200 demonstrated outside the Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv on Thursday, calling on the IDF to release two conscientious objectors from military prison. Among the protesters were the parents of Omar Sa’ad and Uriel Ferrera, who were jailed for refusing to serve in the army and several members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Israel, among them MK Dov Khenin (Hadash). The demonstrators also called to end the West Bank occupation.
The young communist Sa’ad, 18, an Arab-Druze from the Galilee, has been jailed seven times since December 2013 for refusing to serve in the army of occupation and oppression. The last time, on April 13, he was sentenced to 40 days. Ferrera, 19, an ultra-Orthodox Jew and social activist from Be’er Sheva, is serving his first jail term after being sent to prison a month ago for refusing to join the army because the occupation of the Palestinian territories. Sa’ad was hospitalized in a life-threatening condition last Friday and his family and lawyer accused the authorities of deliberately ignoring his medical complaints. He has since come out of danger but it’s still not clear if he suffered irreversible damage or when he will be released from hospital.
Sa’ad’s father, Zahar, told “Haaretz” that his son refuses to switch his viola for a weapon. “Omar has a Facebook group of 11,000 friends from all over the world, mostly musicians who heard he was a musician as well as a conscientious objector,” he said. “People throughout the world support his battle.”
Also “Haaretz” editorial demands on Friday to release Sa’ad. According to the editorial of the most important daily newspaper in Hebrew: “Saad’s repeated prison sentences recall the campaign of harassment to which another conscientious objector, Natan Blank, was subjected. Blank was jailed 10 times before being discharged in June 2013 as unfit for service. It’s reasonable to assume that Saad, too, will eventually receive a military discharge, since objectors generally end up being declared unfit for service. Therefore, it’s not clear why the IDF insists on continuing its confrontation with Saad, especially since his case involves additional sensitivities: the problem of national identity, which he noted in his letter, and fears that he will receive discriminatory treatment even in comparison to Jewish conscientious objectors. The IDF should have listened to the voice of conscience springing from Saad’s throat. The army has sufficient enlistees to allow for the refusal of service by young men of conscience such as Blank and Saad, who could have avoided serving by means of ‘gray evasion’ – avoiding the draft on pretexts other than conscientious objection – but chose instead to take the route of fighting for their principles. The attempt to break Saad with one jail sentence after another won’t change his views and won’t help the IDF; it will only harm Israel’s image.”