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Israel Targets Conscientious Objectors

by Stephen Lendman Thursday, Jan. 02, 2014 at 7:40 AM


Israel Targets Conscientious Objectors

by Stephen Lendman

It does it maliciously. It does it lawlessly. In mid-November, Bar Ahronovitch was imprisoned. Natan Blanc was victimized earlier.

Omar Saad now faces Israeli injustice. On December 23, he was sentenced to 20 days in prison. For the second time, he refused to perform military service. Why in his own words below.

He's from Meghar village. It's in the Galilee. It's in northern Israel. It has a proud tradition. It justifiably defies unjust Israeli diktats. It refuses to accept what's wrong. It does so courageously.

Saad is a conscientious objector (CO). He claims his justifiable rights. He refuses to perform military service. International laws and norms support him.

Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:

"Everyone has the right of freedom of thought, conscience and religion..."

Article 19 states:

"Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference..."

Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) states:

(1) "Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion."

"This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching."

(2) "No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice."

The UN Human Rights Committee recognizes conscientious objection (CO) rights. They reflect legitimate exercise of free thought, conscience and religion. They're universally guaranteed. Not in Israel.

On October 31, 2012, Israel summoned Saad to appear for induction. He opposes compulsory military service. He did then. He does now.

He wrote Netanyahu and then Defense Minister Ehud Barak. He did so in October 2012. He said in part:

"...I completely oppose the compulsory army service for my people of the Druze community."

"I refuse because I am a man of peace, and abhor violence in all its forms and believe that the military establishment is the optimum of physical and psychological violence."

"Ever since I received the summons I feel my life has been toppled upside down. I feel nervous and unable to focus."

"I remembered the thousands of harsh images and could not see myself in the military uniform and taking part in oppressing my own people, the Palestinians, or fighting my Arab brothers."

"In fact I declare myself as a conscientious objector and refuse to serve in any army."

"I abhor oppression and oppose occupation. I detest any form of fanaticism or suppression of freedom, and I hate whoever arrests children, women and elderly men."

"How can I carry arms against my brothers and my own people in Palestine? How can I be soldier at the Qalandia check point or at any other barrier when I have experienced the oppression of barriers?"

"How can I prevent people from Ramallah visiting their city, Jerusalem? How can I guard the separation wall?"

"How can I be the jailer of my own people when I know that most of them are prisoners of war and seekers of justice and freedom?"

Saad is a musician. So are his two brothers and sister. They formed the Galilee String Quartet. They perform professionally.

Saad and his brothers formed a separate ensemble. It's called the Palestine Strings. They performed in London. They did so during the 2013 Proms.

It's held annually. It's promoted as "the world's greatest classical music festival." Performances are at Royal Albert Hall. Saad and his brothers performed to a packed house. Thousands attended.

IDF recruiters initially ignored him. They ordered him to appear for induction on March 3, 2014. In late November, they changed the date to December 4, 2013.

Arabs don't face compulsory military service. For Druze citizens, it's mandatory. An estimated 84% of Druze men serve. Most do so reluctantly.

Ajwad Zidan is a Druze youth. Israel imprisoned him for six months for refusing conscription.

"Unlike pacifist Israelis," he said, "Druze objectors do not get exemption on conscientious grounds."

"We suffer from extremely harsh treatment during our imprisonment, which aims to intimidate us and scare other Druze from taking a similar decision."

Druze Initiative Committee (DIC) secretary Samer Swaid said:

"Despite (over) five decades of mandatory conscription, Druze villages suffer, like the rest of Palestinian villages in Israel, from institutionalized and systematic marginalization and discrimination."

"Many Druze youth see themselves as part and parcel of the Palestinian people and refuse to cooperate with a system that kills and oppresses fellow Palestinians and occupies their own land."

Conscripting Druze youths began in the 1950s. They're a small minority. They lack organized leadership. Israel took full advantage. It still does.

In 1958, Jamal Zidan co-founded the Free Young Druze Movement (FYDM). He became the first Druze youth imprisoned for refusing conscription.

Other outspoken refusniks included Samih al-Qasim and Mohammad Nafa.

Al-Qasim is a prominent poet. His collections are well known throughout the region. Nafa is a respected writer.

In March 1972, FYDM and Israeli activists formed the Druze Initiative Committee (DIC). It remains active today. It's the leading Druze anti-conscription organization.

Militarism is normal in Israel. Indoctrination begins in kindergarten. Textbooks and classroom instruction teach children to view military service as "noble and worthy."

They're falsely told Israel's survival depends on it. They're brainwashed to believe Arabs and Iranians pose existential threats. With some exceptions, military service is mandatory at age 18.

Under-age youths may enlist. Child recruitment is done informally. Women serve like men. Israeli citizens and permanent residents must comply. Arabs are excluded. They may volunteer if they wish.

Israeli children are taught to hate Arabs. They're vilified for not being Jews. Textbooks call them "hostile, deviant, cruel, immoral, unfair, with the intention to hurt Jews and to annihilate the State of Israel."

Other characterizations include dangerous, violent, terrorists, vipers, robbers, bloodthirsty, killers, tribal, vengeful, ignorant, primitive, exotic, dirty, noisy, colored, and easily inflamed.

Jews are called industrious, brave and superior. Children too young to understand get this stuff drummed into their impressionable minds.

High school student Daniel Banvolegyi once said:

"Our books basically tell us that everything the Jews do is fine and legitimate and Arabs are wrong and violent and are trying to exterminate us."

"We are accustomed to hearing the same thing, only one side of the story. They teach us that Israel became a state in 1948 and that the Arabs started a war."

"They don't mention what happened to the Arabs. They never mention anything about refugees or Arabs having to leave their towns and homes."

Palestinian education is polar opposite.

A June 2004 Israel/Palestinian Center for Research and Information (IPCRI) report titled, "Analysis and Evaluation of the New Palestinian Curriculum" concluded that:

There's "no indication of hatred of the Western Judeo-Christian tradition or the values associated with it."

"(T)he textbooks promote an environment of open-mindedness, rational thinking, modernization, critical reflection and dialogue."

They "promote civil activity, commitment, responsibility, solidarity, respecting others' feelings, respecting and helping people with disabilities, (and) reinforce students' understanding of the values of civil society, such as respecting human dignity; religious, social, cultural, racial, ethnic, and political pluralism; personal, social and moral responsibility; (and) transparency and accountability."

The evidence speaks for itself. Which society do you think is more equitable and just? Which one do you support?

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."

Visit his blog site at

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

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