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Jonathan 'Yoni' Ben-Artzi is the nephew of prominent Israeli hawk and ex-prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The 20 year old has become a prominent figure himself due to being a refusenik: one who will not serve in the Israeli Defence Forces. He has completed seven prison sentences to date and is designated a 'prisoner of conscience' by Amnesty International.

Last year, Netanyahu tried to dissuade his nephew from refusing military service. As a pacifist, however, Ben-Artzi still refused to participate in the army. According to Ben-Artzi's father, Professor Matania Ben-Artzi, the families 'respect each other's political differences'. Still, the young man's conscientious objections are an embarrasment to Netanyahu.

Ben-Artzi has been court marshalled numerous times - despite the fact that refusing to enlist means he is still a civilian so is not administered by the military court. The conclusion of the 'conscience committee' which assessed him for his claims of being a pacifist was that he had a 'warrior personality', as demonstrated by the strength of his fight against entering the military, therefore the most appropriate place for him was the army. Each time Ben-Artzi has been called up to serve in the IDF, he has refused to enlist and been summarily sent to prison for 28 days. On release, he has been sent back to the enrollment centre, where the process is repeated as he again refuses to enlist.

Jonathan is decribed by his father as a 'natural pacifist'; and describes his own experience as stemming from seeing the graves at Verdun stretching 'as far as the eye can see'. An estimated 45% of Israeli males avoid military service, although most not through such dramatic means as Ben-Artzi. Orthodox Jews who are students of the Torah, mentally and physically unfit, those with criminal record and Israeli Arabs are not required to serve. In this way, claiming to have psychiatric problems is the most common way of avoiding being drafted. There are many who wish to make their point however and are would-be conscientious objectors, despite the social taboo. Matania Ben-Artzi claimed he would have had more support had Jonathan been dealing drugs than as a conscientious objector.

The most recent development in Ben-Artzi's case sees the court martial trying to arrange for Jonathan to serve in a military hospital. The IDF seniors wish for this to happen as such a prominent figure could inspire other conscientious objectors, which would really cause trouble to their claim "There are no pacifists in Israel"!


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