The Israeli military has jailed a young man for six months for refusing to serve because of his opposition to the country’s policy toward Palestinians in Yehuda and Shomron.
The refusal by 20-year-old Natan Blanc to serve has put the IDF in a delicate position as it tries to resolve the case. Releasing him could set an unwanted precedent, but keeping him jailed could turn into a public relations debacle.
Last week more than 30 Israeli legal experts, including the dean of Hebrew University’s law school, signed an open letter urging the army to release Blanc and saying the detention violated his freedom of conscience. On Tuesday, several dozen of his supporters demonstrated outside IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv.
Blanc’s father, David, said his son was supposed to be inducted for compulsory military service last November, and after declaring his refusal to serve, he was sent to a military prison. Since then, he has been sentenced to a series of 10 consecutive terms totaling 178 days in jail, with no end in sight.
The younger Blanc issued a statement declaring his objections:
“The main reason that I am refusing to serve is that I feel that our country is going toward a non-democratic situation of civil inequality between us and the Palestinians, a situation in which there are two peoples in the same state, one of which has the right to vote and participate in elections, and the other does not,” he said. “I believe the Israeli military plays a major role in preserving this situation, and my conscience does not allow me to participate in it.”
Blanc has requested that he be allowed to serve in Israel’s civilian paramedic service. But so far the army has refused.
The army would not provide statistics on the number of conscientious objectors, but outside experts said they are relatively rare.