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Protests to demand release of Israeli communist and other military refuseniks

A PROTEST will be held outside a military prison in Israel on Saturday to demand the release of three military refuseniks.

Crowds will gather in support of the trio — Eran Aviv, Shachar Perez and Communist Party of Israel member Orem Feld — at Tzedek prison, near the city of Netanya, at 4pm.

Mr Feld, who is the Hadash party’s Jerusalem branch secretary, was sentenced to 14 days behind bars earlier this week after refusing to serve for the occupying forces.

He had previously been an army medic, although he said he did all he could not to serve in the occupied territories. In August he was called up for reserve service, but said he would not report for duty.

“Before I enlisted, I did not have the strength and support to refuse,” he said before he went to prison.  

“Now I know that no matter what role you have served, it allows for the continuation of the occupation.”

He said that his past experience opened his eyes to “the crime of the occupation and the apartheid policy” imposed on the Palestinian people.

In a letter to the Israeli military’s conscience committee, he said that he was not prepared to join an army “which uses its tools to control the Palestinian civilian population.”

Mr Feld described the occupation as “a political choice,” accusing the occupying Israeli forces of carrying out war crimes against the Palestinian people.

“The truth must be told about the history of this place, about the massacres and deportations that took place in the past and the administrative detentions, the ethnic cleansing and the mass shootings in the present,” he said.

“Anyone who truly loves this place, anyone who truly loves the people that live on this land, should hate the occupation, the distortion of history, the plunder of land and the oppression.”

Saturday’s protest is organised by the Yesh Gvul movement and supported by conscientious objector support network Mesarvot and the Communist Party of Israel, also known as Maki.

Communist Party of Britain general secretary Rob Griffiths sent a message of solidarity to Mr Feld and his fellow political prisoners, saying their “defiance in the face of incarceration demonstrates a strong civil opposition within Israel to the 54-year-long occupation, and the expansionist policies of its subsequent governments.”

Refusal to serve in the Israeli military is technically allowed on grounds of unqualified pacifism following a 2002 court ruling.

But it also stated that refusing to serve in the occupied territories is deemed “selective refusal” and therefore does not qualify as conscientious objection.

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