Court: Refusenik not `conscientious objector'
The High Court of Justice yesterday rejected the petition of Israel Defense Forces refusenik Yonatan Ben Artzi to be recognized as a conscientious objector.
Ben Artzi has received an exemption from military service, but the reason cited in the exemption is that he is not suitable. Ben Artzi petitioned the court to have the reason changed to recognize that he is a conscientious objector.
The High Court recommended, however, that the IDF send Ben Artzi a letter explaining that the fact that the exemption is based on him being unsuitable does not contest the fact that he is a pacifist.
In the wake of the High Court ruling, the IDF Appeals Court will resume deliberations on the punishment given to Ben Artzi by the IDF - two months in prison and a NIS 2,000 fine. If the appeal is rejected, Ben Artzi is likely to serve four months in prison, as he does not intend to pay the fine. "I am pleased with the criticism expressed by the court regarding the military committee, but I am disappointed in the State of Israel, in which the court does not have the courage to rule against the army," said Ben Artzi after the ruling. "Another technical victory for the army, another moral victory for Yoni," said Ben Artzi's attorney, Michael Sfard.
The High Court ruling is largely symbolic. Following a protracted legal battle and 19 months in prison, Ben Artzi was released from military service not on the basis of his being a conscientious objector or a pacifist, but on the basis of him being unsuitable for military service.
Ben Artzi expressed sorrow that the court did not grant him the opportunity to carry out civilian service instead of military service.