Objectors to military service in Israel go on hunger strike in prison

On Thursday, 16 January 2003, two imprisoned conscientious objectors to military service, Noam Bahat and Hillel Goral, went on hunger strike. Both are among the signatories of a letter signed last year by over 300 high school students, declaring their refusal to serve in the Israeli army (see their website at www.shministim.org). Both objectors are serving a second consecutive prison term in defence of their convictions and are held in the isolation ward of Military Prison No. 4, south of Tel-Aviv.

Hillel Goral was sentenced to 42 days in prison No 4. He originally got 28 days, but 14 more days were added to his term because he refused to wear a uniform and cut his hair. For the same reason he was sent to the isolation ward. Noam Bahat was sentenced to 28 days in prison no. 4. Noam Bahat writes in his declaration: “I declare a hunger strike as a protest on my confinement in a military jail because of my views against the occupation fop the Palestinian people. I am also protesting against the occupation itself.”

We demand that the democratic right of conscientious objectors not to perform military service be recognized and call upon the Ministry of Defence and the Israeli military to release them at once.

Draft resisters are being sentenced to several consecutive terms of imprisonment for the same “offence”. On Thursday, 16 January, conscientious objector Jonathan Ben-Artzi was sentenced by Gen. Gil Regev, head of the military manpower division, to 35 days in military prison. This is the seventh consecutive prison term for Ben-Artzi, raising the total length of his imprisonment so far to 196 days. A recently opened online petition against the practice of repeated imprisonment of objectors has already gathered over 1000 signatures worldwide (see http://www.petitiononline.com/091202/).

The imprisonment of these objectors is in clear violation of their fundamental human rights as recognized in international treaties signed and ratified by Israel.

All in all, we are presently aware of 10 young men held in prison due to their refusal to perform regular military service on conscientious grounds. They are joined by conscripts and reserves soldiers imprisoned due to their refusal to fight in the Palestinian Occupied Territories.

The Israeli movement of objectors, including organizations, such as New Profile, the Seniors’ Letter, Yesh-Gvul and Courage to Refuse, calls for the immediate and unconditional release from prison of all objectors, without fear of further imprisonment of young people obeying their conscience.

New Profile - Movement for the Civilization of Israeli Society (www.newprofile.org)
The Seniors’ Letter (www.shministim.org)
Yesh-Gvul (www.yesh-gvul.org)
Courage to Refuse (www.seruv.org.il)
The Objectors’ Parents Group