Jonathan’s dad just wrote me some dramatic new details of his recent victory in the Israeli Supreme Court against IDF attempts to imprison him for his pacifist refusal to serve in the army. Jonathan fought this case over eight years and served a total of 18 months in grimy military prisons for his beliefs.
After four trips to the Supreme Court which continually sent the case back to military courts, the Court finally accepted jurisdiction in January, 2007 and then-president Barak issued an immediate stay of punishment. In May, 2007 it agreed to hear the case scheduling an August hearing date. In the interim, the new president Beinish attempted to negotiate with the IDF asking it to rescind the imprisonment portion of the judgment. The army refused and a new hearing was held on September 10th. The justices took the unusual step of summoning the chief military prosecutor to argue the case. On his appearance there, he agreed to drop the punishment.
So Jonathan has essentially won everything he asked for with the exception that he has not convinced the IDF to add a conscientious objector status as a legitimate military exemption. Nevertheless, Jonathan’s example will serve as encouragement to others facing the difficult choices he did over the past eight years. Most military forces of democratic countries throughout the world recognize conscientious objection as a legitimate option for those who refuse to engage in violence and provide alternate civilian service. Israel’s army does not do this. It maintains authority even of those conscripts who refuse its authority. In this case, all the IDF would’ve had to have done was arrange for a civilian organization or non profit to provide an alternate form of service for him. They refused. Hence the 18 months of prison time.
Matania Artzi, Jonathan’s dad, describes his disappointment in the U.S. media’s coverage of his son’s case:
…During this [eight year] period, Yoni’s story was on the front pages of all major European newspapers (with particular coverage in the Guardian and Le Monde, but also Le Figaro, Frankfurter Algemeine, El Pais…). HOWEVER, all three major US papers (NY Times, LA Times, Washington Post) never published a WORD about the story (and the refusal movement in general). This is in spite of the fact that we had personal contacts with all their correspondents in Israel, who were well aware of this story (especially James Bennet of NYT). So much for “all the news that’s fit…”.
I’m heartily surprised that no major news outlet anywhere in the world as far as I can tell has covered the latest developments of Jonathan’s story. Neither has The Forward, Haaretz (English language site), or JTA. I’m trying to rectify that though The Forward just rejected my query about an op ed on the subject.