End Imprisonment For Conscientious Objection
After he turned 18 in November 2013, Arab Palestinian Druze musician Omar Sa’ad, who is an Israeli citizen, from Maghar in the Galilee, was called-up for conscription for 4 December 2013 – he declared publicly his “refus[al] to take an assault rifle and point it at another human being.”
Omar Sa’ad, like a growing number of Druze Palestinian citizens of Israel, does not want to be a part of the Israeli army because – in his words – “the Israeli government is responsible for the occupation [of the Palestinian Territories]. As an Arab Druze I consider myself part of the Palestinian people – so how can I be part of the army that occupies my people? I won’t sell all my beliefs and my identity to anyone.”
The right to reject military service on grounds of conscientious objection is protected under international human rights law, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Israel has ratified.
Since December 2013, Omar Sa’ad has been in and out of prison, where he has spent 149 days, generally serving sentences of between 14 and 20 days at a time before being released and called up to serve the next day. Most recently, on April 13 he began, a seventh prison sentence of 40 days. At the beginning of May, he was denied medical attention by the military prison authorities for three days despite the seriousness of his condition, which apparently relates to a virus affecting his liver. He was eventually transferred to hospital in Haifa where he remained for over a week before being allowed home to recuperate. He may be returned to prison after 28 May to serve the remainder of his sentence.
The organizations named below consider him and others imprisoned on such grounds, such as Uriel Ferera, to be prisoners of conscience and we call on the Israeli authorities to release them and any other conscientious objectors immediately and unconditionally.
Several Israeli teenagers go to prison each year because of their moral objection to serving in the army. Since 8 March 2014, over 100 high school seniors have written to Prime Minister Netanyahu saying that they will “refuse to serve in the occupation army”, apparently the largest group of such “refusers in the history of Israel”.
The students said they were protesting “the ongoing occupation of Palestinian territories where … human rights are violated and acts defined by international law as war-crimes are perpetuated on a daily basis.“
Their letter came amidst the Israeli government’s plans to broaden army conscription and Israel’s Supreme Court decision to overrule the Tal Law, which allowed special deferrals of military service granted only to ultra-Orthodox Jews, resulting in most of them not serving at all.
Although the Israeli army’s Conscience Committee can decide to allow a conscientious objector exemption from military service, it is only empowered to do so on grounds of pacifism. While Omar’s refusal is based on ideological grounds that includes pacifism, he was not allowed to see the Committee.
There are other military committees which consider exemptions on the grounds of religious beliefs.
According to the UN Human Rights Committee no discrimination is permitted “among conscientious objectors on the basis of the nature of their particular beliefs” – i.e. whether they are religious or otherwise (General Comment 22, para. 11).
Excerpts from Omar Sa’ad’s Refusal Declaration
“I refuse because I am a man of peace and I hate all forms of violence, and the military institution represents for me the peak of physical and psychological violence. Since I received the notice to appear for tests, my life has changed, I became more nervous, my thoughts were distracted, I remembered thousands of cruel images, and I couldn’t imagine myself wearing military uniform and participating in the suppression of my Palestinian people or fighting my Arab brothers. I oppose the recruitment to the Israeli military and any other military for conscience and nationalistic reasons. I hate the injustice and oppose the occupation; I hate intolerance and restriction of freedoms. I hate those who detain children, the elderly and women.”
“I am a musician, I play the Viola , I have played in many places, I have musician friends from Ramallah, Jericho, Jerusalem, Hebron, Nablus, Jenin, Shfa’amr, Eilabun, Rome, Athens, Amman, Beirut, Damascus, Oslo, and we all play for freedom, humanity and peace, our weapon is the music and we shall not have any other weapon.” http://www.wri-irg.org/node/20565
This petition is endorsed by:
New Profile – www.newprofile.org/english
Connection e. V. – www.connection-ev.org/article-1917
War Resisters’ International – www.wri-irg.org
Coalition of Women for Peace – www.coalitionofwomen.org
Refuser’s Letter 2014 – www.facebook.com/refusingIDF
Orfod-Refuse, Your nation will protect you campaign – http://www.irefuse.info/
Union of Youth National Democratic Assembly –We will not serve in your army https://www.facebook.com/pages/%D9%84%D9%86-%D8%A3%D8%AE%D8%AF%D9%85-%D8%AC%D9%8A%D8%B4%D9%83%D9%85/486008311521739?fref=ts
Communist Youth Union in Israel – www.aljabha.org
Student Department of Communist Party of Israel (CPI) & Democratic Front for Peace & Equality (DFPE)
Gush Shalom –www.gushshalom.org
Mennonites Central Committee – www.middleeast.mcc.org/palestine-israel
AFSC (American Friends Service Committee) – www.afsc.org
Druze Initiative Committee – http://www.newprofile.org/english/node/204