Damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. Arab-Israeli Omar Sa’ad is facing arrest after refusing to join the Israeli army, according to Amnesty International.
In an interview with the human rights organization, the 18-year-old said he didn’t want to be a part of the forces responsible for the occupation of the Palestinian Territories.
It is mandatory for most Israeli citizens or permanent residents, who have reached the age of 18, to join the military for two to three years. Those who refuse to join are referred to as conscientious objectors.
Omar recognizes himself as an Arab Druze, a religious group which is an offshoot of Ismailism, a branch of Shia Islam. He also considers himself a part of the Palestinian people. For him, it is an impossible task to join the Israeli army which is carrying out mass human rights violations in the occupied territories.
“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.
However, he has taken a great risk by rejecting the compulsory service. A former Druze objector, Ajuad Zidan, was jailed for protesting against Israeli persecution in 2010 and it has become common practice in Israel to arrest teens just because they refuse to enroll in the army on grounds of conscience.
Exemption from service is allowed for all Arab-Israelis except for Druz and Circassians and for those who refuse to serve on religious grounds. Pacifists like Omar can also refuse to join, however, their cases are usually rejected by the “conscience committee” which is made up of military judicial officers.
In addition, Amnesty noted that it is against the international law to imprison conscientious objectors under Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, of which Israel is a member.
The Israeli government was also notified by the United Nations Human Rights Committee in 2003 to review its legislation that allows maltreatment of conscientious objectors.
Considering the fact that Omar faces the threat of arrest, it seems Israel turned a deaf ear to the U.N.
Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International, stated that the teenager’s imprisonment will be a human rights violation.
“Omar Sa’ad 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.”
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