New Profile protest outside the Russian Embassy in Tel Aviv on the International Day of Refusal in 2023

New Profile protest outside the Russian Embassy in Tel Aviv on the International Day of Refusal in 2023

Israel: Feminist Counseling Network New Profile

(06.09.2023) My name is Or and I have been New Profile’s Counseling Network co-coordinator for the past 4 years. New Profile is a feminist anti-militarist movement that has been active in Israel since 1998. I am writing this as a part of the. #ObjectWarCampaign, organized by Connection e.V., the International Fellowship of Reconciliation, the European Office for Conscientious Objection and War Resisters’ International. The #ObjectWarCampaign is a very important campaign that calls European countries to acknowledge the right to asylum of people that ran away from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine as an act of refusing to take part in the war, to kill or be killed.

Here in Israel, the situation of these refugees is even worse than the situation of refugees arriving in European countries that don’t give them shelter, because here, not only are they not recognised as refugees fleeing war, but they are also forcefully drafted into the Israeli Military to take part in the ongoing occupation of Palestine and aggressive “military operations” in Gaza. 

For those who didn’t get the chance to know us, New Profile is a feminist, anti-militarist organization that was established as a grassroot movement over 25 years ago. Our movement is made out of people of all ages and operates in a non-hierarchical structure. In practice, this means that all major decisions regarding the organization and our work are made collectively and in full consensus, that no one is the boss of anyone and that everyone’s stand is equally important. This also means that every person in the organization has to be responsible for doing their work, as well as making sure others are doing theirs. Throughout the years we have created different systems  to make sure our work is constantly progressing, and have a friendly, political and solidarity based work environment. By keeping our movement’s structure non-hierarchical, we ensure that our politics are practiced both in and out of the organization and challenge the different power structures constantly.

Throughout the years we continue to make efforts to encourage young people to take part of the struggle, while also maintaining the involvement of long-time activists that have been involved in the movement for many years and possess a lot of valuable knowledge and experience. The young people that join us every year are mostly people that we assisted in our counseling network throughout the years. Many of them find New Profile as a political and activist home. Even when they are not necessarily politically “left-wing”, or have a different feminist mindset, they still see the importance of our work. Having long term and experienced activists, as well as new people thinking and working together provides us with a lot of possibilities, such as staying relevant and updated with what is going on, while also using the rich experience of the long-time activists to see how to best react to it. We are making a continuous effort to engage in different social media platforms in order to reach the younger generations. We publish information on the ongoing militarization of civil life in Israel, we share our analysis and views about the occupation of Palestinian territories and lives, the rise of weapons in public spaces, the rise of military violence and police violence, feminist issues, arms sales to countries that violate human rights, and criticism on the israeli military and the negative ways that it affects not only Palestinians, but also Israelis and especially young people who are forcefully drafted, as well as army propaganda in social media platforms such as TikTok, Instagram and the like.

One of our main projects is the Counseling Network. This network is run by New Profile’s coordinators and volunteers, and provides assistance to more than 1000 people every year. We assist people that choose to avoid or discontinue their military service,which is obligatory to anyone over the age of 18 in Israel, regardless of their Gender. We assist any one that asks for our assistance, no matter what their gender, religion, political view or socioeconomic status are. We believe that any act of refusing to take part in an oppressive system is a political and important act. Since the law applies to people from the age of 18 and up, and the process of recruitment starts at the age of 15, we assist people from the age of 15 to 42 (since for some military jobs reserve service is also mandatory), when the majority are still youth (around the age of 18) and are having a very hard time dealing with such an inflexible, rigid and bureaucratic system. 

I have known New Profile for many years now. I was lucky enough to have the movement’s support when I refused to serve and was imprisoned for a long time without the support of my family and most of my friends. Since then, New Profile has been present in different parts of my life and in the last 4 years has become a very big part of it. Being the coordinator of the Counseling Network is truly one of the most meaningful jobs I have ever had. Knowing that our job allows people to receive an exemption from military service, and that it is not only important but also possible to accomplish, even when the situation is very difficult and the process takes a long time, is fulfilling. The counselees of the network are also so thankful to us and to our work, which helps us keep going. Knowing that these people will not kill or get killed by the name of a fascist occupation is something that gives me hope, especially during these difficult times in the country. Since the forming of the current government we also see more involvement of teenagers in politics, and more people that choose to not take part in the army under this government.

One of the really hard things in my work for the past year and a half is what has been happening since May 2022. Refugees from Ukraine and Russia, that have fled their countries because of the war and arrived here to find shelter were and still are being drafted into the Israeli Army. under the Israeli recruitment law they don’t even need to be citizens, just residents, to be drafted. These are people that ran for their lives, people that because of their political views were prosecuted in their country, people that left their families and friends so they will not need to fight, and upon arriving in Israel are taken to fight for another country.

We all know about the long and blooded war in Ukraine, probably most of us met refugees that their homes and schools were destroyed, people that lost their families and friends. This situation puts them under a big amount of stress. These people never imagined that they would be obligated to draft, more so to a military that is in a constant state of war and is responsible for maintaining an occupation. They are not familiar with the military system and what they have to do in order to get exempt from service. Most of them don’t speak Hebrew, or even english. The women are also shocked that the army here drafts women, a practice that is extremely rare around the globe. When we take in the fact of how hard mentally and practically it is for Isralies to get released from service, we can start to understand how much harder it can be for someone who did not grow up here, does not speak the language, lack medical documents because of having to escape their country in a hurry and don’t have any prior knowledge of the military system here and the possibilities of exemption. It is even harder for refugees who suffer from PTSD from the war in their native country.

This is why we believe that the #ObjectWarCampain, and the call on European countries to ensure protection and asylum to conscientious objectors and deserters from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine involved in the current war in the region is extremely important. 

We would also like to ask for your help to ensure we can continue to assist Russian and Ukrainian refugees in fulfilling their right to asylum and avoiding being drafted into the Israeli army. As a radical movement operating in a super fascist country, it is often difficult for us to raise funds in order to be able to carry on with our work. Thus, we will be extremely grateful for any donation. 

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Or Ben David, New Profile: Feminist Counseling Network New Profile. September 6, 2023. Der Beitrag wurde veröffentlicht in: Connection e.V. (Hrsg.): Rundbrief »KDV im Krieg«, Ausgabe September 2023.

Keywords:    ⇒ Antimilitarism   ⇒ Asyl   ⇒ CO and Asylum   ⇒ Conscientious Objection   ⇒ Conscription   ⇒ Desertion   ⇒ Feminism   ⇒ Israel   ⇒ Israel   ⇒ Kriegsdienstverweigerung   ⇒ Newsletter »KDV im Krieg«   ⇒ Project Reports