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Financing Desertion in Israel By: David Bedein
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, December 18, 2003


Next Wednesday night, an Israeli organization funded by an American Jewish organization will be organizing an all day teach-in in the heart of Tel Aviv to convince high school students not to join the Israeli army and to convince Israeli soldiers to desert the Israel Defense Forces. The theme of the "teach-in": Israel's soldiers are "war criminals."

All this occurs after the PLO orchestrated over 20,000 terror attacks over a period of three years that have resulted in the cold blooded murders of more than 900 men, women and children throughout Israel.

Meanwhile, the Hizbullah organization gnaws at Israel's border with its war of attrition in the north, moving into the positions that the Israeli army unilaterally withdrew from under the Beilin/Barak left wing government's hasty retreat from Lebanon in May 2000. And, at the same time, tens of weapons smuggling tunnels are being dug along Israel's long southern frontier with the collusion of Israel's neighbor to the south, Egypt.

As a result, the Israel Defense Force has been forced to spread its small army to conduct operations in order to preempt terrorists by locating, arresting and neutralizing potential killers where they plan potential terror attacks, while at the same time guarding and patrolling two very hot borders.

While the IDF operations are taking place, a group of Israelis with support from a Jewish group in the US have been conducting a well-financed campaign to encourage IDF troops to desert their units.

I write this not only as a journalist, but also as the father of Noam, an Israeli soldier who serves as a sergeant in an IDF combat unit that operates in an isolated and sensitive area of operation where he risks his life every day.

My wife and I and our five other children look forward to welcoming our oldest son home whenever he can get away for Shabbat. Noam arrives home exhausted and, like the other young men and women his age serving in the army, he appreciates the support that he gets from the "home front" - our community and his own family.

Yet at every train station and bus station that Noam passes through he is "greeted " by paid professionals who distribute leaflets to IDF soldiers to encourage them to desert from their units, offering to pay them to do so.

The leaflets that Noam picks up describe Israeli soldiers as "war criminals" and are financed through a Jewish organization in my home community of Philadelphia in the United States.

That organization is the Shefa Fund.

As their website at www.shefafund.org proudly states, the Shefa Fund provides funds to the "Courage to Refuse" campaign, which proclaims that it will pay for any IDF soldier for the time that he might spend in prison and for any legal expenses involved in refusing to serve. A recent investigative TV program which aired on Commerical Station Channel Two in Israel showed how the "Courage to Refuse" campaign had set up a counseling service in the center of Tel Aviv known as "New Profile", which counsels young Israeli men and women on how to avoid Israeli army service altogether.

Page seven of the annual Shefa Fund report also proudly states that the Shefa Fund has most recently allocated funds to the Courage to Refuse Campaign. This has enabled the Israeli draft desertion campaign to take out ads, distribute leaflets at army bases and at bus stops, and to hire a PR firm to further incite IDF troops to desert their units. Instead of calling themselves "deserters", these soldiers call themselves "refusenicks," a term reminiscent of the struggle to save Soviet Jews who were refused exit visas from the Soviet Union in the 1970's and 1980's. Copying the tactics of the struggle to free Soviet Jewry, the Shefa Fund has now launched a campaign for Jews in the US to "sponsor" deserters from the IDF and to glorify them in their hometown communities in the US.

Needless to say, all this undermines the morale of the IDF by accusing Israeli soldiers of conducting war crimes against an Arab population which harbors terrorists and which encourages and celebrates the murder of Jews, even women and children.

The Shefa Fund has responded to these reports by distributing a letter in which it states that "as a matter of policy, we do not distribute flyers on buses or at points where soldiers are returning from the front. "Courage To Refuse," in fact, works only with reservists, not with soldiers who are under compulsory service. These organizations do not encourage desertion, and do not pay anyone to recruit members or to refuse military service."

The Shefa Fund also claims that "Yesh G'vul" and "Courage to Refuse" do not encourage desertion from the Israeli military, despite the fact that this is precisely what both organizations do by distributing letters, leaflets and internet messages every day in praise of IDF reservists and new IDF inductees who desert their IDF units rather than engage in the pursuit of PLO terrorists who escape to safe havens in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), Gaza and Jerusalem.

Throughout the past year, Yesh Gvul and Courage To Refuse have held countless rallies in honor of young inductees to IDF compulsory service who are now sitting in prison for deserting their units rather than pursuing PLO killers in the West Bank and Gaza.

So much for the Shefa Fund claim that they are "only working with reservists."

The Shefa Fund also claims that "Yesh G'vul and Courage To Refuse conduct activities that are legal", despite the fact that Yesh G'vul, as an Israeli-registered Non-Profit Organization, #58-039186-0, was disbanded as a non-profit organization on December 31, 1997 because of "financial irregularities" and remained disbanded until June 2002 when it was established as a profit-making corporation, listed in the Israel Corporate Registrar, #51-325106-6.

According to the Israeli law, it is a felony for Yesh G'vul to solicit or to receive funds, from Israel or from abroad, from the time it was disbanded as a non-profit organization until the time it was registered as a corporation. Even more important, it is illegal to encourage Israeli citizens to engage in the felonious act of desertion from the IDF.

Since the Shefa Fund asserts that neither Yesh G'vul nor Courage To Refuse pay Israeli soldiers when they desert the IDF, it would seem that the Shefa Fund's leaders did not read the websites of Courage To Refuse at HYPERLINK "http://www.seruv.org.il/defaulteng.asp" www.seruv.org.il in which Courage To Refuse announced until recently, both in Hebrew and in English, that it would pay deserters for "the time that they spend in jail" to cover their mortgage, tuition, rent and day-care for their children - benefits which are much more than an IDF soldier would get from the Israeli government's meager "national security" allowance during IDF regular or reserve service. Imagine what would happen if the IDF paid the tuition, mortgage, rent and day-care for its soldiers while they are on reserve duty?

The current "Yesh G'vul" brochure offers a flat $750(US) a month for anyone who is jailed for desertion from the IDF.

The Shefa Fund has therefore created the first financial incentive system to make it profitable for an Israeli soldier to desert the Israeli army. All told, the Shefa Fund provided $160,000(US) for this purpose in 2002 alone.

And where does the Shefa Fund get this money? Its brochures show several hundred Jewish contributors who have earmarked funds for their support of IDF desertion.

However, a look at the US #990 IRS forms for the Shefa Fund reveals that the Shefa Fund received an anonymous $15 million donation, of which Shefa is not saying where it came from. Just who is this mysterious anonymous donor?

Ironically, the Shefa Fund is generally known as an agency that provides sorely needed health, education and welfare programs for social services throughout North America. It remains to be seen whether Shefa's assistance to IDF deserters will hurt or help its fund-raising for their worthy social causes. Meanwhile, Noam and his fellow soldiers remain on duty protecting the people of Israel.


David Bedein, author of the forthcoming book, "Swimming Against the Mainstream", has run the Israel Resource News Agency. www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com, since 1987, at the Beit Agron Press Center in Jerusalem, where he also heads the Center for Near East Policy Research and serves as the Middle East correspondent for the Philadelphia Bulletin, www.thebulletin.us.


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