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PostTue Oct 26, 2010 5:43 am     Egyptian refusenik: I'm pro-Israel    

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Egyptian refusenik: I'm pro-Israel

Maikel Nabil Sanad claims he's first conscientious objector in Egypt, blames Palestinians for conflict, says doesn't want to shoot Israeli defending his state

By Roee Nahmias
October 25, 2010

Maikel Nabil Sanad is perhaps the most unusual Egyptian you've heard of recently. He is 25 years old, a veterinarian, graduate of a university in Asyut, and now officially a conscientious objector to military service in the Egyptian army.

"The army told me its final decision was that I must present myself for an officers' course on October 22 in Fayid and start obligatory service of three years," he wrote on his blog last week. "I thought about this a lot and decided to refuse to serve in the Egyptian army, and accept the results, whatever they would be, even though I knew the results would be hard because I am the first young Egyptian to refuse to serve for pacifist reasons."

Sanad also explained his decision: "I am a pacifist, I am against bearing arms and participating in military and paramilitary organizations. Recruitment goes against my conscience. I don't want to act against my conscience, whatever the price. I also am not willing to be a pawn on the chessboard of an arms race, struggles and bloodbaths in the region. I don't want to point a weapon at a young Israeli, recruited into obligatory service, defending his state's right to exist. I think obligatory service is a form of slavery and I have worked for years for my freedom."

. . .

As the conversation progresses, it becomes clear that these are not the only strange ideas Sanad has. "I am pro-Israel," he says. "I don't want to take part in anti-Semitic operations or those that negate Israel's right to exist in the region. I see Israel as a liberal, modern state with a religious character. I have friends in Israel and I think Israelis have a right to defend themselves."

The young Egyptian doesn't even hesitate to say the Palestinians are to blame for the conflict with Israel. "If the Palestinians had a democratic leadership, everything would be solved," he says. "Take the war on Gaza for example (Operation Cast Lead) two years ago. Hamas started it. They refused to hold elections in Gaza and took control of the regime. They planned a dictatorial and fundamentalist regime. They refused to speak to Israel, fired rockets at it and caused it to defend itself."

He says the IDF response to the rockets was "normal" compared to any nation in the world. "I don't see what the difference is between that and Turkey's response against the Kurds in northern Iraq. It's exactly the same."

'They say I'm a spy'

When asked if he is afraid to express such views in public, he says, "I have been speaking like this for eight years already, and I have been arrested a few times for political reasons. It's not new. I am a serious supporter of peace, tolerance and mutual forgiveness."

. . .

He explains his attitude to Israel thus: "From a young age I read a lot about the Israeli-Arab conflict. I understood the Arab media hid facts that support Israel. I tried to contact Israeli activists and started asking them questions, such as, 'Is it true that Israel is a militaristic state?' or, 'Is it true that Israel wants to expand and reach the Nile? That's how I learned. I understood a lot about the state, society and its laws. Many Arabs living in Israel told me how they are really treated and how much they prefer living in Israel above any Arab state. I also read about Israeli pacifist organizations."

Despite his love for Israel, he has not had a chance to visit because Egypt forbids his exit from the country. "I am forbidden from leaving for the next three years because of the military service I am supposed to do, and I imagine this prohibition will be extended," he says, but also notes that "the Israeli nation must know there are many Egyptians who support it, that we love Israel and support its right to exist. The picture painted by the media that all Egyptians hate Israel is false. This picture is not correct, and I want to make that clear to you."

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