The anti-militarization group New Profile announced this week that two Israeli youths who refuse to serve in the army are once again being sent back to military prison.
Udi Segal, 18, has been handed down a fourth prison term and Uriel Ferera, 19, has been sent to jail for the eighth time; both were issued ten-day sentences on 29 September.
Segal and Ferera are among fifty youths who signed an open letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this year stating their refusal to serve in Israel’s army because of its violations of Palestinians’ rights.
Israeli youths are drafted into the military once they turn 18.
Against the occupation
“We’re using refusal as a tool in the struggle against the occupation, to end the occupation,” Segal says in the above video by Moriel Rothman-Zecher and Yuval Orr.
In the video Segal explains that up until the eighth grade, he was enrolled in one of Israel’s few desegregated schools where Palestinian and Jewish children are educated together.
He was then transferred to a public school “that consistently boasts one of the highest rates of [Israeli military] enlistment, mostly in combat units.”
“It was a jarring transition,” the youth states.
In the video he explains in Arabic that he would tell Palestinians that “there are people who stand with you and that there are young Israelis who are against the occupation.”
Segal, who has two brothers serving in the army, including one who participated in the massive assault on Gaza this summer, told CNN that he has received threats because of his refusal of compulsory military service.
“The basic freedom that people don’t get in Gaza, also in the West Bank, also here in Israel, is because of the occupation. Because of the occupation, I live in a military society, in a violent society, a chauvinistic society,” he said.
“Imagine what they do to Palestinians”
Before his eighth sentence was handed down on Monday, Uriel Ferera had already spent 127 days in jail.
When Ferera was first jailed in late April, he wore a T-shirt bearing a message of solidarity with fellow refuser Omar Saad. A musician and tennis instructor, Saad is a member of the Druze religious minority which, unlike the majority of Palestinian citizens of Israel, are required to serve in the military.
When he refused to put on an Israeli military uniform, Ferera told Haaretz reporter Gideon Levy, a guard screamed at him.
Ferera, an Orthodox Jew who was born in Buenos Aires and whose family settled in present-day Israel when he was six, told Levy: “I shouted to God in Spanish: Get me out of here. They laughed at me. They said God would not listen to me, and would not get me out of there.”
He added, “I thought: If this is how they belittle me and use force on me, imagine what they do to Palestinian youths.”
There have been several recent high-profile cases of conscientious objectors being jailed.
Natan Blanc was jailed for 175 days before he was discharged in June 2013, according to Haaretz, and Omar Saad was imprisoned for 190 days beginning late last year.
Saad became a well-known face in the growing movement of Druze youths who refuse to serve in the military.
Anan Shaheen, another Druze youth, expected to be imprisoned when he reported for his compulsory military registration appointment in August. But he was given an exemption on the spot.
Anti-militarization campaigner Maisan Hamdan told The Electronic Intifada at the time: “I believe that the Israeli occupation is frightened by conscientious objectors who refuse in a very public way.”
Hamdan is active with the Refuse — Your People Will Protect You group, which endeavors to give legal and financial support to Druze conscientious objectors so they have alternatives to the many state and private benefits conditioned on army service.
Meanwhile, Palestinians in Israel are organizing to push back against the state’s new efforts to recruit Christians into the army.