Justice, Equality, Brotherhood
The road to make Arabs and the ultra-Orthodox part of Israeli society passes not through the IDF, but through other realms − civil, cultural and economic.
It is the protest of the summer: the so-called militarists' "suckers' tent" - reservists calling for a greater sharing of the burden of serving in the army. While the second season of social protest is still trying to find its way on Rothschild Boulevard, the most popular protest seems to be the reservists' "suckers' tent." Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Vice Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz have already paid them a visit.
The people are for military service for everyone. Or, in more precise words, the people are against the two weakest groups of society - the ultra-Orthodox and Arabs. The slogans are grand-sounding and the goal transparent: of pushing these two groups even more forcefully to the margins, and especially to its pillory of shame. Why? Because they are different and, mainly, because they spoil our imaginary line of success and equality.
Once every few years this voodoo ceremony repeats itself: discussion of the Tal Law, which exempts yeshiva students from military service and expires on August 1 after being declared unconstitutional by the High Court of Justice. Lieberman makes political hay over the Arabs, Mofaz does the same with the ultra-Orthodox, and Netanyahu juggles in between. This time a new star was sent into the arena - MK Yohanan Plesner (Kadima ). Plesner, a graduate of "the unit" [Sayeret Matkal, the elite special-operations force], knows how to talk the language of Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Netanyahu and Mofaz, although he is rarely heard on many other issues.
These glorious heroes will bring about the revolution, the one the people want more than any other: It's off to the army for Fischel and Mohammad (or, at the very least, to national civilian service ). That, of course, will never happen. Fischel will continue to study Torah and Mohammed to look for work, but between them political hay is being made, populism lives it up and so does militarism, alongside quite a few manifestations of incitement against these two "sectors" - groups that any economist and statistician would wish did not exist here at all.
The ultra-Orthodox and the Arabs have the nerve to disrupt the miraculous Israeli economic story, the one we like to present to ourselves and to the OECD. Neither do they participate in our national ethos, the one that crystalized over our mess kits. It is difficult to fault them for their poverty, and so let's strike out at them over the army uniforms they dare not to wear.
Other than their poverty, these two groups differ completely. The poverty of the ultra-Orthodox stems from their many children and their unwillingness to sufficiently take part in the workforce. Of course this must be dealt with, and quite a few achievements have been made in this realm. But this change was not attained by force or incitement. The demand that they serve in the Israel Defense Forces is truculent. The IDF can do without them, perhaps even better. In any case, the number of their inductees is continually rising.
The case of the Arabs is completely different. Their poverty mainly stems from shameful discrimination and segregation in terms of employment opportunities. The fact that for 64 years no new Arab city has been founded or developed, no industrial zone established, and no Arab university has come into being does not show equality.
Therefore, before the state demands that they enlist for it, it must enlist for them. Their nationalist sensibilities certainly will not allow them to enlist in an army most of whose actions involve the brutal occupation of their brethren. That is why the insane idea of drafting them into the IDF should be abandoned; it is an idea that will only sow more hatred against them.
One group wants to devote itself to Torah study and the other cannot identify with the goals of the army. They can't be drafted by force. The protest against their evasion of service cannot be considered a search for justice, or aspiring to equality, and certainly not to brotherhood.
It stems from unwillingness to accept people who are different, and from the false sense of being a "sucker": the average Israeli is far from being a sucker compared to the low stature of the ultra-Orthodox and the Arabs. The Plesner Committee is already dying; now the "suckers' tent" should be dismantled along with the base feelings it generates.
Service in the IDF is an inexorable need, but it has nothing to do with values. The IDF is big enough and strong enough without these two groups and the road to make them part of society passes through other realms - civil, cultural and economic. The order must be turned around as well. First involve them in society, and only then we can demand that they fully bear its burdens. This participation does not have to be military, certainly not when it comes to Arabs, and it should be attained by discourse.
Do you want justice and equality? Be so good as to behave in like manner toward these two groups: accepting the ultra-Orthodox as different and accepting the Arabs as equals.
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