Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Does the IDF really have a No Religious Jews Allowed Policy?

Mandatory military service has been justified in Israel since Israel’s re-establishment as a state in 1948. Today, as then, it remains surrounded by viable existential threats. No one really questions the need of Israel to maintain a public policy of mandatory military service but what I find fascinating is those apparently the State of Israel now actively seeks to keep from for filling their obligations as citizens. Taken from Ha’aretz:
The Israel Policy Center filed an administrative petition at the Tel Aviv District Court yesterday against the Israel Defense Forces, demanding access to data regarding the number of teens not conscripted into the army because of their participation in anti-disengagement protests or the disturbances at the illegal outpost of Amona.

The center, which is affiliated with the right wing, says the IDF has ignored its requests for the data - despite its legal obligation to maintain freedom of information and to accede or reject such a request within 30 days.

The data is necessary, the center argues, for research it is undertaking on "very grave" findings suggesting that the army is making inappropriate use of the psychiatric clause "to prevent the conscription of completely healthy 'orange' youth." The reference to the color orange relates to its adoption by the anti-disengagement protesters.

In its petition, the center writes that the psychiatric clause, on whose basis the youth are not being drafted "is being backed by professional opinion" and there are suspicions that they are being stigmatized "on political grounds."

Ha’aretz cited one of the five profiles the Israel Policy Center published as an example of a draftee refusal;
For example, "B.Y., Jerusalem induction center. Present in Amona, not arrested and did not clash with police. In the interview, he was asked whether he had any problems with Arabs, whether he would be willing to evacuate settlements and whether he would abide by the orders of rabbis. He had an interview with the head of the induction center, the military psychologist and a psychiatrist. The medical board ruled that his medical profile was 21 [the lowest and grounds for dismissal] and that he was incapable of being drafted for medical reasons."

The teen's family paid for a psychiatric evaluation by a senior psychiatrist at one of the hospitals, who determined there was nothing wrong with him. When the teen sought to appeal the medical committee's decision, he was issued an exemption from service.
Well, well.

I have heard many rumours and anedotal evidence that the IDF was actively seeking to remove religious soldiers from its ranks but this is the first sign I have seen where any organized group attempts to address this issue in this fashion. A common lament of secular Israelis is that the religious are not pulling their fair weight of military obligations but perhaps it might be time to look outside the country’s yeshivas for answers as to why.

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