I am willing to bet that there were no extremist Arab Knesset members present at the very impressive demonstration of Israel’s Druze community in Tel Aviv last week against the nation-state law. I also assume there was no significant Druze participation at Saturday night’s demonstration against the nation-state law organized by extremists from Israel’s Arab community. It is another expression of the wide gap that separates Israel’s Druze community from the extremists among Israel’s Arab citizens, with many of Israel’s Arab citizens caught in the middle. They all have a common mother tongue, but differ in their attitude to Israel.
The Druze and the Circassian communities cast their lot with Israel when it fought for its survival against a coalition of Arab armies that invaded the fledgling country in 1948. In 1956 David Ben-Gurion decided to enforce compulsory military service for Druze and Circassian youngsters, who have been serving in the Israel Defense Forces ever since, many having reached the highest command positions of the IDF. This has brought about a substantial degree of Israelization and Westernization in these communities and encouraged their integration into Israel’s society.
Would the same thing have happened to Israel’s Arab community had Ben-Gurion decided at the time to apply compulsory military service to them as well? The fact is that compulsory military service for Israel’s Arab Muslim and Christian youngsters has been left in abeyance over the years, even though it is an anomaly that so many of Israel’s citizens do not participate in the defense of their country.
Over the years there has been a substantial rate of volunteering for military service among Arab youngsters, especially from the Bedouin and Christian communities. They have not enjoyed the support of most of Israel’s Arab politicians, who insist that they are ideologically opposed to Arab citizens serving in the IDF. Their position only tends to widen the gap between Israel’s Druze and Arab communities.
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Increasing numbers of young Arab men and women are volunteering for (civilian) National Service introduced some years ago. The strident opposition of Arab politicians to this trend has seemed to have little effect. We may be moving in the right direction, but it will take a well planned government and IDF program to normalize the participation of Israel’s Arab youth in the defense of their country.
The opposition of those Arab politicians to Arab participation in the defense of Israel is essentially based on a desire to see Israel destroyed, and therefore gives support to those forces intent on destroying Israel. Today, these are first and foremost, the Ayatollahs in Tehran and terrorist groups. The Iranians are not Arabs and any damage they may inflict on Israel will affect its Jewish and Arab citizens. What logic can there be in Arab Israeli citizens lending them support, aside from a blind desire to see Israel perish?
It does not seem that most of Israel’s Arab citizens support these anti-Israeli positions. This becomes clear when one observes the dramatic integration of many of Israel’s Arab citizens in the Israeli economy and society, utilizing the many opportunities that the Israeli educational system and economy make available to them. Most of the Israeli Arab politicians, Islamist, Communists, and Nasserists, are opposed to this integration. This is one more reason they oppose any kind of national service for Israel’s Arab youth.
The Arab politicians who led Saturday night’s demonstration against the nation-state law condemn the Druze, calling them “collaborators,” but their chances of convincing them to abandon their loyal service to Israel are zero. It is more likely that more and more Israeli Arabs will in time follow the Druze example.