A viola player challenges a militarized society
Omar Saa'd, conscientious objector, demonstrates peacefully and playfully in front of the Israeli military base in Tiberias, Dec. 4, 2013.Photo: AFSC
In this March 2013 interview with Omar from Israel Social TV, he talks about why he opposes conscription.
Dec. 5 update: Today, news broke that Omar has been sentenced to a first prison term of 20 days in military prison number 6. He's being transferred there now. For more on this, please review New Profile’s report.
Omar Saa’d is hardly 18 years old, yet he has once again challenged the order to serve in the Israeli Army.
Although the Israeli conscription law is not imposed on most Palestinian Arabs living in Israel, it is imposed on the Druze community, which includes Omar. As a consequence, he was summoned to show up at the military base in Tiberias on Dec. 4, 2013.
Refusing the summons, he said he “is willing to pay any price for not serving in the Israeli Army.”
Omar, from al-Maghar in Galilee, is a tennis coach who also plays viola professionally. In summer 2013, he played with the Palestinian Ensemble Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall in London, led by legendary musician Nigel Kennedy.
He seeks to live a life with no restraint or military action. In October 2012, he wrote to the Israeli prime minister and defense minister explaining his position: “I refuse because I am a man of peace and I hate all forms of violence, and the military institution represents for me the peak of physical and psychological violence,” he says.
Yesterday, he turned himself in; officers will now determine his sentence.
He was accompanied by approximately 100 individuals demonstrating peacefully and supporting his cause. Maysan Hamdan, an AFSC intern, explains: “We came here to support Omar Saa’d, show him that he is not alone, and to say to all Druze young men, that they will have support if they choose to refuse to serve in the military…. We are against serving in the army because it’s wrong for us as Palestinians to be sent to fight our own people, but we are also against conscription in general, because there is something called humanity.”
At the calm protest, police approached Zaher Sa’ad, Omar’s father, issued him a summons ordering him to show up to an interrogation, and accused him of participating in an illegal protest. Another young protester was detained by the local police.
AFSC, through its Israel Program, works closely with the Druze Anti-Militarization Committee in Israel. The Druze community has been separated by force from fellow Palestinians living in Israel, treated as a group of their own. AFSC will continue to support refusers like Omar, who seek to transform a militarized system by challenging injustice and violence and ensuring that equality and social justice prevails.