To the Editor:
There are many nations throughout the world in which there is no right for an individual, as a matter of conscience, to object to military service. Most of these nations could hardly be described as democratic; yet Israel, which has been identified with the democratic spirit, is now faced with a young man who refuses on principle to enter its Army, and who has been put in jail.
In Israel, Giyora Neuman has already served five successive thirty-five day sentences because there are no legal provisions for civilian alternative service entirely separate from military jurisdiction (although religious women, on affirmation of a Rabbinic court, are exempt from service). In fact, all young men automatically come under the jurisdiction of the military when they reach eighteen and thus cannot appeal to a civilian court at any time.
Giyora Neuman was brought on June 11 before a military tribunal of three officer-judges on the primary charge of “refusing induction into the army” (Jerusalem Post, June 12, 1972). This trial was postponed for one month due to what the tribunal found to be the “nebulous” character of the charges of the prosecution.
Within Israel, writers, scholars, artists, and others, many of whom disagree with Neuman’s political views, have moved to protest the government’s treatment of him. On the eve of his trial, at the same time members of the Cabinet publicly condemned him, General Peled (ret.) called for a liberalization of the draft laws. The military command has indicated its willingness to make some compromises with Giyora Neuman. It will allow him to do his military service in a civilian job within Israel and not in the occupied territories. Neuman has declared his readiness to fulfill his responsibilities by serving without pay for three years in a hospital or agricultural settlement under civilian auspices. But he refuses to take the oath of allegiance administered by the military authorities, to undergo basic training, or be subject to military jurisdiction. Thus his position is similar to that of many in the United States who have sought the draft status of 1-O, alternative service as a civilian.
We support the institution of conscientious objector status in Israel and everywhere, for men and for women, for reasons of deeply felt personal or religious convictions. We endorse Giyora Neuman’s right to resist on grounds of conscience what he feels are oppressive policies by Israeli forces in the occupied territories, and his refusal to have any connection with what is to him “an occupation army.” We ask that he be released from jail.
We invite those who share our concern to write to us (c/o Israeli Conscience/WRL, 339 Lafayette Street, New York City 10012; telephone (212) 228-0450) and the Israeli Consulate in New York City (800 Second Avenue, telephone (212) 697-5500).
Noam Chomsky, Paul Jacobs, Rabbi Michael A. Robinson, Rabbi Steven S. Schwarzschild, Alan Solomonow, Peter Weiss, Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolf, Beverly Woodward
July 20, 1972