Israeli and Egyptian pacifists join forces
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Israeli and Egyptian pacifists join forces

Conscientious objector Nathan Blanc and his Egyptian counterparts exchange messages of encouragement over the web

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Egyptian pacifist Emad Al-Dafrawi poses with a sign in support of Nathan Blanc, Cairo, April 19 (photo credit: courtesy/Nader Wagdy)
Egyptian pacifist Emad Al-Dafrawi poses with a sign in support of Nathan Blanc, Cairo, April 19 (photo credit: courtesy/Nader Wagdy)

Israeli conscientious objector Nathan Blanc issued a declaration of solidarity with Egyptians committed to the same cause on Sunday, responding to a message of support emanating from Egypt in April.

Blanc, who is set to be released from prison this week after having served successive terms totaling over 150 days in prison — the most prison time handed down by the Israeli legal system for such an offense — posed with a sign featuring the faces of Emad El-Dafrawi and Mohamed Fathy, two Egyptian conscientious objectors.

“Emad El-Dafrawi and Mohamed Fathy are being treated horribly and being denied basic rights because they refused to join the Egyptian army. Let them go!” read Blanc’s sign.

Speaking to The Times of Israel via Skype from Cairo, Dafrawi said he became aware of Blanc’s story through the Israeli pacifist movement New Profile, which has recently partnered with his own movement, No to Compulsory Military Service.

At a silent protest marking the anniversary of the Egyptian movement’s foundation in downtown Cairo on April 9, Dafrawi and Fathy posed with a sign featuring the face of Blanc, reading “Natan Blanc, 19 years old, he is in prison for 120 days because he refused to join the Israeli army. Free Natan Blanc.”

Dafrawi, who has not been arrested but is banned from working, studying, or leaving Egypt as long as he avoids his country’s compulsory draft, said that if he could meet Blanc he would commend him for his “bravery.”

“He should not listen to those who disrespect him or speak badly of him for his refusal to do the military service,” Dafrawi added.

Blanc, for his part, stated on Sunday that he stands in full solidarity with Egyptian conscientious objectors and peace activists.

Israeli conscientious objector Nathan Blanc holds up a sign supporting Dafrawi and Fathy (photo credit: courtesy/Shimri Zameret/Yesh Gvul)
Israeli conscientious objector Nathan Blanc holds up a sign supporting Dafrawi and Fathy (photo credit: courtesy/Shimri Zameret/Yesh Gvul)

“We are part of the same peace movement, fighting for the same ideals — peace and democracy — and against our warmongering governments,” stated Blanc.

Dafrawi said he and his friends were aware of New Profile for a while, but decided on official cooperation with the movement at a workshop on peace in Berlin attended by Israeli and Egyptian activists in February.

Two months later, the two movements issued a joint statement supporting “conscientious objectors in both countries” and condemning the governmental treatment of Blanc, Dafrawi and Fathy.

Yishai Menuhin, director of the Public Committee against Torture in Israel and an activist with Yesh Gvul, an Israeli organization supporting conscientious objectors, lauded Blanc’s endorsement of his Egyptian counterparts.

“The Egyptian conscientious objectors and peace activists are our brothers and sisters,” Menuhin said in a statement issued by Yesh Gvul on Sunday. “Hamas and the Egyptian Salafis are the natural partners of Israel’s right wing government; and the Egyptian peace activists are ours.”

Dafrawi reiterated that sentiment, sending a clear message to activists who favor boycotting Israel.

“We believe that peace is better achieved if peace activists from both countries cooperate with each other,” he said.  

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