army - Ofer Vaknin - November 4 2010
Haredi soldiers. Photo by Ofer Vaknin
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The state’s desire to divide the Arab community and enlist the Christian Arabs -- as opposed to Muslim ones -- to its side, already became clear two months ago when a law sponsored by Likud MK Yariv Levin was passed.

The essence of that law is to distinguish between Christians and Muslims by giving Christian Arabs a separate and larger representation on the advisory committee of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (Levin said it was one of many moves aimed at differentiating between Christian Arabs and Muslim Arabs and deepening the Christian community’s involvement in Israeli society.)

“We and the Christians have a lot in common. They are our natural allies, a counterweight against the Muslims who want to destroy the state from within,” Levin said in an interview to Maariv.

Now, an additional initiative has been launched in an effort to advance the same goal. The Israel Defense Forces recently announced it would begin sending “voluntary draft notices” to an estimated 800 Christian youths, inviting them to enlist in the army.

The move comes in the wake of several events the Defense Ministry held in the Christian Arab community to encourage young men to join the army. IDF officers say the latest initiative

is intended to advise them about the available enlistment tracks.

The officers said the orders will presumably encourage more Christian youngsters (who are not bound by the compulsory draft) to serve in the army.

The IDF’s presumption is correct. Sending out orders could lead to an increase in enlistment, because it communicates to the youngsters that they had better cover up their Arab identity and join the army “for the benefit of the Jewish majority.”

If the army needs volunteers that much, it must approach all those who are not bound by the compulsory draft. It is hard not to suspect that the state’s distinction among the various non-Jewish citizens is really intended to sow discord among Israeli Arabs, who are already neglected and discriminated by the state, whether by law or in the course of daily life.

It is regretful that the state demonstrates ignorance in the way it classifies 20 percent of its citizens. It is neither justified nor appropriate to divide Arabs on the basis of religious criteria.

The IDF’s move proves that MK Levin’s intentions and world view toward Arabs are not exclusive to him and his cronies of the radical right.

It is a position that undermines the idea of citizenship, which in a democracy should not and cannot distinguish between citizens according to their religion, race or gender. The government, however, has adopted this course of action and is turning it into its declared policy. This policy must be aborted.