Israeli Arabs Fight Against National Service

David Bedein

“Any Arab who performs national service in Israel is a leper,” said Member of Knesset Jamal Zahalka, the chairman of Balad, one of the Israeli Arab Knesset parliamentary factions, at a conference held in Haifa by the new “Coalition Against National Service in Israel.”

The conference represents a new public campaign that has been organized by the Israeli Arab Supreme Monitoring Committee, which is the primary body that speaks for Muslim Israeli Arabs, who make up 18 percent of Israel’s population of 7 million people.

This campaign has been launched to fight a new Israeli cabinet decision to approve recruitment of Arabs into national service programs and to have that decision scuttled altogether.

The decision, which was approved a number of months ago, provides Arab citizens with a civilian alternative to military service. In return, volunteers will be entitled to a series of benefits that newly discharged soldiers also receive.

Yitzhak Herzog, Israel’s social affairs welfare minister, whose ministry is responsible for national service, authorized an Arab nonprofit organization to begin to recruit volunteers. Within a short period of time, more than 1,000 Israeli Arabs had registered for national service. “This solves for them the problem of the dual identity, when, on the on the one hand, they want to receive the benefits of newly discharged soldiers but, on the other, don’t want to enlist in the [Israeli Defense Force],” said Mr. Herzog.

However, Abed Anbatawi, a spokesman for the Israeli Arab Supreme Monitoring Committee, added:

    “We have rejected and we continue to reject outright civil service, since we see it as preparation for the enlistment of Arabs into military service.”

Mr. Zahalka also argued that national service would result in conditional citizenship and that having rights such as being accepted to a university or getting a job, would be made contingent. “We believe that rights are absolute; duties are relative. There are people who, for reasons of nationality or religion, need to be exempted from duties.” He said that he spoke in heated language “in order to create a public mood against national service so that Arabs would be ashamed to perform national service.”

Today, approximately 150 Muslim Arabs carry out voluntary national service in Israel. A few dozen more Arab Israeli citizens currently serve voluntarily in the Israeli military, while the Israeli military draft is mandatory for Israeli Bedouin, Druze and Ciracassian citizens.

Israel’s first prime minister and defense minister, David Ben-Gurion, who served in both capacities for most of Israel’s first 15 years, had established the precedent of not drafting Israeli Arab Muslims into any kind of national service for fear that they would not be able to serve in a cause against their Arab Muslim brethren.

October 29, 2007 | 5 Comments »

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5 Comments / 5 Comments

  1. With his words, “Any Arab who performs national service in Israel is a leper,” Member of Knesset Jamal Zahalka deserves to be drummed out of the Knesset.

    He of course speaks for Arab Israeli citizens of Israel, except what he is advocating is that Arab citizens of Israel should have all the rights that an Israeli multicultural society affords them to hold onto feel greater loyalty to their Arab brethren that threaten to harm Israel and Israelis then to the State of Israel from which they take so much benefit to assure their own well being and give little or nothing back.

    The government of Israel in its multicultural haze tolerates those Arabs whose loyalty is first not to their nation Israel, but their Arab brethren who seek to destroy Israel.

    The duty to defend one’s nation is on each and every citizen of a state. It rarely if ever comes to the point that a state’s enemy is at the door of every citizen.

    Theoretically at least, if it came to that, it would be both a duty to self and a duty to your nation to fight back and destroy the enemy that threatens you.

    What MK Jamal Zahalka is telling the Arab Israeli citizens he speaks for is you have no duty to defend your nation if it means lifting a hand against your Arab Jew hating brethren set on destroying Israel.

    Israel needs desperately to come out of the multicultural fog it is in and get rid of those citizens of Israel, be they Arab or otherwise who are only prepared to demand and take all that their rights and privileges as an Israeli citizen offers them, but refuse to accept any of the responsibilities of citizenship, one of the primary ones being to put your loyalty to your nation and your nations’ best interests, first and foremost.

  2. Why are they in Israel to begin with? If Jewish Israelis are going to survive they have to drop this liberal humanist crap.

  3. I do not want them in the military nor do I want them in Israel. They, most of them make up a fifth column which in turn would help to sabotage our military efforts. Olmert, Barak, get your collective heads out of your collective asses and understand that you both must go.

  4. I think it’s perfectly lovely. Who needs them to serve? The government seeks to create an Arab country with a Jewish minority, and we are getting angry at the man who is actually trying to prevent it (obviously not consciously). The budget for the national service for Jews, especially religious girls, has been severely cut, and I don’t hear anybody screaming.
    Thank God for Arabs. May be they will scuttle the conference for us so we don’t have to do anything as usual.

  5. Shalom Ted,

    Tavarish Zahalka surely fits into the American political picture with his “We believe that rights are absolutes; duties are relative”. Reminds me of movie star George Hamilton and his Draft Board Number 6, Central Park West, that deferred him from military service so he could take care of mom.

    If MK Zahalka participated in the deliberations resulting in the Israeli cabinet decision and now refuses to accept it, this is parliamentary incitement.

    The problem is not the Zahalkas.

    The problem is not taking the appropriate action against those not in compliance.

    Kol tuv,

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