Young Israeli conscientious objector sentenced to sixth consecutive prison term

Natan Blanc (19) has been in and out of prison for three months now. On November 19, Blanc informed authorities of his conscientious objection to enlist to the Israeli army due to the ongoing occupation of Palestinian territories and the constant militarization of the Israeli society which it entails.

Natan Blanc (courtesy of the family)
Natan Blanc (courtesy of the family)

Since his initial refusal to be drafted into the IDF, Natan Blanc has been sentenced six times, the last being this Sunday, each to a period of two to three weeks in jail. In accordance with military regulations, Blanc is being sentenced by medium-level officers in short disciplinary proceedings, sent to prison, then back to the induction base, and then tried again. There are no real limitations to the number of times this process can repeat itself, in what has already been described by Amnesty International and several others human rights NGOs in other cases as arbitrary sentencing. Blanc is sticking to his refusal and says he won’t consider turning to the military psychiatrist as an alternative route to his declared and principled refusal.

In the statement he released on 19.11.12 Blanc wrote the following:

I began thinking about refusing to be conscripted into the Israeli Army during the ‘Cast Lead’ operation in 2008. The wave of aggressive militarism that swept the country then, the expressions of mutual hatred, and the vacuous talk about stamping out terror and creating a deterrent effect were the primary trigger for my refusal. Today, after four years full of terror, without a political process [towards peace negotiations], and without quiet in Gaza and Sderot, it is clear that the Netanyahu government, like that of his predecessor Olmert, is not interested in finding a solution to the existing situation, but rather in preserving it. From their point of view, there is nothing wrong with our initiating a ‘Cast Lead 2’ operation every three or four years (and then 3, 4,5 and 6): we will talk of deterrence, we will kill some terrorist, we will lose some civilians on both sides, and we will prepare the ground for a new generation full of hatred on both sides. As representatives of the people, members of the cabinet have no duty to present their vision for the futures of the country, and they can continue with this bloody cycle, with no end in sight. But we, as citizens and human beings, have a moral duty to refuse to participate in this cynical game.

In recent years the movement of conscientious objection in Israel has been quieter, as reservists who refuse are usually released without trial or sent to tasks outside the occupied territories, which some of them accept. Most conscription aged conscientious objectors find ways to avoid making public statements of their refusal, and only few like Blanc end up in prison – as reported here last year in the cases of Noam Gur and the refusers who followed her.

Two solidarity vigils with Blanc, organized by Yesh Gvul and his family and friends, have already taken place on the hillside opposite Military Prison 6 in Atlit, where he is being held. More are planned.

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