Israel is a democracy. It has an array of different opinions that characterizes every democratic society, and it includes a radical and anti-Zionist left.
“The letter was organized as part of the Mesarvot network,” the Mesarvot NGO’s website says. It’s such a radical NGO, that even the New Israel Fund won’t donate to such a body. “We do have red lines,” NIF Executive Director Mickey Gitzin told me.
According to the letter, the separation barrier has been splitting the West Bank for 50 years now. Fifty years? After all, the fence was built to stop the greatest wave of terror attacks Israel has experienced in the past decade. There are separation barriers in Europe and America too. And of all barriers, the one between Israel and the Palestinians is the most legitimate of all. But when it comes to those who consider the refusal to serve in the IDF to be legitimate, even a life-saving wall is turned into a crime.
There is a lot more nonsense in the letter, which accuses Israel of perpetuating the conflict. Israel, after all, has offered the Palestinians a state in the 1967 borders, with land swaps. They refused in 2000 and launched a murderous intifada. In 2008, they turned down Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s offer, and in March 2014, they turned down another offer from US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry.
But it’s Israel’s fault. Israel left the Gaza Strip, and instead of welfare and prosperity, Hamas preferred to build death tunnels and a rocket industry. But as far as those who signed the letter are concerned, Israel is the problem.
This kind of brainwashing requires funding. It comes from an American body called Refuser Solidarity Network (RSN), which states that it “provides a US base of support for those who refuse service in the Israeli military for reasons of political conscience.” Its board members are affiliated, naturally, with the left-wing end of the ideological spectrum in the United States. Board member Judith Kolokoff, for example, is also a member of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), one of the bodies supporting the anti-Israel boycott and is also active in different boycott initiatives.
RSN is active among Jewish communities and takes pride in having transferred $300,000 to bodies supporting the refusal to serve in the IDF, including Mesarvot. More importantly, RSN states on its website that it is an IRS-recognized organization and that all donations are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by the IRS.
According to Article 109 in the Penal Law, “A person who incites or lobbies a person liable to service in an armed force not to serve therein or not to report for a military operation is liable to imprisonment for five years.” Whoever recognized the RSN in the IRS was likely unaware of this, which is why Reservists on Duty Executive Director Amit Deri sent urgent letters on Saturday both to the US ambassador to Israel and to the Israeli ambassador to the US, as well as to the US State Department, urging them to make an effort to stop the tax exemption and the money transfers.
“It’s unthinkable for an Israeli body would financially support refusal to serve in the American army,” Deri says, so it’s unclear why an American body is financially supporting refusal to serve in the Israeli army, and with the American administration’s support no less.
It’s not that all the arguments raised in the letter are wrong and false. The political debate is the lifeblood of democracy. The arguments about the settlements and about land expropriation are legitimate, but such arguments should be presented as part of political activities and protests. The students' refusal to serve in the IDF, on the other hand, is the result of an anti-Israel propaganda of lies, which usually also denies the State of Israel’s right to exist as the Jewish people’s national home. That possibly wasn’t the intention of some of those who signed the letter, but they have turned into a tool in the hands of that anti-Israel propaganda.
The ball is now in the court of the State Attorney’s Office as well. So far, the excuse for not taking any measures against an organization like Mesarvot was that it supports draft dodgers but doesn’t encourage refusal to serve. That was a dubious and pretentious excuse. The explicit admission that the refusal letter was organized as part of that NGO, and a public call like “Stop the murder—refuse,” are clear proof that the organization encourages refusal.
The Communications Ministry itself, by the way, keeps funding the Israel Social TV, which is the mouthpiece of radical-left wing organizations and groups supporting refusal to serve in the IDF. So the American administration should definitely be approached, but even before that—action must be taken by the Israeli government.