Eric Ben-Artzi came not just as Benjamin Netanyahu’s nephew but also in the name of his brother, Yoni, who is in his 20’s and in prison.
“I believe people can see light,” said Eric in his first lecture ‘The Courage to Refuse: The Dissent From Within,’ sponsored by Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights at Concordia last Thursday.
Eric said he was one of those people who did not want to take part of the continuing oppression inflicted on Palestinians on the occupied territories.
But because of Yoni’s refusal to join the Israeli military, Eric, only ten years older than Yoni, turned his life around by speaking on behalf of his brother’s viewpoints.
But this is just a small part of the big picture. Yoni is part of the growing movement known as the Refuseniks movement in Israel. Israelis who refuse to serve the Israeli military.
And for those who don’t, they’re sent to jail. Yoni has been in and out of jail for the past year.
Every time he was asked to join the army, he refused. And thus the cycle repeated seven times.
Now, according to Eric, Yoni awaits his court verdict from the court general in which he will face top general officers because “Israel is not a democratic country,” said Eric.
“For those people who think my brother is a pacifist, it’s because my brother learned from the Holocaust and its atrocities. Human Rights come first and certainly above national rights,” added Eric.
Other military forces have joined the Refuseniks movement such as 27 pilots with the support of over 1000 signatures.
During questions period, students and faculty alike were able to ask questions to Eric. But, despite blood ties with former Israeli president Benjamin Netanyahu, Eric focused only on his brother’s standpoint. Eric claims no recollection of the Sept. 9, 2002 incident when his uncle was scheduled to speak at Concordia but sparked an upheaval on campus instead.
A slight tension flooded the atmosphere said one of the member of SPHR on how the questions were formulated. Shouts of cheers and jeers were heard. “It’s because you don’t want the truth to be heard,” shouted a woman to a student asking a question.
A pool of eager students surrounded Eric after his lecture. Confronting tougher questions from students unsatisfied with the answer during the question period.
But Eric is optimistic for his brother’s future. “I just want to see him home,” he said.
For more information on Eric Ben-Artzi lecture series, please check http://www.sphr.org