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Conscientious Objectors

21 February 2003

By Yisrael Ne’eman

According to the Hebrew daily Ha’aretz, Dror Boymel, a self declared pacifist has already been jailed for 168 days for refusing to serve in the army.  Dror’s mother, Atalia is a far left activist (wherever the extreme left is, she is further) who in essence demands the destruction of the state of Israel and in the past has advised youth to leave the country before they can be drafted.  She has also presented a plan for the secession of the Galilee from the state of Israel thereby facilitating equal rights for Jews and Arabs in a bi-national entity.  On the other hand, Dror’s brother serves in the IDF.

Towards the end of the 1990’s (during Netanyahu’s administration) Atalia Boymel was in her heyday.  She was popular among the mainstream Left due to her activism in demanding a withdrawal from Lebanon but this soured when they heard her ultra radical opinions.  Living in the Misgav Regional Council (Yuvalim village) and a Labor/Meretz stronghold she had run into opposition, but nothing too serious, most people just considered her eccentric.  But all that changed after October 2000 and the massive Arab rioting in this normally quiet area of the Galilee.  The Left was less ‘in’ than before even if people did not necessarily leave their party loyalties.  Today for many, Atalia is something of a pariah and in many cases an embarrassment.

None of this however should be having an impact on Dror’s case.  At least he is a pacifist from the outset, not someone using his status as a soldier to advance a political agenda such as those who once drafted, decide they will or not serve in the West Bank and Gaza on the Left hand, or refuse orders to remove illegal settlers on the Right.  Dror refuses to be drafted and is a ‘conscientious  objector’.

Unfortunately the state of Israel has no real laws for such a status.  Many youth today are not drafted, either for reasons of ultra-orthodoxy, physical or emotional health or that somehow or another they do not fit into the military framework.  Dror could have played the game of unfitness.  Instead he chose an ideological line and decided to pay the price.  No doubt his upbringing had something to do with it.

His mother has enjoyed notoriety is incurring popular wrath.  Whether Dror should or not, can be a personal decision of every individual.  The state through the ‘conscience committee’ (made up mainly of security officials) has rejected his requests for exemption from military service and the Supreme Court, generally known for its liberal direction, insisting on his incarceration until there is a final decision in his case.  This is absurd.  Dror has already served close to half a year in jail and is certainly not a danger to the public.

But the specifics of Dror’s case are even less the issue.  No matter how one views pacifism (and this writer sees it as an inactive form of aiding the enemy to destroy my society), it does exist.  As a society, Israel must legislate solutions for ‘conscientious objectors’.  In the meantime the army and the courts are behaving in a clumsy and blockheaded manner.

Dror has suggested volunteering for civil service instead of the military.  That certainly is a positive beginning but not quite good enough.  The young Boymel and other idealistic pacifists should be asked to serve with the civilian emergency medical services such as the Magen David Adom ambulance corps, especially in those areas of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem known to suffer from terror attacks, especially bus bombings. 

Helping to save the lives of those suffering from terrorism with the compassion of a pacifist is something this country or any other could sorely use.  Pacifists would be viewed not as people evading responsibility but rather as those who take it and try to build a better world.  Maybe through their actions and not just by way of verbiage and court cases such a radical anti-war camp could have their desired impact on society, or at least they would become credible.

If nothing else they would be sharing in the burden of a society battling against an attempted terror siege.