IDF launches inquiry into draft-dodge organisation

By Yaakov Katz, September 16, 2008

In an effort to combat the growing phenomenon of draft dodging among Israeli youth, the Israeli attorney general has, in a rare move, decided to launch an investigation against a left-wing group that offers teenagers assistance in receiving exemptions from serving in the Israeli Defense Forces.

The group, called New Profile, offers youth a wide-range of tips on how to dodge the draft. The IDF recently revealed that in 2008, 25 percent of youth that were supposed to enlist in the military were dodging the draft, many of them deceitfully receiving medical exemptions, claiming to be conscientious objectors or haredim.

In response, the IDF decided to tighten qualifications for exemptions and at the same time launched a public campaign aimed at raising awareness of the growing phenomenon and the need for a continued mandatory military service.

"We are not yet ready for a volunteer-based military," an IDF source said. "Considering all of the challenges we are facing - Palestinian terrorism, Hezbollah and Syria - we need every soldier we can get."

In line with these efforts, IDF Judge Advocate General Brig.-Gen. Avichai Mandelblit filed a complaint against New Profile with Attorney General Menahem Mazuz who decided to order the police to launch a criminal investigation.

New Profile calls itself a "Movement for the Civilisation of Israeli Society" and publicizes on its website a hotline which youth can call and receive hands-on assistance to prepare for the draft process. In a document that appears on the group's site, youth can learn of methods to use to obtain a military profile of 21 - an exemption - when meeting with military evaluators.

Deputy Attorney General Shai Nitzan said that by law it was forbidden to "incite to dodge the draft."

"The severity of the incitement on the website is mainly by the fact that the group tries to persuade people to obtain an exemption from military service by defrauding the system," Mr Nitzan said.

Sergeiy Sandler, an activist with New Profile, rejected Mr Nitzan's claims and said that the group was not opposed to military service but rather to the "over-militarization" of Israeli society noticeable by the number of soldiers on Israeli streets and the fact that youth are not given the opportunity to decide on their own whether they want to serve.

"It is right of human beings to refuse to kill if that is what they want," Mr Sandler said. "We want people to be able to think and decide for themselves."

The aim of the organization, Mr Sandler explained, was to provide information to youth who have already decided on their own that they do not want to serve in the IDF.

"We give these people information that otherwise they would not be able to get," he said.


Last updated: 3:03pm, September 18 2008