for women to advance within the military, including achieving positions for women combat soldiers and pilots in the last decade. (see the work of the Israel Women's Network: According to this logic, the election
Tzipi Livni would be a great achievement for women. And while I am glad that a woman can and might advance - again - to the highest political position in Israel, I think it's important to remember what even Avnery observes: that Mofaz and Livni are saying basically the same things in their campaign. Thus the elevation of a woman does not promise any change in political agendas. (As we in the U.S. are seeing, now, with the lauding of a woman candidate as a boon for all women, even though her politics and worldview are extremely hostile to the major challenges facing women, including poverty, lack of health- and child-care, inequality in the workplace, as well as valorizing military service as the most important contribution one can make to society.)

New Profile takes a different position than feminist groups that work to advance women within the military and Israel's dominant power structure. Instead of accepting the structure as is and working to fill it up with women (and men), New Profile seek to overhaul the power structure itself and undermine the dominance of security-culture overall. The exclusion of women from positions of power is one manifestation of Israel's security-culture, but New Profile is more focused the ways in which men and women are continuously recruited into supporting that culture. New Profile's analysis shows us that while women may rarely hold top positions in government, finance, academia or other major institutions, they are constantly acting in small and large ways to support the very structure that both keeps them out and keeps their society in a state of perpetual war. (New Profile focuses not only on women but on all those excluded or marginalized by a power structure that most privileges Jewish,
male and primarily Ashkenazi combat soldiers.) Israelis are socialized into Israel's security-culture and socialized to act appropriately within it - such as by serving in the military or supporting family members who do, or by not challenging or even questioning the continued absence of non-military alternatives in relations with Palestinians, other Arab nations, and Iran. New Profile calls this ongoing socializing process "militarization" and challenges it directly, including by assisting the very substantial numbers of young people who are no longer willing to serve in the military. The new criminal investigation of New Profile is a sign of the significant impact of their challenge.

And finally: in this column, Avnery concentrates on Mofaz as a symbol of Israeli militarism and not on Mofaz as the actual military man - the professional soldier who was initially Chief of Staff and then Defense Minister during the second Intifada. I think it's worth returning to Mofaz's actual terms in office, which were marked by brutal abuses of military might and high Palestinian casualty rates, as well as assassinations of Palestinians, bombings in heavily-populated neighborhoods and the reoccupation of Palestinian cities by the IDF. And it has now been reported that in May 2001, a few months into the Intifada, Mofaz called for the IDF to kill 70 Palestinians per day, in a directive that may fall into the category of war crime. The Independent's August 2008 article on Mofaz's statement is here: and Democracy Now's brief mention of the war
crime speculation is here:

Sarah Anne Minkin

Uri Avnery
Tzipi's Choice

AS AN ISRAELI, I am ashamed. An incumbent Prime Minister has been compelled to resign because of personal corruption. How awful!

As an Israeli, I am proud. An incumbent Prime Minister has been compelled to resign because of personal corruption. How wonderful!

Compelled not by a revolution, not by a military coup, not by rioting in the streets, not by the machinations of a rival party. But by the normal processes of the law enforcement agencies, the free media and public opinion.

In this sordid affair, democracy has triumphed. In his delightful little book, "The Trial of Socrates", I. F. Stone (a man I knew and greatly admired) defined the peaceful removal of a political leader as a hallmark of democracy. Socrates advocated a dictatorship by the man of "knowledge". Stone laid great stress on the fact that there would have been no way to remove such a ruler in case of necessity.

IN ANCIENT Athens, major leaders were elected by all those with full citizenship (about half the free citizens, and slaves, of course, were excluded). Less prominent officials were appointed by lot - the theory being that all full citizens are equally qualified to conduct the affairs of state. Sometimes I think that this may not be such a bad idea.

However, the Kadima party thinks otherwise. On Wednesday, the party's rank and file will elect Ehud Olmert's replacement as Party Chairman, who will then almost automatically become Prime Minister, unless he or she fails to put together a governing coalition - in which case new elections will take place, probably at the beginning of 2009. Until then Olmert would still act as a lame duck Prime Minister.

The real choice is between two candidates: Tzipi Livni and Shaul Mofaz. They could hardly be more different.

First of all, because it is Man against Woman. For the first time in Israeli history, there is a straight confrontation between the genders. (When the late unlamented Golda Meir was appointed Prime Minister in 1969, after the sudden death of Levy Eshkol, she had no competitors.)

Their background reflects the two extremes of Jewish Israeli society; Mofaz is an "Oriental", born in Iran, an outsider. Livni is a native-born Ashkenazi Israeli, an insider. She is also a "princess" - her father was a leader of the Irgun underground and (like Olmert's father) a member of the Knesset.

But the real difference is between the forces they represent.

AS A professional soldier, Shaul Mofaz represents the force that has dominated Israel from its very beginning: the "security establishment".

This vast complex has unmatched political, economic and ideological power. Since all major political parties have degenerated into cynical trade unions of party hacks, without an ideology or any real political program, the army is now, in my view, the only real party in Israel.

It is not the Turkish army or the Pakistani army. It is an instrument of a democratic system, fully obedient to the civil authority. But behind this faחade it is much more: it is an economic empire that consumes by far the largest share of the annual budget, a pressure group, a political lobby, an ideological center.

It is, in a way, a religion - with Security as its only god and the high command as its priesthood. Nothing trumps Security in Israel, and when its name is mentioned, everything else is forgotten. Hear oh Israel, Security thy God, Security is One.

Like almost any religion, it is connected with huge economic interests. The "security" industry, with its production of weapons and other military equipment, plays a central role in the Israeli economy and in its exports, turning the twenty or so tycoons who dominate our economy into natural allies of the generals. Dwight Eisenhower would recognize the pattern.

The immeasurable impact on political decision-making of the "security establishment" - the armed forces, the General Security Service (Shin Bet), the Mossad and the police - is underlined by the fact that the Chief of Staff takes part in all cabinet meetings. He never dictates to the government - perish the thought! - but it would be a very brave politician indeed who contradicted "the considered opinion of the army".

Since Israel was born in war and has been in a state of war ever since, there is hardly any area of Israeli life that does not lie within the scope of Security. And in security matters, it is of course the security chiefs whose opinions are decisive. Also, the army is the sole ruler of the occupied territories (as, indeed, demanded by international law).

In this connection, the settlers must be considered. They are an immensely strong pressure group. While many of them have established their settlements "illegally", no settler would be where he is today if he had not been put there by the army. In many places, the symbiosis between settler and soldier is so perfect that they are one and the same: many army officers are settlers themselves.

FOR A nation at war, it is natural that the army also shapes the national ideology. The media are willing, indeed eager, collaborators. Peace is a silly concept for effete, weak-kneed wimps. It is also, of course, a complete and dangerous illusion.

All this is reinforced by an immense network of ex-officers, the "ex" being only formal. With a few honorable exceptions, all ex-army officers belong to the same club and hold the same beliefs. Since the army looks after its own, senior officers who leave the army in their middle 40s, as is usual, generally find high positions in industry, the public services or the political parties - extending the army's "sphere of influence".

What this means is that very many people have - mildly put - a vested interest in the absence of peace.

Shaul Mofaz personifies all of this. He belongs to this complex, he made his career there as a general, chief of Staff and Minister of Defense. No one has ever heard him voice an original thought - his whole mental world is shaped by the army. In all his jobs he has been reliable and diligent mediocrity.

When he had finished his army career and was looking for political opportunities, he had - like many of his predecessors - no party preference. Such a person can easily find his place in Labor, the Likud or Kadima, not to mention the radical right. The Likud offered the best prospects at that moment. When his way there was blocked, he jumped at the very last second onto Ariel Sharon's bandwagon - 24 hours after solemnly promising that he would never, but never, entertain such a treacherous thought.

MILITARY DOMINANCE of Israeli affairs has one hidden effect: it excludes women. The macho, he-man atmosphere of the army has no place for them.

This was brought up some years ago by a feminist group called New Profile, which declared its goal to be the de-militarization of Israeli society. Perhaps by accident, it is this group which the Attorney General decided to prosecute this week for anti-army activities, inciting against joining the army, helping draft evaders, advising potential recruits to pose as mental cases and such.

Livni is not just a Foreign Minister, a job traditionally despised by the Security Establishment, but also a Civilian and, even worse, a Woman. That is what makes this choice so tempting.

In public, the two candidates say almost the same. They repeat the usual mantras. But there are the (almost) hidden agendas.

There is the racist angle, the sin that does not dare speak its name. Like the race factor in the US elections, the "ethnic" factor may play a far bigger role here than we like to admit. Orientals tend to vote for Mofaz, Europeans - Ashkenazis - for Livni.

There is the gender factor. Women may tend to vote for one of their own.

And there is the military factor: a vote for Livni is - consciously or mostly unconsciously - a vote against the military domination of our lives.

What kind of states(wo)man would a Prime Minister Tzipi Livni be? No one can know, perhaps not even she herself. Her basic mental world is right-wing. Her world view is centered around the concept of a Jewish State. Jewish in the old Jabotinsky way of thinking: not In a religious sense (Jabotinsky was quite secular) but in a 19th century nationalistic one. That could lead to peace based on a sincere belief in the two-state concept (to which Mofaz, too, pays lip service). But I would not count on it.

Mofaz we know. Livni we don't know. That may lead some Kadima members on Wednesday to vote for Livni.

Jewish Peace News editors:
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Israel -- A State "War" on Youth

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.

The 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".

I 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.

The 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".

What "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.

Rela Mazali


w w w . h a a r e t z . c o m


Last update - 09:45 15/09/2008

Web site for IDF draft dodgers faces criminal probe

By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent

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 also dropped.

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," explained one.

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."

Related articles:

• Barak: Draft dodgers must face public scorn, carry 'mark of Cain'
• IDF chief: We must make draft dodgers 'blush with shame'
• Fox clothing chain, Bar Rafaeli to fight IDF draft-dodgers

Jewish Peace News editors:
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Jonathan Cook: Israel's dark arts of ensnaring collaborators

[In this article independent British reporter Jonathan Cook, who lives in Nazareth, explores the issue of Palestinians who collaborate with the Israeli occupation. The many forms of coercion used by the Israeli security forces have turned the illegally occupied territories into an informer society, in some ways (although Cook does not say this) similar to the permeation of the social fabric of former German Democratic Republic with Stasi secret police informers. The forms of pressure Israeli forces can exert vary: from outright torture amongst the vast number of Palestinian detainees to small 'favors' granted to those who are willing to cooperate. As Cook points out, almost everyone is in need of such favors from the regime at some point, and therefore almost everyone is under some pressure to inform. The Israeli military regime therefore exploits the very misery it creates to undermine resistance to that regime. Alistair Welchman]

Jonathan Cook: Israel's dark arts of ensnaring collaborators
September 13, 2008

Nazareth) Israel's enduring use of Palestinian collaborators to entrench the occupation and destroy Palestinian resistance was once the great unmentionable of the Middle East conflict.

When the subject was dealt with by the international and local media, it was solely in the context of the failings of the Palestinian legal system, which allowed the summary execution of collaborators by lynch mobs and kangaroo courts.

That is beginning to change with a trickle of reports indicating the extent of Israel's use of collaborators and the unwholesome techniques it uses to recruit them. "Co-operation", it has become clearer, is the very backbone of Israel's success in maintaining its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Collaboration comes in various guises, including land dealers, who buy Palestinian-owned land to sell it to settlers or the Israeli government; armed agents who assist Israeli soldiers in raids; and infiltrators into the national organisations and their armed wings who foil resistance operations.

But the foundation of the collaboration system is the low-level informant, who passes on the titbits of information about neighbours and community leaders on which Israel's system of control depends.

Recent reports in the Israeli media, for example, suggest that the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, far from reducing the opportunities for collaboration, may actually have increased them. The current siege of the Strip -- in which Israel effectively governs all movement in and out of Gaza -- has provided an ideal point of leverage for encouraging collusion.

Masterminding this strategy is the Israeli secret police, the Shin Bet, which has recently turned its attention to sick Gazans and their relatives who need to leave the Strip. With hospitals and medicines in short supply, some patients have little hope of recovery without treatment abroad or in Israel.

According to the Israeli branch of Physicians for Human Rights, the Shin Bet is exploiting the distress of these families to pressure them to agree to collaborate in return for an exit permit.

Last month, the group released details of 32 cases in which sick Gazans admitted they were denied permits after refusing to become informants.

One is Shaban Abu Obeid, 38, whose pacemaker was installed at an Israeli hospital and needs intermittent maintenance by Israeli doctors. Another, Bassam Waheidi, 28, has gone blind in one eye after he refused to co-operate and was denied a permit.

But these cases are only the tip of an enormous iceberg. Those Palestinians who refuse to collaborate have every interest in making their problems public. By contrast, those who agree to turn informant have no such interest.

As with other occupation regimes, Israel has long relied on the most traditional way of recruiting collaborators: torture. While a decision by the Israeli Supreme Court in 1999 banned torture, the evidence suggests the Shin Bet simply ignored the ruling.

Two Israeli human rights groups, B'Tselem and Hamoked, found last year that seven "special" interrogation methods amounting to torture are still being regularly employed, including beatings, painful binding, back bending, body stretching and prolonged sleep deprivation.

Detention provides other opportunities for recruitment. In the past 17 years alone, 150,000 Palestinians have been prosecuted by the military regime. According to the Israeli group Yesh Din, 95 per cent of these trials end in plea bargains, offering yet another chance to persuade a detainee to turn informant in return for a reduced sentence.

Cell-sharing in Israel's prison system, as Salah Abdel Jawwad, a Ramallah-based political scientist, has observed, is also the perfect environment in which the Shin Bet can collect data not only about the detainee but also about the wider society from which he or she is drawn.

With hundreds of thousands of Palestinians having passed through its prisons since 1967, Israel has been able "to control the population from an early stage", Mr Abdel Jawwad said, "particularly because it is able to identify those who are the potential future leaders of the society."

An example of the use of pressure during detention emerged last week when a gag order was lifted on the case of Hamed Keshta, 33, from Gaza. A translator for news agencies and the European Union, he was arrested in July when he tried to use a permit to cross the border into Israel for a meeting with his EU employers.

Mr Keshta said he was taken into detention and offered the chance to turn collaborator. When he refused, interrogations by the Shin Bet "began in earnest", the Haaretz newspaper reported. He was held for a month, accused of serious charges including "security violations" and conspiring to commit "a crime against state security".

"I assume that it is the standard interrogation that thousands of other Palestinians undergo," he noted after his release. "They did not hit me, but I was placed in restraints and forced to sit on a chair", he said referring to the infamous "shabah" stress position that becomes unbearably painful after a short period. Keshta also had medication withheld.

For decades, the occupation has imposed a system of absolute control on the lives of Palestinians that requires them to apply for permits either from the military regime ruling over them, known misleadingly as the Civil Administration, or from the Shin Bet.

Most Palestinians need a permit to carry out such essential daily tasks as building or altering a home; passing through a checkpoint to visit a relative or reach a hospital; passing through a gate in Israel's separation wall to farm their land; driving a taxi; receiving import or export licences; leaving the occupied territories, including for business; visiting a relative in prison; winning residence for a loved one; and so on.

There are few Palestinians who have not needed such a "favour" from the military authorities at some point, either for themselves or someone they know. And it is at this point that pressure can be exerted. In her book Sharon and My Mother-in-Law, Suad Amiry describes this process eloquently. In return for help or a permit, a small favour is given by the occupation regime. Once taken, the recipient's integrity is compromised and slowly greater demands are made.

It is this gentle ensnaring of large sections of the Palestinian population -- together with open threats of physical violence to smaller sections of the population -- that ensure collaboration with the occupation is endemic. This, as Israel well understands, creates an environment that frustrates successful resistance, which requires organisation, co-operation and intelligence-sharing between armed factions. As soon as the circle widens beyond a few individuals, one of them is likely to be an informant.

The result can be seen in the dismal failure of most armed acts of resistance, as well as the ease with which Israel picks off Palestinian leaders it "targets" for execution.

Mr Abdel Jawwad calls this approach "psychological warfare" against Palestinians, who are made to believe that their society is "weak, sickly and composed of untrustworthy characters".

In short, it encourages social fragmentation in which Palestinians come to believe that it is better to stab their neighbour in the back before they get stabbed themselves.

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are "Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East" (Pluto Press) and "Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair" (Zed Books). His website is

This article originally appeared in The National (, published in Abu Dhabi.

Jewish Peace News editors:
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Militarized Knowledge-Building -- Israeli Academia

A multileveled and multi-faceted process of militarization has dominated Israeli society and state since before independence. While much of this process remains submerged, extensive and varied evidence testifies to its predominance in political and other culture in Israel, in its economy and social structures.

Militarization has formed, and kept intact, the perceptions and practices that ensnare the thinking of so many Israelis within the confines of the mantra "[we have] no other choice"(no other choice, that is, except using military force repeatedly).

The constant fear effectively fostered in Israelis by this social-cultural-economic-political structure usually usually serves well to divert public attention from the benefits it creates for a particular part of Israeli Jewish society. While an increasing number of voices in Israel are currently criticizing the process and its effects, military (and 'security force') men still enjoy special status in a broad variety of organizations and hierarchies, affording them substantial material benefits.

Gideon Levy's article below sounds one of the critical voices challenging the assumption that 'security forces' should be allowed special benefits and special programs at Israel's universities. Levy is commenting on the recent rejection, by Hebrew University rector, Haim Rabinowitz, of a proposed special program for members of the 'General Security Service' ("Shin Bet").

Levy's discussion, however, addresses and exposes a much broader issue, that is, the subtle but deep-running militarization of Israeli academia. "Those who support an academic boycott of Israel," he says, "often argue that Israel`s universities serve the occupation and its army. There is something to this."

The programs Levy discusses, run by every university in Israel (except, he says, the Hebrew University which has cancelled them) are designed especially and exclusively for security personnel. These, however, are merely the most visible face of militarization in Israeli academia and science. Academic research funding often comes from security agencies, numerous top academics (as well as top politicians and top CEOs) are ex-military personnel who often extend their military experience and connections directly into their academic work.

"A civil society striving for economic and intellectual growth," Levy writes, "must be weaned from its worship of those in uniform, whose role in benefiting or damaging the state remains controversial."

Rela Mazali


Last update - 10:05 08/09/2008

The Shin Bet`s academic freedom

By Gideon Levy

On the face of it, we are talking about a heated exchange between the rector of Jerusalem`s Hebrew University and the head of the Shin Bet security service, but in fact the matter concerns Israeli society`s order of priorities. Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin complained last week about the `haughty and disparaging` attitude displayed toward his organization by Hebrew University rector Haim Rabinowitz, after the university decided not to hold a special study program - awarding a humanities degree to Shin Bet members in 16 months - by virtue of their `work toward foiling terror attacks at the university,` as Diskin put it.

The Shin Bet head felt that his foilers were entitled to an academic reduction; Rabinowitz ruled that Shin Bet operatives are subject to the same laws as any other student. He should be praised for that ruling, which in effect confirms the Hebrew University`s unique position - it no longer provides special programs for members of the security forces. Perhaps that is one of the reasons it is the only Israeli university ranked among the world`s 100 leading universities.

The twisted thought process according to which members of the security forces have the right to special academic conditions has become deeply entrenched in the Israeli academic world. Today there is hardly a university that does not offer special courses for officers, pilots and secret agents. As such, all it takes for students of the National Security College to receive a master`s degree in political science from Haifa University is two classes a week for one semester. Pilots receive a bachelor`s degree at Ben-Gurion University in the Negev after one year`s study, while Shin Bet operatives receive a B.A. from Bar-Ilan University after a mere 16 months.

Bar-Ilan deserves the title of the most militaristic university of them all - it offers a plethora of programs for the security forces only: There is the Jericho program for the Shin Bet and a whole host of programs for officers in the Israel Defense Forces, officers about to enter the IDF and officers who have already reached the rank of battalion commander. The entire nation is an army and Bar-Ilan is all security. The difference between this reality and outstanding academia is immense, whereas the difference between such practice and receiving a fictitious degree from the University of Latvia is minute.

No one would dare suggest that the cleaning staff who sweep out the lecture halls receive special academic conditions - even though their work, too, is essential. The head of the Shin Bet is quick to mention the foiling of terrorist attacks as supporting evidence for getting an academic degree. What is the connection? A proposal is currently circulating in the Knesset for legislation that would offer academic points in return for reserve duty. Why academia, Rabinowitz asks, proposing instead that they get points with El Al or the Co-op supermarket chain.

This is an old curse that has widely affected society: The idea that members of the security forces are entitled to more - not just exaggerated and scandalous pay, as was recently revealed in TheMarker, not just discounts for those in uniform at the steak houses, but also at the ivory towers. They don`t deserve special treatment; Israel`s academia has no need for such distortions.

It is good for those dealing with national security to study. True, sometimes they do so merely with the goal of boosting their salaries and pensions, and sometimes the university serves merely as a safe haven until tempers have cooled - as is the case with police superintendent Uri Bar-Lev - or as a change of atmosphere and a place to rest. Whatever the motive, we must welcome this thirst for knowledge.

Perhaps at university these security specialists will learn a few important lessons in political science, civics, history and human rights, about the division of powers and the rule of law. They will rub shoulders with an environment that is generally very foreign to them: the intellectual milieu. They will read and write, and - who knows - maybe they will also think and ask questions. The experience will surely broaden their horizons, which sometimes resemble the narrow barracks in which they serve.

But the universities must not capitulate to any conditions. Their studies must be exactly the same as those of every other student - no separate groups with special conditions and most of all no shortened programs. The universities must not allow themselves to be conscripted into safeguarding Israel`s security. They must not bow down to this idol. It contradicts their academic and intellectual existence. Those who support an academic boycott of Israel often argue that Israel`s universities serve the occupation and its army. There is something to this.

`An academic education is an academic education is an academic education,` Rabinowitz says. He admits that it is possible to cram in a three-year program into one year, but believes that academic studies are not merely a race toward a degree or fulfilling a quota of hours. In the tortuous schedule dictated by the Shin Bet, it is impossible to teach in a proper fashion, Rabinowitz says. Diskin, who holds a B.A. from Bar-Ilan and an M.A. from Haifa University, calls this attitude `haughty and disparaging.` What we are talking about, therefore, is a basic misunderstanding of the university`s role.

But of course the subject is much broader. A civil society striving for economic and intellectual growth must be weaned from its worship of those in uniform, whose role in benefiting or damaging the state remains controversial. Just as the time is long gone when pictures of IDF generals hung on the walls of garages and restaurants, now the time has come to say to those in uniform: Your contribution is no more important than that of other members of the population. Welcome to the university, just like anyone else.

Jewish Peace News editors:
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
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