Israel’s Arab citizens are clearly not listening to the bad advice they have been getting from some of their leaders, including Arab members of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, who keep inciting them against Israel.
These leaders and parliamentarians — who say they want the Arab citizens to boycott national service and any attempt by the government to fully incorporate them into Israeli society — have been waging a campaign against the Israeli government’s plan to recruit Arab citizens for (civilian) national service as an alternative to military service.
The plan seeks to solve many problems — especially in the area of work — facing the Arab citizens who do not serve in the Israel Defense Force.
Yet despite the campaign against national service, a report released this week revealed that there has been a 76% increase in the number of Arab volunteers since September 2011.
According to the report, published by the Administration for Civil-National Service, some 3,000 Arabs have volunteered over the past two years to carry out national service in the Arab sector in Israel. Last year, the number of Arab volunteers stood at 1,700.
Economics and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett said in response that he was aware that some leaders of the Arab community were strongly opposed to the idea of national service for Arab youths.
“There are some who do not want to see the Arab and Jewish sectors live in fine and healthy coexistence,” Bennett remarked. “But we won’t let them win.”
The Arab volunteers are sent to hospitals, schools and even fire stations in their own communities.
The report coincides with increased efforts by some Arab parliamentarians to encourage their constituents to seek separation from, rather than integration with, Israel.
One Knesset member, Jamal Zahalka, recently proposed a law demanding that Israel recognize its Arab citizens as a “national Arab minority.”
The proposed law actually calls for self-rule for Israel’s 1.4 million Arabs, turning Arab cities and villages into autonomous areas in the country.
Even some Arab Knesset members have come out against Zahalka’s draft law, arguing that it would actually hinder efforts to achieve equality between Jews and Arabs.
Zahalka’s proposed law is an attempt to politicize the case of the Arab Israelis instead of addressing social, economic and cultural problems facing the Arab sector.
If Zahalka and other Arab Israelis want to express their national identity, they can do so in a future Palestinian state. There, they would feel more comfortable about their national identity without even being considered a minority.
Today, however, it is hard to find an Arab Israeli who would be happy to move to a Palestinian state that is controlled by the PLO or Hamas, which is the reason most Arab Israelis are opposed to the idea of land swaps between Israel and the Palestinians. According to this idea, some Arab villages inside Israel would be placed under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority.
The Arab citizens of Israel are not fighting for political rights, which they already enjoy — otherwise, there would not be so many Arab political parties, or Arab Members of Parliament in the Knesset. Rather, they are fighting for better services and equality. They want more jobs in the public and private sectors and equal distribution of public funds.
Any attempt to politicize the case of the Arab Israelis will only cause damage to Arab citizens, most of whom remain loyal to Israel.
The sharp rise in the number of Arab volunteers for national service is an encouraging development that shows many Arab citizens have lost faith in their representatives, particularly those who are trying to incite them against Israel.