Six months after he was sentenced to his first prison term for refusing to join the IDF, Druze conscientious objector Omar Sa’ad was released from military service on Wednesday.
Sa’ad, an 18-year-old violist from the northern village Maghar, was sentenced to his first term on December 5th, 2013 in the Tiberias induction base. Since then, he was sentenced six more times for a total of 150 days.
Sa’ad first stated his intention to refuse in late 2012, when he sent an open letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu which declared his support for Palestinians under occupation, as well as his opposition to recruitment into the IDF “and any other army for conscience and nationalistic reasons.” Although the Druze are considered to be an ethnic group that has assimilated well in the Israeli community, the voices of refusal have become stronger in recent years, and especially in the wake of Sa’ad’s refusal.
While Muslim and Christian Arabs with Israeli citizenship are exempt from military service, Druze men are required to serve for three years. (Druze women, however, are exempt, as are religious Jewish women.)
Upon his release from prison, Sa’ad released a statement thanking his supporters and reiterating his stance against military service:
I was sentenced 7 times for a period of 150 days, and 46 days ago between home and hospital, and every time before sending me out to prison, they ask me the same question: “Why you refuse to serve in the IDF?
My answer was always the same: “I refuse because I am an integral part of the Palestinian Arab people. Refuse because your army is an army of occupation. Refuse because I am the owner of principle and conscience. I make peace with my musical instrument and I refuse to replace it with a weapon that generates death, and does not differentiate between a child , a woman, a man and an old man. So how can you ask me to kill, occupy and arrest my people? my weapon is my musical instrument and will not be replaced by any another weapon.
Sa’ad’s time in prison was not easy. In early May, he was hospitalized with a liver infection after complaining to his prison guards for three straight days. The guards at Prison 4 allegedly ignored his complaints, thinking he was just pretending or exaggerating. Sa’ad was then transferred to Prison 6, where it was decided to move him to a military medical clinic before a doctor finally decided that he must be transferred the emergency room. Sa’ad eventually recovered.