Druze teen faces jail over refusing to serve in Israeli army
Published Wednesday 04/12/2013 (updated) 06/12/2013 11:33
Omar Saad refuses to serve in Israel's army.(Amnesty International)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The threat of arrest hangs over a Druze teenager from northern Israel after refusing to go against his conscience and serve in Israel's military, Amnesty International said Wednesday.
A few days after his birthday on Nov. 17, Omar Saad's father received a call from the Israeli army, who informed him that Omar was due to start his military induction on Dec. 4.
Last year, Omar was called for a medical examination to confirm eligibility for conscription in Israel's military, but wrote in protest to Israel's Prime Minister and Defense Minister, saying: "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."
On Wednesday, Omar is due to protest his objection to joining the Israeli military by playing a rendition of "We wish you a Merry Christmas" in front of the office in which he must report to enroll, Amnesty said.
He will be joined by his sister and two brothers, who together form the Galilee (String) Quartet.
Amnesty International says it is highly likely that he will be arrested by Israel's army and sentenced to a minimum of 28 days, which could be renewed each time he refuses to serve.
"I refuse to take an assault rifle and point it at another human being. I abhor this violence and everything connected to violence. I detest and hate all violence," he told Amnesty International.
"I don't want to be part of the Israeli army because the Israeli government is responsible for the occupation. 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."
Every year, a handful of Israeli teenagers are sent to prison for refusing to serve in the Israeli army on grounds of conscience, Amnesty says.
Although Druze communities are conscripted into Israel's military, many have refused to serve on the grounds that they would be fighting a war against their own people.
"The loneliness of the prison cell is one thousand times better than standing in front of my people while pointing a gun at them, or imposing a curfew on them," Ajuad Zidan, a former Druze objector, said after refusing to enlist in 2010.
In Israel, a "conscience committee" can decide upon exemptions for conscientious objectors, but refusals are often only allowed for those who protest on religious grounds, Amnesty says.
"Omar Saad should not be imprisoned. If the Israeli authorities decide to arrest him, he will be a prisoner of conscience and we will campaign for his immediate release," said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.
"Instead of persecuting those who have a moral objection to serving in the military, Israeli authorities should establish a fully independent and impartial body to assess claims of conscientious objection in a fair and transparent manner."
According to Amnesty, the right to object military service is protected under Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Israel is a party.
In 2003, the United Nations Human Rights Committee called on the Israeli government to review its legislation to bring it in line with international human rights law.
"Many people across the world support me. They support what I think and will stand with me. That gives me strength to go through this," Omar told Amnesty.