Persecution of New Profile – update and call for action
On 27 April we carried a report on the police raids of New Profile. Here is an update from the Jewish Peace News website, dated 3 May, called New Profile: in their own words and a list of suggested solidarity actions:
This post contains a letter from New Profile analyzing the persecution of their members and asking for support. JPN editor Rela Mazali is a co-founder of New Profile and one of the letter’s authors. Of the investigation into New Profile, Rela explains, “I’d like to say clearly that I don’t think persecution of New Profile is (or will be) severe or extremely frightening. It’s bad but by no means terrifying. I see it, however, as a unique and important opportunity to open up people’s eyes to the much more severe, frightening and brutal reality of Palestinians’ persecution, ‘simply’ (and sadly) because in this case it is ‘respectable’, middle class, (some) middle-aged, Jewish, Ashkenazi women who are being targeted. In this case, the targets look credible and are not suspect ‘by definition’ because of their ethnicity/nationality/skin color/accent.”
We are also forwarding links to two commentaries on New Profile’s situation:
1) In Counterpunch, Deb Reich uses her “sharp, exposing humor” (as Rela calls it) to describe New Profile’s activities – giving young people a place to consider and discuss military service in the IDF, a topic that deeply troubles so many of them – as well as New Profile’s perceived threat to society, which boils down to the subversiveness of people talking to each other about serious issues like the draft or soldiers’ suicides or even the non-militarized state that these New Profile activists started to imagine years ago.
2) Gideon Levy takes on the same topic: this government’s attack on left-wing protest, from shooting at protesters against the separation barrier to raiding homes and confiscating computers. As Levy says, “Locking up three and a half million Palestinians in the occupied territories and denying them basic human rights has already undermined Israel’s pretention of democracy, but now dangerous cracks are appearing in our Jews-only democracy.” He continues, “Those who are silent now should not be surprised if one day they wake up and see the police outside the home of a poet whose message is forbidden.”
Sarah Anne Minkin
Some of you have already heard:
The attempt to criminalize New Profile, begun in September 2008 with the Israeli Attorney General’s announcement of a criminal investigation of the movement, has now been accelerated. On April 26th, a day before Israel’s Memorial Day, Israeli police produced a hyperbolic piece of political theater. As if facing down a dangerous organized crime “family”, they “raided” – to quote their press release – the homes of six activists in different parts of Israel, who were summoned for interrogation. Exploiting the ritual emotions of a day of mourning for military dead, this police action singled out and branded anti-militarist activists as non-members of the legitimate community, implying that they (we) are fair game.
New Profile issued a press release the same day and the US-based Jewish Voice for Peace followed up immediately with an urgent appeal for action.
The activists detained have meanwhile been released on bail under restraining orders; their personal computers currently remain impounded. As of this writing, police have summoned ten additional activists for interrogation.
In the paragraphs below, we provide our analysis of the government’s campaign of suppression along with our request for support. Your support and solidarity is deeply important to us.
Read more and act:
• Context for the targeting of New Profile
• What you can do
• Key links
• Where to address your letters of protest
• Where to send “Letters to the Editor”: Israeli Press Contacts
Context for the targeting of New Profile
The attempted criminalization of New Profile amounts to no less than a state war on youth. Rising numbers of young Jewish Israelis (as well as members of the Druze minority also subject to conscription) find themselves unable or unwilling to accept the over-used Israeli dictate: “There’s no other choice”. Despite the ongoing draft, more than half of all eligible Israelis no longer serve or complete their obligatory service in the military. Though Israeli law offers virtually no legal provision for Conscientious Objection, young people have found their own way to vote with their feet.
Officials initiated the New Profile investigation “because of growing concern at the defense establishment of a growing trend of draft evasion. In July 2007 Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi declared publicly that they would fight the trend.” (Ha’aretz, 4/27/2009). Clearly, it’s not New Profile that they’re worried about. New Profile is an easy, visible scapegoat through which they hope to sow fear and intimidate future draft resisters, whom they stigmatize as “shirkers”. The state has declared a war against the many thousands who openly resist or dodge the draft and refuse to place their bodies, their minds, their morality at the disposal of vision-less politicians.
Israel’s war on its youth is being fought within a broader context of spiraling repression of political dissent. Activists were detained by the hundreds for protesting Israel’s attack against Gaza last January, most of them Palestinian citizens of Israel, some of whom still remain in detention. Non-violent protesters against the land-gobbling dragon of Israel’s separation wall are regularly targeted by lethal fire. Weeks ago Bassem Ibrahim Abu Rahma of Bil’in was killed by soldiers, becoming the 18th Palestinian killed while protesting the separation barrier.
In most cases, the repressive measures applied to Jewish activists still bear no comparison, in terms of arbitrariness and brutality, to the means employed against Palestinians. And yet, the political theater of repression now being played out against New Profile is of great importance—
· First, because every act of repression is important and should be resisted.
· Second, because when it is applied to a group of relatively privileged, middle class, largely middle aged, feminists – it tends to be more visible to mainstream Israeli society, more easily exposing its fabric of lies and ludicrous, trumped-up charges, in turn allowing decent but uninformed people a concrete grasp of the reality of repression.
· Third, because in the balance, yet again, lie the future of freedom and rights for everyone in Israel/Palestine.
· Fourth, because what is at stake are the lives of Israeli youth against whom the state is waging this war.
Many of you have readily recognized the gravity of this turn of events and written us to express support and solidarity. You have also asked how to offer material help. Networks of sustained, resilient and persistent support-and-protest are vital for resisting and reversing the destructive anti-democracy now openly governing Israel/Palestine. We appreciate any small or large action you can take and truly need you, now and over the months and years to come.
Here is a list of things you can do:
1. Join the appeal of Jewish Voice for Peace (see also the statement and form for sending letters of protest from War Resisters’ International).
2. Write a short letter of protest to Israeli officials; see list of officials and their contact information below.
3. Reach out to journalists from your community, provide them with material and suggest they interview New Profile activists in your local or national media. To coordinate interviews, email us.
4. Organize a parlor meeting or a community meeting to discuss, learn about and publicize the current escalation in Israel in the politicized use of police and courts as a means of gagging dissent—most brutally among Palestinian citizens of Israel (for instance, see here) and among Jewish peace activists;
5. Use technology to bring us to your meeting, via video (on “Skype” for instance) or conference call; this is a very effective method for us to communicate with you and your group directly.
6. Write a short letter of protest to Israeli media, in your own language or in Hebrew if you’re able. See list of media contacts, below. Please send us copies of anything you write and any answers you receive.
7. Distribute our Press Release and the appeal from Jewish Voice for Peace among friends, family, acquaintances, other activists, at work places, community centers, schools, colleges, activist groups and ask people to disseminate them further.
8. Write an op-ed; contact us to help place it in an Israeli newspaper.
9. Compile in your language, print and distribute translations or summaries of the New Profile press release and of the Jewish Voice for Peace appeal.
10. Organize public actions in your community to protest the anti-democratic gagging of dissent, possibly at an official or semi-official Israeli site;
11. Identify and reach out to potentially sympathetic organizations and groups you know of, that have yet to become involved in action on Israel/Palestine and invite them to join work on this issue;
12. Organize appeals to your Foreign Minister and to other elected representatives demanding your government’s censure of Israel’s anti-democratic gagging of dissent;
13. Write and publish an advertisement of protest in Israeli newspapers—either as an umbrella of groups or as individuals (we will be glad to help with translation to Hebrew if necessary);
14. Help organize and fund a speaking tour for a New Profile activist, preferably along with a Palestinian activist, focusing on the topic of Israel’s practices of gagging of dissent;
15. Add your own ideas and determined creativity to this list and share them with us.
16. Make a contribution to New Profile.
Our deep and sincere thanks,
Rela Mazali & Ruth Hiller,
· New Profile Press Release: http://www.newprofile.org/english/?p=85
· Jewish Voice for Peace Call to Action: http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/301/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=27127
· To make a donation to New Profile: http://www.newprofile.org/english/?cat=9
Where to address your letters of protest
Ministry of Justice
Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu
Prime Minister’s Office
3 Kaplan St. Hakirya,
Mr. Yitzhak Aharonovitz
Minister of Public Security
Ministry of Public Security
P.O. Box 18182,
Ministry of Justice
P.O. Box 49029
Police Commissioner Dudi Cohen
For those of you who live outside Israel, it would be very effective to send protests to your local Israeli embassy. You can find the address of your local embassy on the web.
In the U.S., send emails to: email@example.com
Where to send “Letters to the Editor”: Israeli Press Contacts
Please keep letters under 600 words and try to follow up with emails and phone calls, urging the responsible editor to print your letter. Send your English-language article or letter to the editor to:
International Herald Tribune’s Haaretz English (daily) branch: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ha’aretz: (send letters to all of these addresses):
Jerusalem Post in French: email@example.com
Jerusalem Report (English bi-weekly): firstname.lastname@example.org
Yediot Ahronot: email@example.com
Jewish Peace News editors:
Sarah Anne Minkin
Jewish Peace News archive and blog