Police Arrest Seven Suspected of Inciting IDF Draft-dodging

Investigation began due to defense establishment concern over growing trend of draft evasion.

The police arrested for questioning seven Israelis suspected of violating the law by inciting in favor of evading the draft. The seven are suspected of operating the Web sites New Profile and Target 21, in which texts are published calling on youths not to enlist in the Israel Defense Forces and provide those interested with advice on how to convince psychologists working for the army to disqualify them from service.

"The main part of the investigation has focused on locating those persons who are operating the two web sites where violations to article 109 of the criminal law, incitement for draft evasion, are being carried out," said Superintendent Nimrod Daniel, chief of investigations in the Yarkon District Police.

"It may be that these persons have explanations, but according to the law this is a criminal violation that is punishable by five years imprisonment," he added.

Several days ago, investigators identified the names and addresses of a number of Israelis suspected of operating the Web sites, and Sunday morning they were arrested in their homes. Among those investigated was a 70-year old female artist.

In searches carried out in their homes, in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Ramat Hasharon, Netanya and Be'er Sheva, materials were found that are suspected to be used in inciting youths to evade the draft. Police officers confiscated a number of computers and documents during the raid.

During questioning some of the suspects denied any involvement in incitement to evade the draft, but others acknowledged links to the texts being published on the Web sites.

At the end of questioning they were released under restriction.

The New Profile movement, which members describe as a feminist organization, protested the questioning of their members Sunday.

"What happened yesterday confirms what we have been saying for years about the militarization of Israeli society that undermines the sacred principles of democracy and freedom of expression. This is about framing normal citizens, including a 70-year old grandmother, whose only crime is activity for human rights," said Ofra Leit, spokesperson for the group.

Two other women will appear before the police this morning for questioning: a retired nurse from northern Israel and a 20-year old woman from Jerusalem, both suspected of involvement in running the sites.

Last September, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz ordered an investigation against New Profile. Mazuz acted in response to a request by the Military Advocate General, Brigadier General Avichai Mandelblit.

It is rare for indictments to be brought in cases of incitement for draft evasion. In January 2006 the Supreme Court rejected an appeal filed by a group of reservists who demanded that the group Spirit of Conscience be disbanded because it called for refusing service.

Mandelblit asked Mazuz to investigate the matter because of growing concern at the defense establishment of a growing trend of draft evasion. In July 2007 Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi declared publicly that they would fight the trend.