Return to Conscientious Objection: A Practical Companion for Movements
A key activity of the movements for whom this book is intended is likely to be supporting those who refuse to join the military. How to go about organising that support is the question addressed by Sergeiy Sandler in this chapter. Sergeiy is a conscientious objector and antimilitarist activist from Israel. He is one of the founders of the Counselling Network for Refusers operated by the Israeli feminist and antimilitarist movement New Profile and is also an International Council member of the War Resisters' International.
On March 2nd, 2001, about thirty people met in a small conference room in the Druze Palestinian town of Isfiya on Mount Carmel. A few of us had had some years of experience supporting declared conscientious objectors. Others had been helping friends and acquaintances obtain medical exemptions from military service. A few more came to learn from the rest. Working under the aegis of the feminist antimilitarist movement, New Profile, we formed a network of volunteers committed to counselling and supporting any person refusing to perform military service in Israel. More than fourteen years later, this network receives, and successfully resolves, well over a thousand calls for support every year, from people from all walks of life, genders, and ethnic backgrounds. Many more use us to help themselves: our Internet forum and other resources posted online have hundreds of thousands of hits a year. We were even enough of a menace for the Israeli police to start a criminal investigation against us (for 'inciting draft evasion', i.e. encouraging people to resist conscription) a few years back. All in all — a nice little success story, especially if measured against the bleak backdrop of Israeli political realities.