Why My Son Will Never Patrol the Streets of West Bank

If the Israeli government really intends to draft Christian Arabs into the army, it should start building more prisons now.

Saja Abu Fanni
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Saja Abu Fanni

A rusty bolt fell off a speeding train and a handsome, well-groomed boy who was near the track grasped the bolt and imagined he had taken over the entire engine car. And so, for the benefit of the dreaming boy, we recall a wise Arab proverb: “Had he any good in him, the chicken would not have thrown him away.”

Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon only had his picture taken with Greek Orthodox Bishop Jibril Nadaf, and already he’s planning to draft wholesale numbers of Christian Arabs into the Israel Defense Forces, “after getting the green light from senior officials in the Christian community” (as reported on Israel's Walla! news portal).

Who are these “senior officials”? God only knows. Danon and his ilk are truly strange: Each time they announce that they’ve invented the wheel, and each time it turns out to be a stubborn square.

It all began back in the 1920s, when Haim Margaliot Kalvarisky tried to establish Muslim associations to supplant the existing Christian-Muslim ones, in order to undermine the unity of the Arabs in prestate Israel.

Today, nearly a century later, Danon is repeating the experiment that a more skilled man than he failed at. And now he has taken off the gloves. He wants to make military service compulsory for Israel’s Arab Christians.

The reason for this is that despite the fact the bishop has his photo taken with all the country’s notables, “only a few members of the community enlist in the IDF today,” as Danon admits. As we say in Arabic, “The funeral was stormy, and the deceased is a dog.”

If a compulsory draft is instituted, then I hereby declare: I shall not send my son to patrol the streets of Jenin! My son will never man checkpoints – not even if he would be compassionate, allowing pregnant women to pass.

That’s because a Palestinian woman, like any other woman in the world, has the right to move freely, without requesting permission from my son or anyone else. I wouldn’t want my son in even the best assignment, such as allowing Palestinians to sneak into their orchards, because no person, even the best, has the privilege of “granting” to others their natural-born right to work their lands.

And were he in such a position, my son would remember that his grandfather, too, back in darker days, was barred from working his land in the village of Ma’alul. And today, with great fanfare, his grandchild is prevented from rebuilding on the ruins of his grandfather’s home.

If my son insisted on enlisting – perhaps out of an attraction to the cursed machismo – I would shake the alien out of him; my own flesh and blood shall not be used to oppress his own people. Or any other people.

Even if the situation were reversed I would not send my son to oppress the neighboring nation. I shall not allow my son to patrol among the misery and desperation, to stand before a young Jew crying out for freedom and independence.

Instead, I would be happy for my son to be declared a deserter. To be a deserter from the labor of the occupation is preferable to deserting one’s conscience. My son is not better than Omar Saad or Matan Kaminer, thrown into military prison because of their opposition to the occupation.

And so, if the draft is imposed on Arab Christians, then they’d better build more prisons so there will be room for all the conscientious objectors. Christian Arabs aren’t here by chance, after all.

They have always been Arab, even before Islam, even before Christianity. If so, how can the branches betray their roots? Today, the community’s religious leadership, as well as its most prominent figures, all oppose the draft.

Between the lines, Danon is saying that the compulsory draft law is designed to protect enlistees from “attacks and harassment.” But when there’s no sign of such actions, the idea is to provoke strife within that sect and that nation. Colonialism at its best.

“When one wants to do something good, there’s no need for consultation,” the Arabs say. And still, if my son asks to volunteer at Rambam Medical Center in Haifa or at a nursing home in Nazareth, I would rejoice and encourage him, as long as it’s arranged through the leadership of the Arab community (and not as national service, the alternative to military service).

MK Danny Danon.

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