A handful of Israeli teenagers go to prison every year because
they refuse to serve in the country’s army for reasons of conscience. Nineteen-year-old Natan Blanc from Haifa has been through this already ten times in almost six months.
So far Natan Blanc has served more than 150 days in jail. Every few weeks he is released, then tried and imprisoned again after repeating his refusal to join the army. On 12th May he was sentenced to another 28 days in Military Prison #6 near Atlit in Northern Israel.
Blanc says he will not participate in human rights violations against Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. He was first imprisoned after refusing his induction last November.
Excerpt from Natan Blanc’s Refusal Declaration
"I began thinking about refusing to conscripted into the Israeli Army during the “Cast Lead” operation in 2008. The wave of aggressive militarism that swept the country then, the expressions of mutual hatred, and the vacuous talk about stamping out terror and creating a deterrent effect were the primary trigger for my refusal. Today, after four years full of terror, without a political process [towards peace negotiations], and without quiet in Gaza and Sderot, it is clear that the Netanyahu Government, like that of his predecessor Olmert, is not interested in finding a solution to the existing situation, but rather in preserving it. From their point of view, there is nothing wrong with our initiating a “Cast Lead 2″ operation every three or four years (and then 3, 4, 5 and 6): we will talk of deterrence, we will kill some terrorist, we will lose some civilians on both sides, and we will prepare the ground for a new generation full of hatred on both sides. As representatives of the people, members of the cabinet have no [sic] duty to present their vision for the futures of the country, and they can continue with this bloody cycle, with no end in sight. But we, as citizens and human beings, have a moral duty to refuse to participate in this cynical game."
Click here for a video interview of Natan Blanc with Amnesty International on the occasion of this 7th prison term.
The right to reject military service on grounds of conscientious objection is protected under international human rights law, including the International Covenant
on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Israel has ratified.
Although the army’s Conscience Committee can decide to allow a conscientious objector exemption from military service, this is usually granted only to those who refuse to serve on religious grounds. However, no discrimination is permitted
"among conscientious objectors on the basis of the nature of their particular beliefs", i.e. whether they are religious or otherwise (Human Rights Committee, General Comment 22, para. 11). And even though Israeli law does allow for exemption on grounds of pacifism, their Conscience Committee frequently rejects their cases.
Conscientious objectors in Israel can be convicted of and imprisoned for the same “offence” repeatedly. In 2003, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said that this practise flouts their rights under international human rights standards which prohibit “double jeopardy”.
NOTE: This week, US Secretary of State John Kerry is visiting Jerusalem and Ramallah, where he has the rare opportunity to urge Israeli Minister of Defense Moshe Ya'alon to release Natan Blanc. If you are a citizen of the US you might
also like to sign and send an open letter to John Kerry, initiated here by our close allies at Jewish Voice for Peace.
Conscientious objection to military service is a right derived from Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which lay down the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. As such, Natan Blanc and others imprisoned for their conscientious objection to military service are prisoners of conscience.
The repeated conviction and imprisonment of individuals in Israel for the same “offence”, their conscientious objection to carry out military service, was identified by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in 2003 as amounting to arbitrary detention.
I urge you, to take all necessary steps to ensure that the right to refuse military service on grounds of conscience is fully protected. In the meantime, I call upon you to immediately and unconditionally release Natan Blanc and all other individuals held purely for their conscientious objection.