The Courage of Youth - Israeli Conscientious Objectors

April 8, 2013


Natan Blanc (Photo Credit: Hagar Shezaf for Amnesty International)
Natan Blanc (Photo Credit: Hagar Shezaf for Amnesty International).

Written by Nehal Amer, Social Media Specialist, Middle East Coordination Group

Each year, a handful of courageous Israeli teenagers are imprisoned for refusing to serve in the military on grounds of conscience. Natan Blanc, 19, from Haifa has been imprisoned eight times in four months for his refusal to serve in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). Amnesty International considers those imprisoned for total or selective objection to military service for reasons of conscience to be prisoners of conscience. Blanc spoke to Amnesty International about his motivation for objecting to military service in February 2013.

“In today’s Israel, there is apartheid,” the teenager said. “No one is talking about granting Palestinians equal rights, or even the right to vote. I do not want to take part in this situation … I want to stand behind my actions and not to do things that are against my conscience.”

Natan has served 116 days in jail since refusing the military call-up for the first time last November. Every few weeks he is released, then tried and imprisoned again after repeating his refusal to serve in the army.

The IDF’s “Unsuitability” Committee, which can exempt individuals from conscription if deemed unsuitable for service, re-affirmed in March that Natan must serve in the army. He was imprisoned for the eighth time after reporting to the induction base and again refusing to participate. The whole process is expected to be repeated upon his next release scheduled April 15th.

Over the years, many young Israelis have avoided the draft by seeking mental or physical health deferments, or on religious grounds. Repeated imprisonment of teenagers who refuse to serve in the IDF based on conscientiously held beliefs violates basic rights in many ways. In 2003, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found that by repeatedly convicting individuals on the basis of their conscientious objection was effectively punishing them for the same offense over and over again – flouting their rights under international human rights standards which prohibit ‘double jeopardy.’

The right to object to military service on grounds of conscience is protected under international human rights law and although Israeli law does allow for pacifists to be exempted, the review committee for this process frequently rejects their cases. Amnesty believes that the Israeli government should establish a fully independent and impartial body to assess claims of conscientious objection in a fair and transparent manner.

You can help Natan gain his freedom and let him know he’s not alone. Write to the Israeli authorities calling for the immediate and unconditional release Natan Blanc, Military ID 7571369.  Point out that where a state does not entirely exempt Conscientious Objectors from military service, then it must ensure the availability of alternative non-punitive civilian service as an alternative to imprisonment.

Write to: Brigadier General Danny Efroni Military Judge Advocate General 6 David Elazar Street Hakirya Tel Aviv, Israel Fax: +972 3-569 4526 Fax: +972 3 608 0366 E-mail: [email protected]

Write Natan at: Natan Blanc Military ID 7571369 Military Prison No. 6 Military Postal Code / DZ 01860, IDF Israel Fax: +972-4-9540580 Or, use [email protected]