The Arabs of Israel
must receive every right that is due to a citizen of a democracy. This dictum has been central to mainstream Zionism for over a century. It is enshrined in Theodor Herzl
's Utopian vision of Israel, Altneuland
, in remarks by Chaim Weizmann
at Zionist congresses and in his autobiography, Trial and Error, it is repeated in Israel's Declaration of Independence
, and it is the law of the land.
The equality of Arab citizens in Israeli society is not always implemented in practise, and this fault is often pointed out by critics of Israel. In a situation that is essentially a cold civil war, it is difficult to grant rights to those who may be wrongly accused of enemy sympathies.
It is only possible, however, to grant rights of citizenship to those who want to be loyal and full citizens. Everywhere that a minority has struggled for equality, the members of the minority have always tried to demonstrate that they are model citizens. Jews in Germany were known for their super-patriotism. African-Americans gained victories at each stage of their struggle for equality by demonstrating willingness to serve the country they called their own in every way. This included outstanding valor in all of the wars of the United States, even when the United States armed forces were segregated, and African-Americans were treated by law as second class citizens.
The Arabs of Israel, regrettably, have chosen a different path. At every turn, their leaders oppose any move to involve Arabs in activities that are part of the duties of loyal citizens in any society, while at the same time making the loudest possible clamor for equal rights, and sometimes for rights that are beyond equality. The latest example is the reaction of the Arab Higher Committee and the Arab Balad party to National Service. This is a law that was specifically made to accommodate both Arabs and anti-Zionist Jewish religious extremists who do not want to do military service. At present, it allows voluntary service. In future, it may be made mandatory. According to Jerusalem Post
The Israeli Arab Higher Committee has begun a national campaign to warn Arab youth against being drafted into national service, sources said on Saturday.
According to leaders of local Arab councils and Arab members of Knesset, the national service is run by the Defense Ministry and therefore there was no place in its institution for Arab youth.
Balad Faction Chairman MK Jamal Zahalka insisted that any Arab who volunteered for national service will be considered "leprous" and the Arab society will "vomit him out."
In September, the AHC spoke out against a government intention to compel Arab citizens to complete the national service. It warned that the Arab community would initiate lectures around schools targeting students in an effort to mar [bar??] the youths from national service.
Last month, the committee said that the government move to compel Arab citizens to carry out national service conflicted with the Arab identity and would lead to an eventual attempt to draft Arabs into the army.
The article notes that at present, all of 560 Arab youth have volunteered for national service. So it is not just the leadership, but the rank and file, who are not enthusiastic about integrating into Isralei society. What is the justification for the notion that Arabs should not do national service because it is run by the Defense Ministry? Isn't it their defense ministry as well? In every poll, Israeli Arabs insist they would not like to be attached or transferred to a Palestinian Arab state. But without the IDF, we would all be "transferred" to a Palestinian Arab state. Perhaps it is justifiable for Arabs to object to military service that might force them to fight close relatives, but they can hardly object to national service that benefits all citizens.
Will the Arab who insists on his right to live in a Jewish town refuse to participate in national service? On what basis will the Arab who refuses national service insist that he must be entitled to buy a leasehold in JNF land?
It should be obvious that those who agitate for the "right" of Israeli Arabs to refuse to participate in national life are not helping the cause of democracy or integration, and are not serving the interests of Israel's Arab citizens. Nonetheless, I am sure there are those who will find excuses for this bizarre political program.
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