A new dark, psychological short film by Nadim Hamed produced by Eyad Barghouti in cooperation with the Palestinian civil society groups 7amleh and Baladna makes a bold statement against Israel’s latest attempts to enlist Palestinian citizens of Israel in the occupation army.
Project X features Samer Bisharat (star of Oscar-nominated Omar) as a youth who is brainwashed into serving in the army. But instead of gaining the privileges promised by a Palestinian collaborator, the young man realizes only devastating psychological and social costs as a result of his choice to serve.
The artistically potent short takes up one of the most pressing issues facing the nearly 1.7 million Palestinian citizens of Israel who face daily systematic discrimination from education to employment and severe restrictions on land ownership.
Israel has long sought to repress national identity amongst the Palestinians who managed to remain on the land conquered by Zionist forces in 1948 when an estimated 750,000 Palestinians were ethnically cleansed from approximately 500 villages and cities.
The latest effort aims to drive a sectarian wedge between Palestinian Christians and Muslims in present-day Israel. In February, Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, approved a law identifying Palestinian Christians as a non-Arab minority group.
According to journalist Jonathan Cook, “The measure is a minor one: It provides Christians with separate representation in the national employment advisory council. But it lays the foundations for a much greater scheme declared by [chairman of the ruling Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu faction Yariv] Levin to create a Christian nationality, leaving the traditional ‘Arab’ one to refer to Muslims only.”
Meanwhile, Israel has groomed a handful of clergy and members of the Christian community to promote military service among Christians, and recently sent out recruitment papers to Palestinian Christian youths.
Except for minority groups such as the Druze, Palestinian citizens of Israel, who comprise approximately 20 percent of the state’s population, are not required to perform army service.
Many state benefits are tied to army service, including employment, and “Israel may be banking on desperation driving some youths into the army’s hands,” as Ali Abunimah has noted.
However, the reruitment efforts are being met with resistance by Palestinian students at Israeli universities and anti-enlistment campaigning by Palestinian civil society organizations.
Meanwhile, a growing number of Druze youths are refusing to serve in the army and the state is facing an organized campaign within the community against the compulsory enlistment.
Saad, one of the longest-serving conscientious objectors in Israel, is currently recovering at home from a liver infection which his father has blamed on the poor conditions of the military prison where Saad was being held.
Another conscientious objector, 18-year-old Orthodox Jew Uriel Ferera, was given a second ten-day prison sentence on 25 May for his refusal to serve in the military, the anti-militarization group New Profile reported. [UPDATE: shortly after this post was published, New Profile reported that Ferera was handed down a third sentence yesterday — this time twenty days — of imprisonment.]
New Profile and a number of other human rights, community and political organizations, including Amnesty International, Baladna and the Druze Initiative Committee, have launched an online petition calling on Israel to end the detention of conscientious objectors.