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Gush Shalom: Yoni Ben Artzi sent to prison again

Gush Shalom: Yoni Ben Artzi sent to prison again

Yoni Ben Artzi sent to prison for the seventh (7th) time, bringing his total to 196 days; others following closely. Gush Shalom: the army's hardening position shows that the present wave of conscript refusal starts to pose a problem for those who want to perpetuate the occupation.

Army imprisons for 7th time CO Ben Artzi (Netanyahu's nephew)

This morning, CO Yoni Ben Artzi entered the military prison for the seventh consecutive time for a term of 35-days. Ben-Artzi's renewed imprisonment was the culmination of more than a week of what seemed a hestitation and equivocation on the army's part. This time, he and other CO's were not immediately imprisoned upon the end of their previous terms - but were invited to speak with numerous officers and officials. Various possibilities, such as a psychiatric discharge from the army, had been held out to them - only to be withdrawn again. Mention was made of a high-level miltary commission to be appointed of which apparently nothing came.

At the end of his new prison term Yoni Ben Artzi (who happens to be the nephew of Foreign Minister Binyamin Netanyahu) will have spent 196 days in jail with no end in sight - for him or for Uri Ya'akobi, Dror Beumel and an increasing number of Israeli youths who refuse service in the Israeli army and are one by one passing the 90 day mark, which was until recently the maximum. Of the growing number of draft resisters part objects to military service in general, others oppose to being part of an army of occupation.

So, Ben Artzi was once again faced with the choice: "Enlist or go to prison!". With a difference, however - Col. Deborah Chassid, who had previously sentenced the CO's, this time told Ben Artzi she was washing her hands of him and his friends and passing the matter off to her superiors. (This may not be unconnected with the thousands of protest letters and faxes which poured into her office from all over the world in the past month).

In the end, Ben Artzi was sentenced by General Gil Regev in person - member of the General Staff in charge of manpower, just one rank below the top of the pyramid. Ben Artzi had told the general (as he reported a few minutes later, just before his mobile phone was taken away): "Unless you find a way through your own bureaucratic procedures and release me from the army, you will have to see me here again and again - for there is no way I am going to enlist". Ben Artzi also reminded General Regev that he had been recognized as a Prisoner of Conscience by Amnesty International. He remarked that if it is possible for thousands of ultra-Orthodox to be granted an exemption from military service, it is not more than fair aalso to exempt the Conscientious Objectors. (Many of the religious are not at all opposed to violence or occupation - on the contrary.)

The general had only one answer: "You have appealed to the Consicence Committee and it rejected your offer." (The committee rejects virtually everybody regardless of his arguments.)

Gush Shalom: the army leadership's hardening position proves that the refuser movement among conscripts starts to pose a serious problem. The present government policy of more and more oppression, and ongoing occupation is dependent upon a reliable army with obedient soldiers. But among today's eighteen year olds there is an unprecedented wave of protesters. These young people deserve all the support they can get.

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