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Monday, December 17, 2007

Fifth column... what fifth column?

A few months ago, the Israeli government, with the cooperation of the Supreme Arab Monitoring Committee, quietly set about encouraging its Arab citizens to participate in a national service program.  While Israel's Druse perform military service (54% in combat units) and many of Israel's Bedouin also serve in the IDF, the remainder of Israel's Arab population is exempt from military service.

Since Israel's Arab citizens are exempt from military service, it was hoped that performing some sort of alternate national service might make this sector of Israel's population feel more involved in bettering their communities and the country at large.  Such service, which would closely mirror the national service opportunities now available to Israeli women who claim exemption from military service on religious grounds, would include volunteering in hospitals, schools, community centers, drug rehabilitation facilities, medical clinics, etc. 

My assumption was that, aside from obviously improving services to the Arab community at large through the creation of a motivated volunteer workforce, the goal of this new initiative was also meant to help alleviate the sense of 'otherness' that hangs over Israel's Arab population like a dark cloud.

But almost as soon as the initiative was announced, An Arab Member of Knesset made an incredible statement to the media :

"Balad MK Jamal Zahalka called for banishing Arab youths who volunteer for a national service program created by the Supreme Arab Monitoring Committee.  Zahalka said that although he believes in community service, he refuses to condone the performance of community service for the benefit of the state."

Okeydokey, where to begin... where to begin.  Let's start with the fact that we have an Arab Member of Knesset advocating illegal action/discrimination against Arab youths who opt to participate in any community service project that might benefit the state. 

He went on to say: 

"The plan to integrate our youth into a national service program is another Israeli attempt to Zionize our children and an attempt to cause an identity crisis among us... We won't give our children away to the state."

Oh I see now, this is another Zionist plot.  Because everyone knows that giving something back to the state that provides free medical care, education, roads, protection, infrastructure, etc. would give away the dirty little secret that these things aren't actually gifts from Allah.  The last thing we'd want would be for a new generation of Arab youth to learn that these services come at a cost and actually have value.

The article went on to quote another Arab luminary:

"[Israel] identifies solely with its Jewish ethos and not at all with its Arab ethos. The state refuses to identify with us as a group," Professor Ramzi Suleiman of Haifa University's psychology department explained... Suleiman also said that Israeli Arabs fear that national service could lead to the loss of their ethnic identity."

Mr Suleiman seems to be confusing 'ethnic' and 'national' identity.  Ethnically the kids are (and should be proud to be) Arabs.  But their national identity should be Israeli.  If this is problematic then that maybe that nice blue ID card and Israeli passport which provide them with more privileges than all their Arab brethren around the middle east combined, should be problematic as well, hmmm? 

Citizens of Israel... ALL citizens... benefit in countless ways from the state and should want to give something back.  Instead, the Arab leadership considers any small gesture that might help the country to be an act of treason against their culture... and this is deeply troubling.

He went on to use the Druse as an object lesson of why Arab youth should avoid national service:

"[The Druze] are experiencing an identity crisis because they stay away from collective elements that distinguish them [from other ethnic groups]... We don't want to throw our youth into a similar state [in which] they have no collective feelings that unite and differentiate them."

Oh yeah, because a collective feeling of isolation, anger and disenfranchisement is a positive way to hold your culture together and keep them distinct from the Jewish kids.

"The discrimination exists on another level that people don't talk about... We are the invisible citizens, or worse - our existence is always brought up in a negative way."

OK, I Can't argue with that.  I've seen it in action and it is deeply regrettable.  But doesn't it stand to reason that a program designed to help Arab youth engage with, and contribute to, Israeli society would help resolve this problem to some extent? 

But predictably, the article provided another idiotic statement, this one regarding guarantees:

Arab leaders and policymakers also argue that no one has promised them complete equality if their children were to serve in a national service program. "If there were an offer of that sort on the table, we would consider it. The young Israeli Arab who agrees to volunteer doesn't get the message that the expropriated lands of his village will be returned, but [rather] that he alone will be drawn out of the cycle of discrimination. That's not a good solution for us as a society and it's not enough," Suleiman said.

There is a mindset here that is pervasive in all aspects of Arab culture.  They want guarantees in advance before they will even agree to consider the offer.  They want promises not only that discrimination will be 100% eliminated, but also that their ancestral villages (some of which are buried beneath Tel Aviv and other coastal communities) will be returned.  In other words, becoming full fledged participants in Israeli society is not enough.  They also want Israel to eviscerate itself... to essentially commit suicide... so that they can reclaim a fantasy world that - let's be honest here - wasn't so great under usurious absentee Ottoman landlords.

"Professor Yoav Peled, a political science professor at Tel Aviv University, claimed that whether or not the Israeli failure to develop local Arab councils is directly responsible for the Arab public's inability to pay taxes, the historic injustice towards the country's Arab residents is what is unmistakably to blame."

"Israel abuses and exploits its Arab residents... Now it expects them to volunteer for national service - for what nation, exactly? And where? In Arab hospitals and institutions that don't exist?" said Peled.

Um, this sounds like a Catch 22 in the making.  Is he suggesting that there be separate hospitals and institutions for Israel's Arabs?  If this ever came to be, Israel would be lambasted by the world for creating a completely segregated society.  Yet Peled considers the lack of such segregation to be a failing of some kind.  I think.

Anyway, I had pretty much put this National Service episode out of my mind until yesterday when I saw that another Arab (Sheikh Abdullah Nimr Darwish - the founder of Israel's Islamic Movement) had issued a n eye-opening condemnation of the plan:

"Israeli Arabs will never agree to do national service for the State of Israel because it would call into question their loyalty to the Palestinian cause.  Any type of national service, no matter what it is, would be perceived by the Palestinian people as military service.

[the Israeli Arab who volunteers for National Service] would be seen as an enemy to the Palestinian people.  To prove his loyalty to the Palestinian cause, he would be forced to join the Palestinian resistance movement against Israel.

I do not allow my young people to enlist in organizations that fight for the Palestinian cause. But do not expect me to allow them to join the Israeli cause."

Did you follow all that?  Here, let me help parse it for you:

1.  Performing National service for Israel is disloyal to the Palestinian cause.

Remember, we're talking about Arabs living inside Israel who hold Israeli citizenship.  Any Jew who suggests that Israeli Arabs are loyal to the Palestinian cause is branded a racist.  But here is a leader of Israel's Arab community saying it very clearly.

2.  Any service that benefits the state is considered military service.

This plays into the whole rationale of indiscriminate Arab terror against civilian targets.  Simply put, any Israeli target it considered a military target.

3.  Anyone who volunteers for a program that would help Israel will be considered an enemy of the Palestinian people.

Again, see the loyalty issue in point #1.

4.  The only way someone who agreed to do national service could prove their loyalty to the Palestinian cause would be to join the Palestinian resistance movement (i.e. become a terrorist).

Hello! Are alarms going off in anyone else's head?

5.  I don't allow any of my kids to join resistance movements, mind you!

Yeah right.  Methinks someone went a tad too far and is back-peddling here.

Ladies and gentlemen, what we have here is a very broad cross-section of the leadership of Israel's Arab population saying very clearly that their loyalty is to an entity that is pledged to our destruction.   

So why is nobody talking about this???

Posted by David Bogner on December 17, 2007 | Permalink

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"The plan to integrate our youth into a national service program is another Israeli attempt to Zionize our children and an attempt to cause an identity crisis among us... We won't give our children away to the state."

If I read this statement devoid of context, I'd assume it was said by a Chareidi spokesman. Not to suggest that much, if anything, else in the post would imply comparison between the Arab & Chareidi communities, but that one paragraph could come straight from Yated.

Posted by: Andy Levy-Stevenson | Dec 17, 2007 5:04:35 PM

Dave
What in the phrase double standard don't you understand. When there was a suggestion by right wing Rabbis about national service, the outcry from the left was so impressive. What is the punishment for avoiding service? On the other hand by not serving they definitely avoid being incorporated into Israeli society.

Posted by: dave | Dec 17, 2007 5:13:17 PM

Dave- it's now fashionable among the secular to get out of army service, through all sorts of medical/psychological excuses. Most pple who want to are able to opt out, and continue to be very well incorporated into society.

Which angle of the double standard are you addressing? That Arabs are marginalized or that they don't have to serve the state, yet receive quite an impressive basket of benefits from it, despite their marginalization?

Posted by: Abbi | Dec 17, 2007 6:59:26 PM

David, have you noticed lately that the sky is the most gorgeous shades of blue and that the sun is warm and inviting? Not to mention the sunsets for the past few days have been nothing short of spectacular. Just thought you'd like to know in case you decided to get out and enjoy it.

Posted by: Jennifer | Dec 17, 2007 8:36:06 PM

As usual, other than merely quoting, the left colored media had nothing whatsoever to say about these Arab leaders' statements. Oh, what a surprise.

Posted by: QuietusLeo | Dec 17, 2007 9:18:07 PM

These guys seem to alternate between sounding like apologists for Pali terrorism on the one hand, and like American-minority-style poverty pimps on the other. They're sorta like half al-Qaeda and half al-Sharpton.

BTW - Jennifer - thanks bunches for throwing the beautiful Israeli weather in my face like that. Just call me Shivering in New Jersey. ;-)

Posted by: psachya | Dec 17, 2007 10:26:07 PM

"Balad MK Jamal Zahalka called for banishing Arab youths who volunteer for a national service program ... Zahalka said ... he refuses to condone the performance of community service for the benefit of the state..."

Me so sorry, Trep'. Me going to read this carefully-crafted entry all the way through and post a considered reply, but me just got through reading the above and me frontal lobes imploded.

[slowly; again:]

Member of Knesset... um, hmm... refuses to condone service for the benefit of state...

[ploof!]

Nope; sorry. It happened again.

Me thinked California was crazytalkland. Me see now me were doubleplusunright. Israel has we beat in spades!

Welp -- me off to get brain righted now. Wish me lucks!

Posted by: Wry Mouth | Dec 17, 2007 10:51:48 PM

QuietusLeo -- No, see, that's what the media is supposed to do. It's just a shame that such professional discipline isn't applied across the board.

Jennifer -- what psachya said! Brrr!

Wry Mouth -- LOL!!!

Posted by: Alisha | Dec 18, 2007 7:52:07 AM

Wry Mouth: ROTFLMAO! I came downstairs to the studio with a full head of steam as a result of reading today's paper, and your comment managed to get me to literally laugh out loud!

Yesterday's news was an argument against Arab youth participating in National Service (which IMHO harms those kids -- by denying them opportunities to network with their peers -- as much if not more than it harms the state).

Today's news includes an interview with Sheikh Abdullah Nimr Darwish in which he explains that Jews living in settlements which could eventually fall under Palestinian rule can not remain and become Palestinian citizens because "First of all, the settlers would never agree to it. But even if they did it would be impossible. The Jews have this feeling of superiority. They think they are better than everyone. Maybe it is because of the Exodus from Egypt, maybe it is because of the Holocaust. The Jews suffered, they were persecuted and now they want to make others suffer as well."

So Wrymouth, if you want your brain to remain "righted" DO NOT READ TODAY'S JERUSALEM POST!

Incidentally, the gem from which I pulled the quote, in the print edition backs up to another gem which I am certain will go unnoticed by most.... The Saudis have decided to pardon the victim of a gang rape from her sentence of 200 lashes (note: can't seem to find this on the online edition).

[sigh]

Posted by: zahava | Dec 18, 2007 8:51:46 AM

Yeah- no, not surprised by this at all. This is an ongoing debate within the "Migzar"- on the one hand, in many ways conditions are preferable/desirable while the Jews run the land, on the other hand, ideally the Jews wouldn't be here and they could have their national identity (back). And testament to the issue that nobody really uses the term "Israeli Arab" anymore...

Posted by: PP | Dec 18, 2007 2:39:07 PM

hi david,
just read your piece on aish.com about your cab ride to machpela. i posted a comment there saying how touched i was by the story. jews everywhere need to hear more of this and it is a big chizuk to ruach yisrael that you posted it.

yasher koach!!!

josh

Posted by: josh | Dec 27, 2007 10:37:27 AM

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