Refuser Solidarity Network's Appeal to Supporters - Annual Newsletter

Dear Friends,

There is good reason to be concerned for Israel. Right wing influences are growing and and sanctioning limitations on Israel’s democratic freedoms. These limitations are regulated by the government and the Knesset, the two representative bodies who should be responsible for preserving and promoting democracy. During this present administration we are witness to a growing number of officials adopting anti-democratic legislation aimed at silencing opposition and the media. Additionally unsympathetic and accusing statements are made against peace and human rights organizations, political organizations, and minorities. New Profile stands with the many peace and human rights NGOs, in protest to these present policies and the ongoing attempts made to limit dissent and opposition.

However New Profile has already been singled out, and any of you have readily recognized the gravity of this turn of events and written us to express support and solidarity. We are very grateful for your support.

The bigger events are as follows:

  • In 2009 - 2010 New Profile was subject to a criminal investigation into our activities, during which many of our activists were interrogated by the police and their personal computers, and families’ computers were confiscated. The criminal charges were found to be baseless and were dropped.
  • Then New Profile was banned by direct order from Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar from participating in events in high schools.
  • In July 2011 Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman publically called New Profile and other human rights organizations “terrorist organizations”. Naturally New Profile refutes these allegations and continues to be committed to non-violence, while encouraging true and open civil discourse in Israel. Accordingly we feel that Minister Lieberman systematically leads and provokes incitement against human rights and civil society organizations in Israel. The attempt to slur us as “terrorist”, can only be deemed as outrageous, emphasizing the ruling power’s basic misunderstanding of democracy.

In spite these repeated allegations and accusations we continue to be committed to our goals, questioning Israeli society’s deep seeded militarism by offering alternative educational programs for demilitarization. We encourage rethinking conscription and give support to all refusers. Additionally we oppose the military means Israel uses to impose sovereignty in Palestine. In our charter we state, “We refuse to go on raising our children to see enlistment as a supreme and overriding value. We want a fundamentally changed education system, for a truly democratic civic education, teaching the practice of peace and conflict resolution, rather than training children to enlist and accept warfare.”

This October New Profile celebrated 13 years of activism as a movement. This in itself is a remarkable accomplishment. We aspire and rise to the challenge of engaging with the Israeli public in spite of present day policies. New Profile encourages new venues that allow for an open and frank discussion, similar to what we saw evolve during in the social uprising this summer, creating new hope for change. 

New Profile continues to maintain several key projects, focusing on youth and refusal. These projects were established as the movement developed and continue to be the foundation for our activities with young people. The projects are as follows:

  • Youth groups: One of our oldest projects, the youth groups, presently located in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Kiryat Shmona, provide a safe space for high schools students to meet weekly and discuss matters of the day including: politics, activism, gender, conscription, refusal, ecology, globalization, and more. Each group has two facilitators who prepare the weekly discussion.
  • Refusers’ Counselling Network: Based on New Profile’s belief that there is a vast underground refuser movement amongst young Israelis today, the Network provides tools for rethinking conscription. Involving a team of active counselors nationwide, it is the Network’s directive to work with anyone and everyone who seeks information and/or support on issues regarding refusal, discharge from the military, discharge from reserve duty, and military classifications, (called profiles in Hebrew). The counselors work with applicants specifically on a one-on-one basis, either in person or on the phone, as to ensure discretion.
    The majority of requests for counseling or receiving general information comes from teenagers who are considering the option of enlisting. But others, such as conscripts who are already serving in the army, and are resolved in terminating their military service, or reservists seeking information on how to be released from long-term military service, also apply for assistance. One new but growing phenomenon is that of parents seeking advice on how to support their children’s decisions to refuse to conscript. All applicants are informed in detail of their legal rights and options and provided with descriptions of others’ individual experiences.
  • Legal Aid Network: The network is an important component in our refusers' support system and comprises work with several law firms, offering solid legal consultations, and support for draft resisters and their families. It is one of New Profile’s more expensive activities and is assigned high priority.
    The team, coordinates visits by lawyers to refusers in prison, and provides preliminary consultations and interventions. This team also maintains regular contact with the parents of imprisoned refusers.
    During 2011 we established a joined supervising team for the Counseling and Legal projects. One of the major roles of this new team is to strengthen the connection between the two projects.
  • Alternative Summer Camp: Following up on a six year long tradition, New Profile's 7th Alternative Summer Camp for Youth took place in July at an ecological farm in Moshav Even Sapir. Some 80 participants, all aged 15-19, participated in the camp, making it a great success. An even greater success was the fact that for many attendees this was a first acquaintance with this project or with New Profile
    Most of the content of the summer camp was composed of workshops given by guest speakers on various issues such as education, the economy, the place of militarism in Israeli society and gender and sexuality. Other subjects that were touched on were the Israeli occupation, ecology, migrant workers and refugees and the internally displaced Palestinians within Israel. 
    The participants are encouraged to develop tools for critical thinking about society, media, politics, the environment and much more, enabling them to become activists for social change. A winter seminar/camp is planned for 2012.

We anticipate launching our new web site by the end of the year. In the meanwhile limited information can be on our temporary site www.newprofile.org/english Included on the site is our new digital and translated exhibit, which we use to show how militarization permeates all aspects of society. The link to the exhibit is http://www.newprofile.org/english/?cat=11 

Many of you have readily recognized the gravity of recent of events and have written us to express support and solidarity in light of the destructive anti-democracy policies 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. Your continued support is deeply meaningful. 

Ruth Hiller
International Network Coordinator 

Click here to read the full RSN newsletter, that also includes annual summaries from Yesh Gvul and Combatants for Peace.