A talk by Rela Mazali of New Profile, given on May 14 in a Tel Aviv University public forum titled:"Freedom of Speech - Between Theory and Practice: On the limits of free speech in light of the recent detainment and interrogation of nine New Profile activists."
The panel included four speakers; the three others were: Former Supreme Court Judge Dalia Dorner; Attorney Talia Sasson, formerly Head of the Attorney General's Department for Special Affairs; Prof. Martin Sherman.
The event, organized by students, was well attended, and the public discussion following the four presentation was of a heated nature.
I'm also enclosing New Profile latest update.
The criminal investigation of New Profile and freedom of expression
Talk at Tel Aviv University
May 14 2009
[Hebrew original posted:
Oshrat Shtangel, Annelien Kisch, Rotem Kinberg, Danna Frank, Raanan Forschner, Nimrod Evron, Sergeiy Sandler, Mirjam Hadar, Bilha Golan, Amir Givol, Ronnie Barkan.
Here they are. They're sitting right here among you; the people whom the police "raided" – as they official press release had it – in their homes and their rented apartments at seven a.m. on the eve of Memorial Day, in an extravagant, highly irregular theatrical production. This would-be-daring-operation instantaneously positioned these people as well as myself and many others in the role of secret agents, as it were, part of a dangerous clandestine network.
Here they are then – the people who were interrogated under threat of indictments, the people who today – on the restraining orders of the police – are banned from meeting or speaking to each other, although they're allowed to assemble here within the same public lecture hall.
They, I, we, the New Profile movement, are suspected – according to the police and the Attorney General – of the offense of "incitement". This criminal offense has yet to be enforced in the state of Israel. It has never yet led, to date, to indictments or trial in an Israeli court, for the law that prohibits it is viewed as problematic and overly vague. The authorities, however, have not stopped at pulling this questionable offense out of the law books; for good measure we are also suspected of counseling young men and women to lie to the military towards procuring exemptions from service.
The powers that be are spreading a broad and intentionally ill-defined dragnet; it's not hard to imagine it snagging something – some word or sentence torn out of its careful context, as already experienced by some of those interrogated.
New Profile is an open, feminist movement of resistance, very rich in words, formulations, challenging viewpoints, unconventional civil-critical thinking and strong public declarations. Of course we're being criminalized for verbal offenses – what else? For alleged incitement. For alleged lies. Verbal offenses nevertheless punishable by serious sentences.
But the preposterous suspicions we are being framed for are not the real motive for the Attorney General's instructions or the army's concerted pressure or the police's hyperbolic production. All of these were motivated not by lies but rather by the truth we speak; the truth that we've been speaking over every available channel for more than a decade, the truth that we are a state trapped in militarized patterns of action, a society addicted to militarized mindsets and the use of force.
We speak the truth about an interest group of people who profit – hugely – from a continuing state of low-intensity-war occasionally peaking in a high-intensity campaign. We point out that some of them are the very same people who define what security is, what it means, for all the rest of us; that they are the same people who identify security with military prowess, with power and money for the military organization and with power, including extensive political power, for military men.
In addition, we report on a growing movement of eighteen-year-old women and men who do not enlist, the vast majority of them without ever having heard of New Profile. We relate this truth, describe this broad social movement, to whoever is willing to listen and discuss it with respect. We denounce attempts on the part of the establishment to erase this reality through slander, representing those who create it as negligible people: a lunatic fringe, extremists, emotionally disturbed, unstable or – mainly – "shirkers".
Parts of this social movement resist the draft openly and refuse to serve a violent policy of repression, dispossession and occupation. New Profile upholds and backs their right to do so with practical assistance. For instance, for Yinnon Hiller, whose High Court struggle for an exemption from military service (finally granted in 2003), was heard by, among others, the Honorable Judge Dalia Dorner seated beside me at this panel. Or, for instance, very recently, over the last few months, for a series of young conscientious objectors who served sentences in military prisons – yet another group of High School Seniors ("Shministim") determined and steadfast despite years of army intimidation and imprisonment of their predecessors.
I wish to reiterate: Israel has no overt legal provision for recognizing freedom of conscience. There are no express legal arrangements for the right to conscientious objection. This is a huge exception among states that set themselves up as democracies. Like many other severe injustices committed by Israel, injustices addressed in some of New Profile's oppositional action, this one too is enabled and allowed under the embedded clauses or Israeli mantras: "We have no other choice", "existential threat" and "security reasons".
Another section of the social movement of draft resistance, a huge mass of young future citizens, simply doesn't enlist; refrains from service. I won't claim, superficially, that all of these young men and women are expressing left-wing views in their act of refraining. Their deliberations, difficulties and personal motives are many, complex and varied. Nevertheless, it can be stated clearly that a large number of them disbelieves the existence of a threat so huge, so immediate and so pressing to the existence of their society that every young body must stand up to block its way. Clearly, some of them also deeply mistrust the people deploying the army and fail to believe that their lives and health will be put on the line only and truly when there is no other choice.
New Profile has been acquainted with this movement for years and maintains ongoing personal contacts with a small portion of those who constitute it, due among other things to the fact that we create a space for thinking, for the open, free and safe discussion of questions which are often difficult for young people to raise at home or in their neighborhoods. Young women and men find space for a personal decision process through New Profile. Those who seek it are furthermore provided with fully legal information about their rights and about the intricate processes they face. At the same time, we collect and build knowledge about this broad social phenomenon.
New Profile and now – as it would seem – the heads of the Israeli army-state, view this emergent youth-led movement as a force potentially destabilizing the existing order. This is what has them worried. This is what has led them to such distinctly politicized use of the police. This truth rather than the alleged lies of which we are being accused.
The open, visible activity of New Profile provides them with a scapegoat, a convenient venue for staging their spectacle, designed to intimidate and face down tens of thousands of young eighteen year olds. What a perfect complement to the recent campaign that aggressively marketed the draft like a fashionable brand of teenage footwear.
Draft resistance is common throughout every social class today. It has gradually gained a degree of legitimacy in public opinion. Before our eyes, it is in the process of dismantling the false façade of "a people's army". It has apparently also begun to undermine the army's exclusive, autonomous control over screening, selecting and deciding who will serve, who won't and where.
Perhaps more important, though, wide-spread draft resistance is threatening to rob those who deploy the army – the politicians – of their fear instilling moves, their most dependable tactic for derailing any civil activity that contests their failures, their corruption or their horrific injustices.
They are charging us with lies in a bid to regain their own unobstructed lying.
In 1985, the authorities in South Africa commenced persecution of the End Conscription Campaign, it too a feminist, women-led movement. Its activities were outlawed and it was forced underground. Five years later, apartheid collapsed.
New Profile update - July 2009
July 15, 2009
As with our earlier (two) updates, we would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your continued and faithful support of New Profile during these critical times. During the recent months your visible show of support has been truly significant and heartening.
The ongoing attempt to delegitimize New Profile is being played out, for now, on the forms and desks of bureaucrats. There are two official scenarios already in process: 1) A petition to the High Court of Justice to revoke New Profile's registration as a non-profit organization, which would amount to shutting off our legal channel for receiving funds; 2) The criminal investigation of New Profile for alleged incitement and assistance with obtaining fraudulent exemptions from the army. (For full background information see two previous updates: http://www.newprofile.org/english/?p=166; http://www.newprofile.org/english/?p=102.)
The court case is now stalled, pending the results of the police investigation. The police, for their part, after the high drama of an orchestrated "raid", have completed their initial interrogations and transferred the case back to the Attorney General. The computers they confiscated were returned to their owners 30 days after being impounded. Written and printed materials have not yet been returned. Further investigative work may be initiated by the police, at any given time, including additional interrogations. We can only assume that the material gathered is now being combed for alleged criminal offenses towards possible indictments.
New Profile members are working very hard both as a movement and as individuals, to resist the intentionally exhausting and dispiriting effects of waiting out the course of this laborious bureaucratic legal process. Just one of our means for doing this has been the unorthodox move of taking a series of close, candid, intimate looks back at the investigators and their practices. (For our series "Investigating the Investigation", authored by various New Profile activists, see: http://www.newprofile.org/english/?p=119#more-119.)
We would like to reiterate that police harassment of New Profile and the interrogation of eleven of our members are not isolated events. They are part of a virulent drive of state McCarthyism, a stepped-up systematic persecution of left-wing activists and voices. This drive arguably obviates the remnants of Israel's claim to democracy and parodies its ludicrous boast to representing a single democratic beacon in the Middle East.
Among human rights organizations in Israel, Adalah (www.adalah.org/eng/index.php) for instance is still preparing a report on the recent, sharp escalation in combined state and university repression of student activists and, in particular, Palestinian citizens of Israel; the Association of Citizen's Rights in Israel (www.acri.org/eng/) will soon be publicizing their comprehensive report on state violence against activists, left-wing groups and individuals, as well as their international supporters.
Our last update, listed, among others:
- Samih Jabarin, who still remains under house arrest months after being arrested for participating in a political demonstration in Umm al Fahm, though he has finally been allowed to return to his place of residence in Yaffa. The conditions of his house-arrest have significantly improved and while still bound to them, he will now be able to resume part of his work at the Arab-Hebrew Theater until the next court session, set for September 2009. (See: Link to the petition: http://www.atzuma.co.il/petition/friendsofsamieh/1/1000/.)
- Anarchists Against the Wall, some of whom have recently been sentenced to prison terms. (Read more on their website, www.awalls.org.)
- Ezra Nawi, who's sentencing has been postponed, dragging out the legal process. (See: www.supportezra.net.)
This list is constantly expanding. Some of the newer instances include:
1) The recent interrogation of members of Yesh Gvul, for alleged "incitement to evade military service", while promising "financial incentives". This longtime refusers' group, primarily supporting refusal to serve in the Occupied Territories, was also questioned regarding their web link to New Profile's website. (For more information, see: http://www.yeshgvul.org/news.asp?id=81a03ef84f6d0ab2ad2b7d21cec9ea71.)
2) The kidnapping by Israel's navy, on June 30th, of the passengers and crew of "The Spirit of Humanity," on board which the Free Gaza Movement was bringing food, medical supplies and human rights monitors towards Gaza port. Amongst the 21 passengers detained and later deported were Nobel laureate Mairead Maguire and former US Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. (For detailed information, see: www.freegaza.org.)
3) The continuing refusal of Israeli state authorities to allow members of the UN investigative mission on the events of December-January 2008-9 to enter Israel. The mission, headed by world renowned jurist Richard Goldstone, has been hearing testimonies in the Gaza Strip. (For a report on the mission, see for instance: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3739538,00.html.)
And yet, we would also like to point out that within the overall context of political and racist persecution, each separate instance of repression represents individual state policies and specific bids for control by the state. New Profile's criminalization and our attempted shut-down are directed, in particular, at intimidating the huge numbers of young people who fail to comply with conscription law today. The drive against us targets this popular display of mistrust and indifference, this major threat to politicians' fear-based hold on voting constituencies and to military commanders' uncontested control of "national security" issues.
New Profile's criminalization follows a fault line that has long been quaking beneath the surface of Israeli society and is now visibly cracking open.
We will send out further updates as the events unfold and we'll also turn to each of you to take concrete action when needed. We'd like to remind you, though, of our ongoing need to inform and engage more and more people and of our list "What you can do" at: www.newprofile.org/english/?p=102#what-you-can-do . Please take one of these actions into consideration.
Again, we hugely appreciate your continuing interest, caring and support.
Ruth Hiller & Rela Mazali
Jewish Peace News editors:
Sarah Anne Minkin
Lincoln Z. Shlensky
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