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Issue #1595      May 29, 2013

Israelis rally for peace protester

Dozens of supporters of Israeli conscientious objector Natan Blanc demonstrated outside military headquarters last week. The Israeli military has jailed Mr Blanc 10 consecutive times, amounting to six months continuous imprisonment so far, for refusing to serve because of his opposition to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.

More than 30 Israeli legal experts, including the dean of Hebrew University’s law school, have signed an open letter urging the army to release 20-year-old Mr Blanc and saying the detention violated his freedom of conscience.

His father David said that his son was supposed to be inducted for compulsory military service last November and, after refusing to serve, was sent to a military prison and remains there with no end in sight.

Natan Blanc said: “The main reason that I am refusing to serve is that I feel that our country is going toward a non-democratic situation of civil inequality between us and the Palestinians. I believe the Israeli military plays a major role in preserving this situation and my conscience does not allow me to participate in it.”

Military service is compulsory in Israel, but in reality thousands of Israelis are exempted. Mr Blanc has offered to serve in Israel’s civilian paramedic service but has been refused permission.

The army won’t provide statistics on conscientious objectors.

But Yesh Gvul activist Ishai Menuchin, whose group assists objectors, estimated that dozens of Israeli youths refuse to serve each year.

Earning an exemption as a “pacifist” requires approval from a special committee and is almost never granted, he said.

In most cases, the military dismisses objectors as “unfit” for physical or psychological reasons.

A small number are sent to jail for short stints, and then agree to meet a mental health officer to receive an exemption on psychological grounds.

“The army prefers this. You accept that there is something wrong with you,” he said.

But Mr Blanc has refused to leave on psychological grounds.

“He’s not going to lie to get out. That’s apparently what’s required,” said his father.

Morning Star  

Next article – Qatar must improve its treatment of workers

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