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Four Israeli Cos Say They Do Not Want to Serve in Army to Become ‘oppressors’

Four Israeli conscientious objectors, who published a letter last week to Defense Minister Moshe Dayan refusing military service, told a group of newsmen here tonight that while other Israeli youths had declined service with no effort at publicity, they had sought by their public action to arouse public opinion in Israel on the war issue. The four–three young men and one girl–have draft dates for call up from August through November. The Israeli resisters asserted that war and occupation of conquered areas were generally ordered by “persons who stand to gain by them.” They gave their names as Miss Irit Yaacobi, Reuben Lessmann and Dov Gall, all of Jerusalem and Giora Neumann from Tel Aviv. All are high school graduates and at least two of them from well-to-do families. Declaring they know they were subject to maximum 15-year prison terms, never the less, as Gall put it, “we do not want to become oppressors and we do not want to die as oppressors.” Although Israel has no law on conscientious objectors, war resisters are usually exempted from military service on “medical grounds.” A 19-year-old youth sitting with the four COs said that he himself had obtained such deferment and that he knew of many others. Gall told of a visit to the Gaza Strip where he had “seen the fear and hatred in the eyes of the population of Jebaliyah village,” some of whose residents are being transferred to El Arish for security reasons. Gall said that he felt that “the fear and hatred were directed at me and I could not bear the thought.” He described the Gaza situation as only “a case in point.” The youngsters argued that “conquest breeds terror, the latter breeds counter-terror and this is a vicious circle” of which they wanted no part. When questioned on their views about the pre-Six-Day War borders and their political affiliations, the four became evasive. They would admit only that they were active in the “League for Human Rights” which has made some sharp charges against the Israel government and its military authorities. Both Gall and Neumann repeated charges that Israeli troops and border police in the Gaza Strip carried out crimes against humanity and contravened the Geneva Convention on the treatment of civilians by forcibly removing them across an international borderline. Miss Yaacobi admitted she had been one of the organizers of a Black Panther demonstration in Jerusalem last May which erupted into violence. She said she had met Panther leaders when she went to the Musrara slum section to give private lessons to children of large families. Last week the four COs returned their draft cards to the Defense Ministry and wrote a letter to Dayan saying they refuse to serve in the army because it was “an army of occupation.” The draft cards were returned to them by the Ministry and the four said today they did not intend to appear at the recruiting offices on the date set for them and will await the consequences.

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