8 April 2014

On Palestinians serving in the Israeli Defence Forces

I just had a short discussion on Facebook with a Palestinian living in Sweden, who claimed that MOST Palestinian citizens of Israel serve in the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF). He even said that Palestinians from Haifa, Jaffa, the West Bank, Al Khalil (Hebron), and Gaza serve in the IDF. I was quite taken aback from this statement, which is obviously not true. First, let me say that Palestinians from the West Bank (Al Khalil is in the West Bank) and Gaza do not and cannot serve in the IDF for obvious reasons.   

Now let’s move on to the issue of Palestinian citizens of Israel. It is true, there are several hundreds who serve in the army. Some for purely personal reasons, as they believe military service will grant them benefits – mainly economic, higher social status, and equality. Others have ideological grounds for their service. They believe they are Israeli, that Israel is their country, and they want to contribute and serve the country. They feel it is their obligation. Still others claim they are not Arabs at all, but only Arabic-speaking. They distinguish themselves completely from the Arabs and Palestinians.

But the problem is that mainstream Hebrew and foreign media are reflecting a distorted image of this reality. They focus on this small group, and the image viewers get is that the majority of Palestinian citizens of Israel are rushing to serve in the IDF. Yet they show only this partial image, ignoring the broad movement of youth mobilizing against all forms of recruitment – both military service and national/civil service. Palestinian youth within Israel are out on the streets protesting this, social media campaigns are running on Facebook and other new media channels. And not only the youth movement is out there, but also social change organizations are leading national campaigns against military and national service.

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