Draft Board Refuses to Review Ben Artzi Case

The Israel Defense Forces draft board has rejected a military court's proposal to let Yoni Ben Artzi appear before its conscience committee again and present his arguments for exemption from service as a conscientious objector.

The recommendation to allow Ben Artzi to restate his case was forwarded by the IDF court three weeks ago, ahead of the final phase of a trial dealing with his refusal to serve.

In three previous discussions of Ben Artzi's case, the draft board's conscience committee has refused to recognize him as a pacifist eligible for draft exemption. The court's recommendation to open up his case for a new review thus came as a surprise. It based its recommendation on "new circumstances" - among other things, the court ruled that the conscience committee's hearings failed to establish clear criteria as to who is a pacifist. The court also deemed the conscience committee's changed composition to be a new circumstance: Half a year ago, a civilian was added to the panel.

But after asking for time to review the military court's decision, the draft board rejected the recommendation to hold another hearing on Ben Artzi's case. It argued that convening a rehearing on the grounds that the conscience committee's composition has changed would set a negative precedent, making it possible for other draft resistors whose appeals were rejected by the committee to demand a second hearing as well.

The draft board also rejected the court's suggestion that new circumstances have come to light in Ben Artzi's case, arguing that the young man's admission that he would have served in uniform with the Allies during World War II means that he cannot be a pacifist.

Ben Artzi's trial is expected to resume within a few weeks. He is currently being held in detention on an army base in the north of the country.