Mitzna, Don't Join! Refusnik awaits court martial
Mitzna, Don't Join! // Refusnik awaits court martial
CO Ben Artzi's court martial due within two weeks
Reminder, support vigil draft resisters at the home of General Finkelstein
"Don't give in" - Gush statement of the week
Photos of the antiwar demonstrations worldwide - including Tel-Aviv
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[Dozens of Palestinians killed by IDF aggression, in the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank and also redeployment towards the relatively quiet northern border - these are the IDFs rehearsals for the Iraq War, and these are the deeds of Sharon which more than his words reveal his intentions. Therefore, we concentrate on two things: urging the Labor Party to stay out of the government, and supporting the refusniks' hard struggle.]
 CO Ben Artzi's court martial due within two weeks
Yesterday afternoon, the parents and supporters of the imprisoned refusniks, as well as Israeli and foreign journalists and press photographers, crowded the small hall of the Military Court in Jaffa (the former home of a wealthy Arab family, taken over by the army in 1948), to witness the latest developments in the case of CO Yoni Ben Artzi.
Originally, Ben Artzi gained media interest especially due to the piquant fact of being the nephew of Foreign Minister Netanyahu. But by now, he had gained a considerable reputation in his own right - a principled pacifist CO, who had already served without flinching a total of 200 days' imprisonment, in seven 28-day or 35-day instalments.
The latest development, leading Ben Artzi to the Court Martial which is empowered to hand down a maximum of three years for his refusal to enlist, started exactly a week ago, when he was taken from his prison cell to a meeting with a Brigadier General at General Staff Headquarters in Tel-Aviv.
This personage went out of his way to appear friendly ("I am not talking to you as a general to a draftee, but as Avi to Yoni, okay?") and made what was supposed to be "a generous offer": Ben Artzi would consent to be enlisted and have the legal status of a soldier, and in return the army would grant him "an easy service, without a gun, uniform or military training".
Ben Artzi was given a few days to consider this offer, but in fact his response had never been in doubt: he is willing and ready to give three years for doing useful service to the benefit of Israeli society - but only in a civilian framework having nothing to do with the army; he is absolutely unwilling to be part, in any capacity whatsoever, of an army, an organization whose main aim is killing and violence; not of any army, in general, and certainly not of an army of occupation engaged in large-scale brutal oppression of another people.
Upon informing the authorities of his decision, Ben Artzi was informed in turn that he would face a court martial, empowered to sentence him to up to three years. Also, from that moment on he was subjected to a series of petty humiliations, never before experienced during his previous imprisonments: being handcuffed whenever taken from one place to another (though he has never shown any inclination to run away); being held in a cell without any furniture, so that he had to sit on the floor; being given food without utensils...
Three days of that were the prelude to yesterday's hearing, on the issue of whether or not Ben Artzi should be remanded in custody until the end of the court martial. The prosecutor went out of his way to be nasty, describing Ben Artzi as "no better than any deserter or drug addict". He was no pacifist, since "the competent military committee has already reviewed his case" and decided he was not. He must be kept continually in prison, for the sake of "deterrence", since letting him go free until the court martial renders its verdict would "undermine discipline in the army".
Ben Artzi's lawyer, Adv. Michael Sfard from the office of the renowned human rights lawyer Avigdor Feldman, rebutted these arguments, stating that the "competent committee" was composed of military officers with no knowledge of or interest in pacifist principles, that they were rejecting virtually any claimant who appeared before them, and that Yoni Ben Artzi was "the classical, clear-cut case of a principled pacifist: a person who already chose pacifism and non-violence as the subject of his elementary school essays, who in school refused to attend a judo class since that involved using force, and who in the years before his conscription date had boned up on the history and philosophy of pacifism - for which he had two testimonies of university professors. Further, Adv. Sfard dismissed the prosecution's claim of "undermined discipline" as frivolous and vindictive.
After several hours of often acrimonious debate, a compromise was hammered out: pending the end of the court martial Ben Artzi would stay neither at home nor in prison, but in "open detention" at the army's Induction Center. There was still a further debate on whether or not the prisoner would be allowed to spend the night in his parents' home, for what may be the last occasion in a very long while. The prosecutor, in another display of conspicuous narrow-mindedness, fiercely opposed it. In the ned, the judge, who seemed more fair-minded, granted that small boon. This morning, Ben Artzi presented himself at the induction center for the beginning of "the open detention". There had been a new confrontation with a lieutenant-colonel who once again demanded that he enlist and threatened "the stockade"; upon Ben Artzi's continuing firm refusal, the colonel talked with his superiors and backed off - at least for the moment. So, Yoni Ben Artzi's court martial is due to start sometime in the coming two weeks. It is vitally important to make it a major media and political event, to have many international delegations present, etc.
And meanwhile, it is unclear what the army intends for the other ten refusniks who have been going in and out of prison over the past half a year.
This morning ACRI (Civil Rights Association) appealed to the Supreme Court on behalf of Dror Beumel, today ending his sixth consecutive term, asking it to forbid the practice of repeated CO imprisonments. The court refused to grant an immediate injunction, which means that Beumel might be sent to a seventh term immediately upon his release today - but a hearing on merits of the case is due to take place, also within the next two weeks.  Reminder, support vigil draft resisters at the home of General Finkelstein
[Gush Shalom supports the struggle of the refusers, and several of its members are actully among the Refusnik Parents.]
In support of the occupation resisters! In protest against the repeated imprisonment of draft resisters!
We'll make it clear to Menachem Finkelstein that his treatment of conscientious objectors is unacceptable! Tomorrow, 21 February, at 14:30, we will remind the military attorney general the number of days these refuseniks have spent in military prisons and demand their immediate release. Meeting point for car-owners & those who need a ride : Arlozorov Railway Station (terminal El-Al) at 2.00 pm
How to get there directly: Address: 12 Halevi St., Petach Tikva. Driving through Jabotinsky St. and passing the Rabin (Beilinson) Hospital, turn right into Yitzhak Sade St. (second light after the hospital). The street changes names to Trumpeldor and then Ha'nessiim. At the roundabout turn right into Halevi St.
 "Don't give in" - Gush statement of the week
[To be published in Ha'aretz, Friday, Feb. 21, 2003]
MITZNA, DON'T GIVE IN!
Sharon's promise "to set up a Palestinian state" is intended to entice you to serve in his government as a political fig-leaf and a military alibi.
For changing his spots, Sharon does not need the Labor party. He can ask it to help from the outside.
Gush Shalom, Help us with donations to P.O.Box 3322, Tel-Aviv 61033, www.gush-shalom.org
 Photos of the antiwar demonstrations worldwide - including Tel-Aviv http://www.hyperreal.org/~dana/ --- Protest against repeated and unlimited imprisonment of draft resisters at: http://www.petitiononline.com/091202/
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