Thursday, May 23, 2013

Free Natan Blanc


The merciless occupation of the territories also affects conscientious Israelis. Natan Blanc, a 19 year old conscientious objector to the illegal, immoral and bizarrely corrupt Occupation, has been sentenced to 10 terms in jail - 178 days so far - with no alternative but to plead insanity. The following contains a note from my friend Ilene Cohen, and then two petitions, with the potential for immediate action. That Netanyahu is a bully and a joke is clear in the final article from Haaretz.

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Blanc is an objector particularly to the Occupation. During the Vietnam War to which many of us were objectors, John Rawls formulated an important argument on conscientious refusal in A Theory of Justice. This is refusal to serve in a specific unjust war - an aggression or occupation and a genocide as in Vietnam or, arguably, Palestine (the legal definition of genocide in the 1948 Convention against Genocide is imposing conditions designed to destroy a people "in whole or in part"). Rawls' point, which I endorse and offer some additional arguments for in Must Global Politics Constrain Democracy?, is that a strong state should recognize the conscience of individuals - it should grow out of such consciences, as Thoreau suggests in "Civil Disobedience" - and should be able to provide reasons for its policies which would stand up to debate with those who disagree.

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The governments of oligarchies with parliamentary forms have only the empty arguments of cells as the repeated sentencing of Natan Blanc, combined with the mechanical vapidity of the "courts" that do it, illustrates.

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Such governments are, however, frail. What serious arguments does Israel have to present that might convince some honorable person that in the Occupation, they do not just imitate once upon a time European conduct toward the Jews...?

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"May 23, 2013

Natan Blanc is a remarkable nineteen-year-old Israeli conscientious objector who refuses to serve in the army of occupation. He has just been sentenced to his tenth prison term for his refusal. I know I've sent out some postings about him previously.

First following is e-mail from Jewish Voice for Peace about Natan, including a petition calling for Natan's release to be sent to Secretary of State John Kerry, who is in Israel/Palestine right now (trying to empty the ocean with a teaspoon). Kerry himself spoke out in front of Congress against the Vietnam War back in the day, and in Republican circles, who worship war, he is reviled to this day for his "treason" as a young man. Whether the case of an Israeli conscientious objector opposed to occupation will touch his soul, I don't know.

Second following is e-mail from Natan's father, including some useful links and the international petition on behalf of Natan.

Last following is a short essay by Uri Misgav in today's Haaretz on the case of Natan Blanc and its wider significance for Israel.

I hope you'll take a look.

Ilene"

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"Natan Blanc is in prison for his refusal to participate in the Israeli occupation.
When he was younger, John Kerry also stood up to an unjust war.
Urge him to stand up for Natan Blanc today!

Dear Ilene,

Natan Blanc is an Israeli teenager who was just sentenced to his 10th term in military prison for refusing to serve in the Israeli Army.

There's a growing global solidarity campaign -- and we need to do our part now.
This week, US Secretary of State John Kerry is visiting Jerusalem and Ramallah. When Kerry returned from Vietnam as a young soldier, he also followed his conscience, standing up to that unjust war. We're calling on Kerry to show the same moral courage now.

Can you sign our open letter asking John Kerry to demand the release of Israeli conscientious objector Natan Blanc? Just click here.

Kerry has the rare opportunity to urge Israeli Minister of Defense Moshe Ya'alon to release Natan Blanc. Our goal is to gather 10,000 signatures on an open letter asking Kerry speak up.

The right to reject military service on grounds of conscientious objection is protected under international human rights law.

Especially if Kerry wants to establish himself as a trustworthy peace broker, he needs to step up now.

Stand up for Natan Blanc, and for everyone brave enough to follow their conscience.
Sincerely,

Sydney Levy
Director of Advocacy
Jewish Voices for Peace

P.S. If you're outside the US, it might make more sense to sign this petition, co-sponsored by some of our allies around the world."

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"From: David Blanc
To: nathanbl
Sent: Mon, May 20, 2013 2:02 am
Subject: Petition calling to free Natan Blanc

Natan Blanc is currently serving his tenth term in an Israeli military prison for refusing to be drafted into the Israeli Army, for reasons of conscience.

Amnesty International, War Resisters International, Yesh Gvul, New Profile, Gush Shalom, and Connection e.V. have initiated a petition calling for his release. Presently the petition is in English and German. Please sign and circulate:

English version here, German version here

If you are sending this to other people, here are some more details: Background: Natan Blanc, a 20-year old from Haifa, is currently serving his tenth term in an Israeli military prison for refusing to be drafted into the Israeli Army, for reasons of conscience. He was due to be inducted into the army on November 19, 2012, and was sentenced to 10 days in prison. Each time he was released from prison, he reported back to the induction center, and was sent back to prison. This has happened ten times, for a total of 178 days in prison. His current term, of 28 days,began on May 12, 2013.

You can read more about it in the Guardian here or on the website here.

Natan explained that he is refusing to serve because he feels that the current situation, in which millions of Palestinians under occupation are denied elementary democratic rights over many years, is immoral. He believes that the Israel Defence Forces play a major role in preserving this situation, and says that his conscience does not allow him to be part of it.

As far as we know, Natan is the first conscientious objector in the history of Israel who has been sentenced to ten consecutive terms in prison for the same offense."

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Haaretz
Opinion
Israel should embrace IDF refusenik Natan Blanc like it did Gilad Shalit
The state doesn't know how to deal with conscientious objectors.
By Uri Misgav | May.23, 2013

At the end of the day, it’s a story about two beds. One bed is a single, army bed made from iron, located in Military Prison No. 6. For the last six months, it’s been occupied by Natan Blanc. So far he’s been sentenced 10 times, for a combined total of 178 days − and counting. He has been imprisoned for refusing to serve in the Israel Defense Forces as long as it is being used as a tool by the government to continue the occupation and the bloodshed in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Before he arrived at the IDF recruitment center, he volunteered for a year’s community service in Jerusalem, and wants to be allowed to replace military service with national service.

This week, 36 lawyers sent a polite protest letter to the Military Advocate General. Their main argument was that their treatment of Blanc is “a violation of the principle of proportionality,” resulting in an “inappropriate policy.” It’s hard to think of limper language. What they should have written is: “Say, have you lost your mind? Exactly when is the army going to stop torturing this kid? And what legal proceedings are planned for him later on − life imprisonment?

It’s clear that Blanc’s case is a challenge for the system. He’s a conscientious objector, but with a very specific conscience. His case exposes the fact that Israel has a hierarchy of types of conscience. Of course, the religious conscience is exempt from military service, as is the national conscience (Arabs are also exempt), and the family conscience (married women are also exempt). Even the ideological conscience is taken into account (pacifism, if properly proven). But Blanc is citing a different type of conscience: a political one. And this type is difficult to deal with on a theoretical level. This difficulty is understandable, but at the end of the day the practical decision the system has made has been to trample a lone man who posed an obstacle. Blanc’s 178 days of imprisonment represent cowardice, vindictiveness and mostly, a terrifying inflexibility.

This is the point where Blanc’s personal story should trouble every Israeli citizen who sees himself as a member of the human race, irrespective of his political stance. This bureaucratic inflexibility allows military judicial officers, senior general staff and publicly elected officials to keep sleeping peacefully, while an idealistic 19 year old has already been imprisoned for 178 nights − and the only solution he has been offered is to declare himself to be mentally disturbed. But so far Blanc’s story hasn’t made Israelis lift a finger. Most of them haven’t even heard of him. Among those who have, many remain indifferent, and even believe that he deserves to be punished. And this is a country that was going crazy over the case of Gilad Shalit − who was called “everyone’s son” − for years. Shalit was returned by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a decision that contradicted the position he had consistently held on the subject of prisoner exchanges.

This puzzling fact demands an explanation, and brings us to the second bed − the extravagant double bed that Netanyahu and his wife Sara had installed on one of their official planes.

Netanyahu returned Shalit at a time when he was alarmed by the extent of the socioeconomic protests. He struggled to explain exactly why he had changed his mind regarding the deal, and tried to mumble something about a change in the regional circumstances. Eventually he gave his wife as a reason, saying that she had told him: “Think what you would do if he was your son.”

In the last decade, Sara Netanyahu’s nephew Yonatan Ben-Artzi was imprisoned for a prolonged period for being a conscientious objector. When reasonable justice and logic collapse, and the systems are paralyzed, one can only hope that as the couple get into their bed, the empress will whisper into her husband’s ear that he must also put an end to this crazy story.

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