Poll: 71.5% of Young Israeli Arabs Oppose National Service

Asked whether they considered Israel a democratic country, 36.5 percent say no and 26 percent say yes; the rest describe Israel as partly democratic.

More than 70 percent of Israeli Arabs between 16 and 22 who have heard of the national service project oppose taking part, according to a survey by the Mada al-Carmel Arab Center for Applied Social Research.

The poll comes out as efforts increase to get more ultra-Orthodox Israeli Jews to do army service, and more Israeli Arabs to do national service.

The survey, conducted by the center's Aas Atrash in late December, questioned 504 young Arabs throughout Israel, except for residents of Jerusalem and members of the Druze community. In the poll, 34 percent of the respondents were unaware of the national service project, so their opinions were not included. Of the ones who were aware of it, 71.5 percent were against.  

Among the young people who expressed support, 30 percent were in favor because of the financial benefits, while 27 percent said it was another way to volunteer for society. Only 16 percent cited their duty to the country.

Asked whether they considered Israel a democratic country, 36.5 percent said they did not and 26 percent said they did. The rest described Israel as partly democratic.

The Mada al-Carmel Arab Center for Applied Social Research, an NGO identified with the Balad party, is known for its stance against national service. But Atrash says the trend of opposition is not limited to the center; it can be seen in surveys done by other NGOs in 2009 and 2010. Also, the public-relations efforts in Arab society against national civil service have had a strong effect on young Arabs, he said.

The survey shows that the more educated the young respondents, the more solid their identities as Palestinians and the stronger their opposition to national service, Atrash added.

Since Israel began recruiting Arabs for national service, just under 3,000 young people have volunteered – a minuscule showing. According to Einas Odeh-Haj of the Mada al-Carmel center, the survey proves that young Israeli Arabs are aware of their national identity and rights, and oppose national service because it is a way to legitimize discrimination and inequality.

Hagai Fried