‘How could I carry a gun rather than my viola?’ - Omar Sa’ad
Amnesty International is supporting a tour to the UK later this month from the renowned musician and conscientious objector Omar Sa’ad.
Omar, an 18-year-old Druze teenager and citizen of Israel, gained international prominence last year after refusing to serve in the Israeli army. Together with his two violinist brothers and their cellist sister, they make up the Galilee Quartet, a classical string quartet from the Galilee village of Maghar in northern Israel.
Omar and his younger brother and violinist Mostafa performed with Nigel Kennedy at the Royal Albert Hall at last year’s Proms, and this seven-date tour - beginning in Cambridge on 30 September - will feature the first performances from Omar since he was released from various prison terms earlier this year for his opposition to joining the Israel Defense Forces.
The Sa’ad family are from the Druze minority in Israel, and though Arab citizens of Israel are exempt from compulsory service in the Israeli military, Druze Arabs and Circassians are not. Over the years, many young Druze have refused to serve in the Israeli military on conscientious grounds.
“I am a musician. I play for peace and justice. How could I carry a gun rather than my viola?
“I refuse to take an assault rifle and point it at another human being. I abhor this violence and everything connected to violence.
“I don’t want to be part of the Israeli army because the Israeli government is responsible for the occupation [of the Palestinian Territories]. As an Arab Druze I consider myself part of the Palestinian people - so how can I be part of the army that occupies my people? I won’t sell all my beliefs and my identity to anyone.”
Amnesty International UK Campaigns Manager Kristyan Benedict said:
“So-called ‘refuseniks’ like Omar are bravely taking a stand for peace in a region which has seen far too much violence.
“He should be congratulated for his stance, not persecuted.
“We’re very pleased to be able to support this excellent tour from four fine musicians.”
Meanwhile, Omar’s brother Mostafa has also now been called up to serve in the Israeli military and he also faces military prison as a conscientious objector.
The quartet - appearing in Cambridge, Evesham, Reading, Worcester, Brighton, Sutton and London - will be playing to promote peace in the Middle East and to support other conscientious objectors, both Druze and non-Druze, now in prison in Israel.
The Druze in Israel and conscience objection
Arab citizens of Israel - with the exception of Druze Arabs and Circassians - are exempt from compulsory service in the Israeli military and are mostly discouraged from even volunteering for service. However, the Druze are not. Over the years, many Druze have refused to serve in the Israeli military on the grounds that it would amount to fighting a war against their own people. While Israeli law allows for pacifists to be exempted, individuals are required to argue their case before a “conscience committee”, made up of military judicial officers who invariably reject their cases. The right to object to military service on grounds of conscience is protected under Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Israel is a party.
CAMBRIDGE - Tuesday 30 September
Emmanuel United Reform Church, 72 Trumpington St, Cambridge CB2 1RR. Q&A chaired by Julian Huppert MP. Free admission, but reserve tickets here
READING - Wednesday 1 October
St Nicolas Church, Sutcliffe Avenue, Earley, Berkshire, RG6 7JN: 7.30pm, followed by Q&A. Free admission.
WORCESTER - Thursday 2 October
St George’s Catholic Church, 1 Sansome Place, Worcester, WR1 1UG: 7pm, followed by Q&A. Free admission
EVESHAM - Friday 3 October
Friends Meeting House, 28 Cowl Street, Evesham WR11 4PL: 7pm, followed by Q&A. Free admission.
BRIGHTON - Sunday 5 October
St Nicholas Church, Dyke Road, Brighton: 3.30pm
Phone 07909 244198 for tickets. More information here
SUTTON - Monday 6 October
Sutton Grammar School, Manor Lane, Sutton, Surrey SM1 4AS: 7.30pm, followed by Q&A. Free admission. Reserve places by emailing email@example.com or text 07931 786134. More information here
LONDON - Wednesday 8 October
Human Rights Action Centre, London (Shoreditch), EC2A 3EA: 6.30pm, following by Q/A and reception. Free admission, but booking required here
Musicians and concert programme
Omar Sa’ad (viola)
Mostafa Sa’ad (violin)
Ghandi Sa’ad (violin)
Tibah Sa’ad (cello)
Buorree 1st and 2nd from the 3rd cello suite, by JS Bach (solo viola)
Sarabande in D minor from the 2nd partita for violin, by JS Bach (solo violin)
Por Una Cabeza - Tango from “Scent Of A Woman”, by Carlos Gardel
Pirates Of The Caribbean - film melody
Eine Kleine Nachtmusik K.525 Allegro and Menuet (allegretto), by WA Mozart