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WATCH: Israeli teen refuses to serve in army, likely to face jail time

Dozens of supporters, including past refusers, hold demonstration outside Haifa draft board office in solidarity with 19-year-old Udi Segal.

By Moriel Rothman-Zecher and Yuval Orr

For the past month, the news in Israel/Palestine has been filled with reports of more and more people killed, the vast majority of them Palestinians. As much of Israeli society is swept up in the fever of the most recent war on Gaza, there are those voices that refuse to accept a present, or future, filled with violence, occupation, fear and hostility. One of those voices belongs to Udi Segal, a 19-year-old Israeli from Kibbutz Tuval, who was sent to jail on Monday for refusing to enlist in the Israeli military.

Watch this short video of Udi explaining his refusal to serve:

About 75 people – Jews and Palestinians – gathered in Haifa to stand with Udi. Among the crowd were Ruty and Yael Ferera, the mother and sister of Uriel Ferera, an Orthodox Jewish refusenik who has been in and out of military prison since April for refusing; Omar Saad, a young Druze refusenik who was recently released after over six months in prison; and a number of other past refusers and current signatories on the 2014 letter of conscientious objection.

Udi Segal walks in the direction of the Draft Center in Haifa, where he will refuse to enlist.

Udi Segal walks in the direction of the Draft Center in Haifa, where he will refuse to enlist.

Across the street was a small gathering of flag-draped counter-protestors. There had been calls to demonstrate against Udi’s refusal circulating on Facebook, but thanks to clever organizing (the Facebook event for Udi’s protest listed the start time at 11:00, at the Navy Museum, and then, surreptitiously, told actual supporters to meet at 12:00, near the Draft Office, five kilometers away, on the other side of Haifa), only a few showed up. Their chants touched on a number of now-familiar tropes (“Go to Gaza! You’re all traitors! Gaza is a cemetery! Go get f**ked in the a**!”) but also took on an uglier, more personal element, targeting Udi by name, branding the demonstration as his “gay coming out party,” calling him a “son of a whore” as he stood by his mother.

Omar Saad, a few months after his own release, lending support to Udi Segal.

Omar Saad, a few months after his own release, lending support to Udi Segal.

The demonstration in support of Udi was quiet and dignified, with signs declaring support for his refusal, critiquing the occupation and calling for an immediate end to the war on Gaza. One demonstrator held a sign that said “Over 800 people killed does not equal security.” When he saw me looking at the sign, he shrugged sadly and said: “I made this sign a few days ago. The death toll in Gaza is now estimated at over 1,058.

After a short gathering, Udi said his goodbyes and walked off to the draft station, where he approached the commanders with the words that have crossed the lips of thousands conscientious objectors before him: “I refuse.”

Reporting, photography, interview and editing by Yuval Orr and Moriel Rothman-Zecher. Moriel is an American-Israeli writer, activist and refusenik. He blogs independently at www.thelefternwall.com. Yuval is a American-Israeli filmmaker and activist whose first short film “Hebron is Beautiful” explores the banal absurdity of the Israeli occupation of Hebron through the eyes of a Palestinian teenager. They are both members of the All That’s Left Anti-Occupation Collective.  

 You can follow Yuval on Twitter at @YuvalOrr and Moriel at @TheLefternWall.

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Druze conscientious objector hospitalized with liver infection

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    1. Whiplash

      Thank goodness there are few persons like Udi who refuse to serve in the defense of the people.

      Reply to Comment
    2. sivimi

      One of the most beautiful sentences of all times: “I refuse”

      Reply to Comment
    3. Danny

      I tip my hat to Udi, Omar and the many, many other beautiful Israelis.

      May the ranks of the refuseniks grow with more and more young men and women who have had enough of Israel’s wars, and who refuse to be the cannon fodder for the Israeli right-wing’s fantasy of Greater Israel, and the Israeli defense establishment’s weapon tryouts that it conducts every couple of years in Gaza.

      Let Netanyahu send his sons to fight in Gaza (which – make no mistake about it – he won’t!)

      Reply to Comment
    4. olfa

      God bless you.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Whiplash

      Two out three Netanyahu’s children have already served in the IDF. Hia youngest child is scheduled to join the IDF next year. Netanyahu himself was living in the United States in 1967 when the 6 day war broke out. He returned to Israel and enlisted. He served as an elite commando, team leader than commander of Sayeret Matkal special forces. He fought on the Suez Canal and led a deep raid into Syrian territory in 1973. He and his other commandos saved the 100 lives on aboard Sabena flight 571 in 1972.

      He also served the state of Israel as Deputy Chief of Mission at the Israeli Embassy in Washington and as ambassador to the United Nations for four years.

      Reply to Comment
      • Reza Lustig

        What’s wrong, Bibi couldn’t get them into the national guard like every other war hawk politician?

        Reply to Comment
    6. Pal

      A question to those admiring this guy/these guys:
      Do you trust that as soon as enough Israelis refuse to serve in the IDF to make IDF lose a significant amount of its power there will be two states – an Israeli and a Palestinian – living in peace side by side…?

      Reply to Comment
    7. Nicole

      We need more youth to stand up for what is right. The politics do not matter when so many innocent lives have been taken. We are all one human species.

      Gandhi once said, “you must be the change you want to see in the world.” I commend Udi’s strength and commitment to his principles.

      No more lives lost.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Omar Amin von Leers

      I am not convinced by the sincerity of these “refuseniks”. Why do I say this? Even if they serve in prison, they still benefit from the Occupation, secure that after a few stints in prison they will be able to land a cushy job in Tel Aviv. What would take real courage is for them to burn their Israeli passport and ask for asylum in Turkey. This would truly embarass the zionists

      Reply to Comment
      • Reza Lustig

        I think sacrificing your freedom, for however long, is a pretty noteworthy sacrifice already. They don’t hate their country (which is what you seem to be implying), they hate their government’s conduct.

        Reply to Comment
    9. Jeannie

      Better to serve humanity than the warmongers and profiteers of war. Blessed are the peacemakers.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Palestinian

      Respect and solidarity brothers, I’ll invite you all for dinner one day.. and we’ll have heated arguments about Barcelona vs Real Madrid, or who should die in the next season of Game of Thrones.. We’ll argue about anything but politics.

      Reply to Comment
    11. Liz Silman

      I can’t begin to understand how hard it may be for you and your family as you are forced to spend time in prison – but always remember. You are a man of conscience, not a criminal. Sadly, you are having to also be the voice of conscience for those Jews who want to see a very different Israel to one that has evolved in recent years. Stay strong.

      Reply to Comment
    12. Dear Udi Segal,

      We support you unreservedly, as we did in the Omar Saad’s case and in hundred’s of other cases of conscientious objectors and other refuseniks in Greece, Israel, Turkey, UK and US.

      We are an international network of men who work with the Global Women’s Strike, based in London and Philadelphia.

      We will publicize your case as widely as we can as for as long as it takes to victory.

      Keep strong,

      Giorgio Riva

      Reply to Comment
    13. Thankyou Udi for your bravery in standing up to this regime. I watched your video, and was so inspired that I wrote this song. http://youtu.be/lr0oMLVMbfs


      Reply to Comment