Monday, June 15, 2009

New Profile: Investigating the Investigation

In this newest post from New Profile, we see once again the extraordinary creativity and energy of this unique and important organization. They are currently under investigation by the Israeli government (see here for the latest JPN report on the investigation:, but have decided to turn the tables and do some investigating and reporting of their own.

To paraphrase Rela Mazali's introduction below, the power that the government bodies are exerting on New Profile in the investigation doesn't just come down from above as a great force to which New Profile is subject. Rather, that power acts onto New Profile but is met by New Profile's own structure and character, meaning that this power that the state wields works through its interaction with the members of New Profile. An active participant in this process, New Profile can reclaim their own authority in this investigation by discussing it,reporting on it and thus adding their definition to what the "investigation" actually is. This project, in which articulated thoughts lay claim to political power, is an act of resistance. Moreover, it identifies other possible sites of resistance. As Rela says, "the routes along which power is exercised always pass, of necessity, through intersections that present potential sites of resistance."

This first report contains Rela's thinking about power, resistance, New Profile and this project, and a narrative from Dana, New Profile member, about her interrogation by the police and her activism.

Many thanks to our friends at New Profile for once again offering us new ways to think and act and for inviting people around the world to be a part of their critical work.

Sarah Anne Minkin

From New Profile:

The following two items are the first in a new series of reports by New Profile activists titled "Investigating the Investigation". The reports will be posted on the New Profile website in both Hebrew and English, and new ones will be added regularly over the coming days and weeks. (

The series, conceived and initiated by Rela Mazali is coordinated and edited by Ronit Marian Kadishai, with technical support from Aviv Sela, Amir Givol and Sergeiy Sandler.


Investigating the Investigation
Rela Mazali

Thousands have responded to our news of the criminal investigation of New Profile, put into motion on April 26th.
- The Coalition of Women for Peace, of which New Profile is a member, organized a protest at a central Tel-Aviv police station; the police arrested and held overnight eight of the protesters; it was reprimanded in court for the latter the next day.
- The Coalition also initiated a newspaper ad, "We're All New Profile", signed by twenty-six civil society organizations and published in the daily, Haaretz.
- The Students' Forum of the Political Science Department at Tel-Aviv University initiated and produced a public event focusing on freedom of speech in the context of New Profile's persecution by authorities; the meeting was addressed by former High Court Judge, Dalia Dorner, by Talia Sasson, formerly of the State Attorney's office, by Prof. Martin Sherman and by New Profile member, Rela Mazali.
- The U.S.-based organization, Jewish Voice for Peace, called on supporters to write Israel's Attorney General in protest and over 5,000 of you responded.
- A group of women Nobel Prize laureates, including the Iranian woman awarded the prize in recent years, published a letter protesting the harassment of New Profile.
- The American Friends Service Committee, a major Quaker organization in the U.S., itself a Nobel Prize laureate for its worldwide defense of human rights, directed a letter to the U.S. Foreign Secretary, Ms. Hillary Clinton, on the eve of the Israeli Prime Minister's visit in Washington, urging her to broach the subject of this criminal investigation as a facet of Israel's denial of the right to freedom of conscience.

It has been over four weeks since the police knocked, one morning, at the doors of six New Profile activists.

Many of you ask us repeatedly: "What's going on? What about the investigation?"

A first, almost instinctive reaction is, "Nothing so far. We're waiting." In fact, that's not true. A lot is going on.

The automatic reaction refers, of course, to the obscurity of the institutional process, the opaqueness of police activity and official legal actions following the interrogation ceremonies to which a total of twelve New Profile activists have been subjected. However, this instinctive answer mistakenly assumes that defining "the investigation" and its progression is the exclusive prerogative of the authorities – of the police and the courts. It assumes that they alone determine this definition and reduces the reality of "the investigation" to the content assigned it by official authorities. In the process, this response assumes that we, the movement and the people under investigation, are unable and unauthorized to define "the investigation" or to manage it in any way.

There is no doubt that we are indeed subject to investigation. The investigation is imposed and performed upon us by bodies that wield a great deal of power, including that of authorized organized violence. But this power is exerted upon a concrete, body, upon us. The paths and means through which it is exercised depend, in part, upon the structure of the body which we are, which we constitute, and upon its-our modes of action. Clear evidence of this can be discerned in the simple fact that such a relatively large number of activists were summoned for questioning. This fact is a direct result of our feminist-democratic and decentralized organizational practices. In addition, the routes along which power is exercised always pass, of necessity, through intersections that present potential sites of resistance.

In this sense, we most certainly can and do manage various aspects of the investigation.

The philosopher, Michel Foucault, dwelt in his writings on the consciousness developed by the hypothetical inmate of an eight-sided prison – a "panopticon". Within such a structure, every prisoner is exposed to the jailer's gaze in every corner of his or her cell. The jailer, who ostensibly watches the prisoners all day, every day, is unseen by them, hidden within a central tower. The prisoner, who has no way of knowing when or whether she or he is being watched, accordingly develops a sense of incessant surveillance, an invasive feeling that pushes her – pushes all of us – towards continuous self-surveillance and self-censorship.

The series "Investigating the Investigation" hopes to invert the direction of the jailer's gaze. In these updates, those under investigation, we ourselves, will turn our gaze on the investigators – both the institutions and the people – and follow the reality of investigation in detail. We will be documenting some of the personal experiences, affects, implications, insights and thoughts of those being investigated – both of the men and women who were interrogated by police, who physically sat in front of them and answered questions and of other members of New Profile who are all subject, as a movement, to investigation.

We'll answer your question, "What's going on?", meanwhile – through this very act – resisting self-censorship, actively defining and managing "the investigation" to the extent of our capacity. This will provide us with a better blueprint of the ways in which we are being subjected to the use of state force and allow us to identify junctures for resistance.



During my interrogation I chose to invoke my right to remain silent. Now I want to answer.

The first question was: How did I join New Profile?

I grew up in the home of two ex-army people and three children. Feminist consciousness, on the one hand, coexisted with a great deal of classical Zionist ideology on the other. You could say that I was raised between Alice Miller and Hanna Szenes, or between trips meant for us to learn to love our country, and brief references to what had been there, in the past – what sites and which people.

"There'll be no army, by the time you grow up" they told me – but: "Sure, you'll be a teacher-soldier – not a secretary, god forbid!"
At junior high I learned about how the pacifist movement emerged in Europe in the wake of the First World War. Shortly after this, they read us Israel's Declaration of Independence.

I would like this country's state attorney and people like him to take note that there's nothing more dangerous than for a tender young girl, who abhors violence and killing, to learn that she is not the first to feel like this, and in addition to hear that her country, her motherland, wants to support her in this, too, to allow her to feel the way she does.

Let's keep the story short. Let's skip the part when my mother told me that not enlisting is nothing but spitting in the face of your country. Let's skip hours spent on the internet and with books, my first attempts at co-existence, or to study the history of the Palestinian people. Let's move straight to age 18, when our young woman overcame her fear of spitting in the face of her country, and equipped with her usual insufferable naivety, demanded the freedom that country had once, long ago held out to her, way before she was born.

It was a long way to get exempted from regular military service, and the process exhausted me, physically as well as mentally. On my own, I suppose, I would not have gotten there, I suppose I would have given up after six months of a draining struggle, when my father pleaded with me to let go, to just get enlisted and act like everybody else. But I was not alone. There were wonderful women who supported me, even if, at times, it took four telephone conversations a day. They gave me strength and supported me until I did what I believed was the right thing.

This is how I found my ideological home at New Profile. This is how I joined too and became a counselor myself. This is how, one night, I returned a call to a man who had left a voicemail, asking for help from our organization.

This man, on the other side of the line, turned out to be much older than I. He had fought in a number of wars, and a recent traumatic incident had unexpectedly flooded him with memories from those times. He was in a terrible state – he couldn't stop telling me one story after another. I had heard stories about the horrors of war, but hearing them now, from a specific, concrete person crushed something inside me.

Since New Profile does not aim, or indeed know how, to offer advice to people who suffer from post-traumatic disorder, I referred this man to Shovrim Shtika [Breaking the Silence]. Then I sat on my bed and wept for a very long time. I could not stop thinking about my own parents.

My father left the army at a late stage in life. He had made considerable progress in the army hierarchy and participated in several wars. My mother had served as a nurse in a field hospital during the First Lebanon War. They knew about the price militarism exacts. They knew what wars are like and how superfluous they always are. They paid a price for the ongoing Occupation - a price I shall never pay. And yet, in spite of all this, their greatest disappointment of me ever occurred when they understood that I would not be part of this system.

Now, for the first time, I saw what had really troubled me and put me off all this time. I saw, for the first time, to what extent my parents are victims, to what extent me and my siblings are victims too. We are all victims of a society that sends its children to fight, that raises them, from such a very young age, to perpetuate everything that is ugly and abject in nature. This very miserable man who phoned me that night was deeply ashamed of himself. He could not understand why he was telling me all these things. He said: "I always thought that these things somehow didn't really happen. Nobody else said a word. Nobody acted as though something wrong had occurred. I thought it was all in my mind."

Just a few days before I was interrogated about the abovementioned, horrifying organization, it was Independence Day. During the celebrations in central Tel Aviv, I passed by Rabin Square and heard a choir singing the text of the Declaration of Independence. The soloist drew out the part in which the state promises rights to its citizens. To sum up, he sang boldly: "In short: Freedom!" I smiled to myself. I knew that there is real freedom, the freedom from a system that separates into eternity between the peoples who reside in the small strip of land between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean, that keeps alive men's superiority over women, that strangles education and culture. And I knew that I am fighting for that freedom with my teeth and my nails and that I am in good company.

But what, of all this, could I convey to the police interrogator who asked me whether I brainwashed candidates for military service? What, of all this, could I yell against the indictment on account of involvement in forging documents, incitement to fraud? To whom could I say that I have only one truth, and that, in my eyes, democracy is only one thing?

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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