NGO: Police acted improperly in probing our activists

Left-wing organization New Profile says it "favors refusal to serve" in the IDF.

new profile 248.88 (photo credit: Screen shot)
new profile 248.88
(photo credit: Screen shot)
Attorney Smadar Ben-Natan on Monday said police had acted improperly and "had done things they never should have" during their searches and detention of seven suspects, including six activists from the New Profile organization on Sunday. According to New Profile, police searched the homes of seven people allegedly linked to the New Profile Web site and another Web site called "Target 21," on suspicion that they incited readers to evade military service in violation of the law. Among those detained were 70-year-old Analine Kirsch, the daughter of a family of Righteous Gentiles who converted to Judaism and married a Holocaust survivor, 51-year-old Miriam Hadar, Amir Givol from Jerusalem, Sergei Sandler from Beersheba, and Roni Barkan from Tel Aviv. In a letter to the deputy attorney-general for special tasks, Shai Nitzan, Ben-Natan, who represents New Profile, said that in addition to investigating two elderly women who had committed no crime, police had also seized computers belonging to the suspects and their families, including one belonging to a psychologist that contained confidential information about his patients. Detectives also searched the offices of the Jerusalem-based human rights organization Hamoked-Center for the Defense of the Individual because one of the suspects had once worked there. The office, which does a great deal of legal work on behalf of individual Palestinian human rights, contains "an enormous amount" of classified documents, Ben-Natan wrote. She also said the investigation did not focus on actions perpetrated by the suspects but on the opinions they had expressed on the site, allegedly including in the organization's charter. This was a violation of the fundamental right of freedom of expression, she said. The New Profile charter states: "While we were taught to believe that the country is faced by threats beyond its control, we now realize that the words 'national security' have often masked calculated decisions to choose military action for the achievement of political goals. We are no longer willing to take part in such choices. We will not go on enabling them by obediently and uncritically supplying soldiers to the military which implements them. "We will not go on being mobilized, raising children for mobilization, supporting mobilized partners, brothers, fathers, while those in charge of the country go on deploying the army easily, rather than creating other solutions." The investigation of New Profile began on September 15, 2008. According to a statement issued by the Justice Ministry spokesman at that time, the Web sites of New Profile and Target 21 were suspected of preaching evasion of military service, thereby violating Article 109 of the Penal Law. They were also suspected of helping those slated for military service to obtain an exemption by deceit or by knowingly submitting false information, the ministry said. The request to investigate the Web sites originally came from Military Advocate-General Brig.-Gen. Avichai Mandelblitt in February 2008. The move was part of a crackdown on military service evasion that began after the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006. In her letter, Ben-Natan referred to a ruling handed down by the High Court of Justice in January 2006 on a petition demanding that Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz dissolve an NGO that allegedly incited in favor of "selective refusal" by supporting conscripts who were not pacifists but refused to serve in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The organization argued that it did not encourage conscripts to refuse to serve, but helped those who had decided for themselves to refuse by explaining to them the legal options for avoiding military service. Mazuz rejected the demand to dissolve the organization, in the name of the right to freedom of expression, and the High Court approved the decision. Ben-Natan said New Profile also did not incite to evasion of military service. "The organization does not encourage people to evade military service," she told The Jerusalem Post. "It is in favor of refusal to serve and anti-militarism, but it does not encourage conscripts to do so if they do not want to in the first place." Ben-Natan added that when the organization explained the options open to a conscript who does not want to serve, it did not include illegal options such as forging medical opinions. But the state thinks otherwise. In its September announcement that it was opening an investigation, the Justice Ministry spokesman said, "The deputy attorney-general believes that the gravity of the incitement on these sites, in its scope, quality and thoroughness - and especially by the fact that it also tries to persuade conscripts to obtain an exemption by deceiving the army, and gives finely detailed instructions on how to execute this deception - obliges the state to deviate from its [usual] highly restrained policy of not investigating a priori suspicions of incitement to evasion of military duty." Meanwhile, in response to claims that the activists' free speech had been infringed upon, a source from Tel Aviv police told the Post that the suspects had violated Law 109, which outlaws incitement to dodge military service. "We received an order from the attorney-general to examine this issue. After looking at the material, we found a basis to launch an investigation," the source said. The suspects might also be guilty of making or encouraging others to make deceitful statements, the source added. Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report