Op-Ed: Misplaced Priorities: What About Israeli Arabs?
Eytan Meyersdorf, Im TirtzuThe writer is a new immigrant from the USA, served in Golani, and is currently the coordinator of Im Tirtzu at Bar-Ilan University.
In addition to raising public awareness on cottage cheese prices, the 2011 Social Protests brought attention to the “hareidi problem,” a subject that has created a political maelstrom throughout the country. Should we draft them, or not? If so, how many should we draft? Can the army handle an influx of so many people?
This charged and highly-debated topic has cropped up in every political discussion, some parties even making it the focal point of their campaign. This issue has turned into the hot topic of the 2013 elections, whilst a similar and far more troubling issue has eluded the political arena and public eye - the “Israeli Arab problem.”
With the exception of a new party that has been branded as extreme and may not pass the electoral threshold and MK David Rotem, no party has raised concerns or proposed a viable solution regarding the Israeli Arabs who don't serve in the army, or do national service – quite a troubling notion given that Israeli Arabs total twenty percent of the population; their younger generation amounting to twenty five percent.
The reason that parties and politicians hesitate to tackle this problem is obvious: It is an uncomfortable and highly controversial topic. No one wants to be the first to address this problem out of fear of being labeled a racist, or (God forbid!) politically incorrect.
The real fear, however, is the impending reality.
A Jewish state cannot survive when a significant part of its population not only does not do national service, but does not recognize the legitimacy of its government. Haredi Jews, albeit having issues with the state, are our brethren, and when push comes to shove, would unite together with us for the sake of the Jewish people. The same cannot be said about Israeli Arabs, who have no allegiance to the Jewish people, or the state.
It will be difficult, but if we are already “getting our hands into cold water” with the haredi sector, why not try to resolve the most critical issue, rather than casting it aside and dealing with something less pressing? Why dive into the lake in order to retrieve a silver coin when a gold coin lies a few feet deeper?
Israel lauds itself as being the only democracy in the Middle East, but this is not the way a proper democracy functions. Citizens of Israel, whether Jewish, Muslim, or Christian are equal – and to hold a certain group to a different standard is wrong, and undemocratic. Everyone must be required to take part in national service, whether it be in the army, or serving within one's own community or village.
Although we have become accustomed to the social norm of Israeli Arabs abstaining from national service (so much so that the very idea has become taboo), it is imperative that politicians introduce it into everyday and political dialogue. This topic, while controversial, charged, and sensitive, must be dealt with for the sake of democracy, and for the sake of our country.
The views presented above are of the writer and do not represent the Im Tirtzu movement."