Activists face off over draft-dodging
The police raid this week on the Ramat Hasharon home of Dutch-born activist Annelien Kisch comprised, to her, yet another sign that Israeli society rejects her "Western, anti-militaristic and peace-minded world view." Opponents call it hypocritical for her to brandish Western values to justify breaking the law.
Officers were looking in her house near Rothberg High School for evidence the 70-year-old Kisch had abetted suspected draft-dodgers in allegedly lying to army authorities to receive an exemption from service. Kirsch is the cofounder of New Profile, which encourages youths to avoid conscription. New Profile describes itself as a feminist group devoted to "demilitarizing" Israeli society.
The home of Dutch cofounder Mirjam Hadar, a neighbor of Kisch, was also raided. The two women formed the group in 1998 together with Ruth Hiller from the U.S., who also lives in the Sharon area.
Hadar, Kisch and five other people linked to New Profile were arrested on suspicion of allegedly inciting the youths to illegally obtain the service exemption (see box). Police confiscated several of the activists' computers. All detainees were released on bail after questioning. Police forbade Hadar and Kisch to communicate with one or with the remaining five activists under investigation.
"Israeli society has zero acceptance of our message," Kisch, who is an artist, told Anglo File on Monday in her usual, animated voice. She says people from the West are "much more receptive" to the group's ideas than Israelis. "Israel is moving in the direction of the area in which it is located," she observes.
"Where things are going is a deep disappointment for my husband and me," she added. Annelien and Eldad Kisch, who is a Holocaust survivor, immigrated to Israel 45 years ago. "If we had to choose now, we would not come to Israel," she says. "It's very sad. We have built our lives here, and our children won't move now."
"At 7 A.M. I heard loud knocks on our door," Eldad Kisch said, recalling Sunday's raid. "I was barely awake, but Annelien was already out, doing her customary 50 laps at the pool. In my innocence I thought that it was the refrigerator repair man. I was mistaken. It was four burly policemen."
Eldad Kisch alleged the raid was political. "Now we have a new rightist government that must show it is doing something to improve the morale of the army," he said. But police sources said the police acted this week to avoid exceeding the maximum period given by the court for the probe.
Stressing she is "absolutely convinced" her organization did not break the law, Mirjam Hadar said: "Given the current atmosphere of intimidation because of the investigation, I have received advice not to comment on the issue." Hadar, 52, immigrated to Israel from Holland in 1989. She has a nine-year-old daughter and a 23-year-old-son with her Israeli-born husband, Professor Uri Hadar from Tel Aviv University.
The complaint against New Profile was lodged by activists from the Israeli Forum for the Promotion of Equal Share in the Burden - an organization advocating universal mandatory national service. "Citing Western values seems arrogant to me," said Miri Baron, the Forum's Israeli-born chairwoman. Baron added that "observing the law is a pretty basic element of living in any society, Western or not, yet the members of New Profile violated the law."
But New Profile's lawyer, Smadar Ben-Natan, says it was the police who broke the law. She complained to the state prosecutor about the confiscation of one computer from the home of one activist which she asserted contained confidential medical files of patients. A coalition of feminist groups this week threatened to demonstrate at the Yarkon police headquarters unless the investigation into New Profile actions is halted.
David Grossman, a U.S.-born lieutenant colonel in the Israel Air Force who also served in the U.S. Air Force, says New Profile's work is counterproductive to its goal. The Kochav Yair resident asserts it the military's integration into everyday life in Israel which helps minimize militarism. "In the U.S., soldiers serve in a closed military society before mixing with the rest of the population, creating militaristic population pockets," Grossman told Anglo File this week. "But here the army is open and accessible to all. People understand the army and this produces a less militaristic society."