What Else Do You Want From Mohammed?

Everyone should view himself as if he were a 'Mohammed' and oppose the national service as it stands today.

Jews who were plundered for generations finally built a state of their own. Is it fated from the start to tyrannize its minorities? The results speak for themselves: The Jewish state's genome has a core of racism, and as the state grows older that core expands.

Let's call him Mohammed. (After all, everyone here is called "Mohammed," even the poet Mahmoud Darwish. ) I've known the young man since he was born; his father is a friend of mine. I like all members of his family, not simply in my capacity as a well-known, inveterate Arab lover; I love them in their own right. They are my kind of people: caring, involved people who ask themselves what they can do for the country.

They ask, and give responses. This Mohammed, who has finished 12 years of schooling, decided to join the national service. That's not an easy decision for a young Arab. It's no secret that most Arab citizens oppose such service, as do their delegates in the Knesset. And don't think for a second that the path for joining the service is well-paved, without potholes. To bypass the obstacles, you have to tap your connections, because the prevailing theory is that Mohammed does not contribute to the country; rather, the state, out of the goodness of its heart, agrees to receive his contribution.

I don't know whether he wanted to be a policeman when he was little, but this ambition grabbed him five years ago. Mohammed volunteered and wore a blue uniform for two years, refusing to take it off when he came home to his village. Our Majesty's Police Force was pleased with the boy, and when he finished, Mohammed received a certificate of achievement and excellence. What else could the state ask from Mohammed?

Naively, he reasoned that if not national service, he might join the police as a regular member. He learned from the media that the Defense Ministry planned to recruit around 1,000 Arab citizens to the police. But such announcements and reality can be two different things. Police work was no option for Mohammed. The message was that he should go off with his friends somewhere else.

He kept looking. The Knesset released an announcement: It was looking for candidates for guard duty. That's an idea, he thought, but it turned out that for Arabs, parliamentary security and work as a security guard are out of bounds; the Knesset already has enough of those Arab MKs.

If not at the Knesset, then perhaps at the Supreme Court, which occasionally discusses its personnel needs. For Mohammed, however, disappointment follows disappointment. Yet again it turns out that Arabs can enter the court if they are on trial, but they have no business looking for work at the security entrance. Some people alerted the president and the Knesset speaker of these inequities, but it turns out that nothing could be easier than blaming somebody else. Mohammed, the unemployed policeman, is a security threat as a salary-earning policeman or guard.

This young man's bitter experience didn't deter his younger brother, whom we will also call Mohammed. Despite what happened to his brother, Mohammed II decided to follow in the same path, which has led him to exactly the same place - insulting degradation and enforced futility. I tell both of them they should bless everyone in this tale - that is, as the brothers curse everyone in their hearts, they might search for a way to forgive them.

But they, the Mohammeds, retain their simple faith: In the end it will work out all right, they say. Until it does, everyone should view himself as if he were Mohammed, as an Israeli citizen who tries to contribute to the state but is rejected by it. His loyalty can do nothing to enrich his citizenship; everyone should oppose the national service as it stands today, full of contempt, and contemptible.

We should take this opportunity and ask Bedouin and Druze: Has your lot improved when you return home after finishing full terms in the army? And, of course, some of these would-be respondents never returned home.