Archive photo: Israeli Arab
Archive photo: Israeli ArabiStock

“Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country,” John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address inspired children and adults to see the importance of civic action and public service. His historic words challenged loyal citizens to contribute in some way to the public good all over the world. Well, almost.

When asking the same question most of the Israeli Jews will certainly agree and elaborate on their military service or their national service experience in different institutes and organizations. While it is common for most Israeli Jews and Druze men to join the army, orthodox men and religious women volunteer in public hospitals, first aid organizations and health care institutes. Both secular and religious who find it suitable volunteer in periphery schools and other challenging and significant places, security organizations like the civil guard and police, environmental NGO's, charity NGO's for the poor/ disabled/ holocaust survivors/ elderly people/ youth at risk/ etc.

In harsh times, volunteers will contribute all over the Israeli society for the sake of all people, regardless to any prejudice, ideas or agendas. When needed they will land a hand, join the effort and do something for their country and community other than complaining, shouting and crying while disgracing the government, attacking the authorities and feeling pity for themselves.

Most of us understand that we hold responsibility for our nation and of course for our families, community and ourselves. Most of us understand that if we want to bring about change- we should do something proactive and productive about it. Most of us understand that before we ask for something, it is better to show some effort on behalf of ourselves and give to the neediest first.

Unfortunately, not all of the above is familiar to most of the Arab Israeli population who hold Israeli identity cards and enjoy more rights than most of the Israeli Jews, but still see themselves as Palestinians after 73 years of Israeli independence, achieved before the invention of the "Palestinian people".

How come?

This question should arise each time when Arab Israeli leaders and parliament members (Members of the Knesset) attack the state of Israel, its leaders, authority and policy.

It is worth asking the question "what have you done for Israel?" at every opportunity where Arab Knesset members are being interviewed and are used to lashing out at the Israeli police and security forces in view of the increased violence and crime activities inside the Israeli Arab and mixed Israeli communities.

It is good to ask the Arab Israeli leaders, who verbally attack the police for their alleged incompetence dealing with serious crime within the Arab society, what is their share in education, positive influence and prevention of delinquency and crime? Why do they not encourage the recruitment of young Israeli Arabs to serve in the police, Border Patrol and Civil Guard, which can protect their own families as well?

Why do they not preach for the full assistance and cooperation of Israeli Arab citizens in general and witnesses to crime in particular, to police investigations, but on the contrary, make their work more difficult and show empathy for those criminals and terrorists who attack the police officers and destroy their vehicles and stations.

It is worth asking Arab Israeli leaders how brazenly, with a lot of "Hutzpah" they dare to walk around with extra pride in state institutions, after the vast majority of them did not contribute a minute of their time, money and effort to them. It is enough to wander around Israeli hospital corridors and meet the national service young women who donate their time, with all their hearts, for the general public's needs, including Jews and Arabs. Why is it almost impossible to identify Israeli Arab national service young women or men in identical positions in hospitals, but only paid workers at all levels?

Is the value of volunteering, giving and caring for the broader civic society lacking in the Arab Israeli communities who live as citizens in Israel and have full rights? Can they be "harnessed" (and this is doubtful too) only when "al-Aqsa mosque is in danger" and they are supposedly required for "Jihad" or, God forbid, to become "Shahada" (the plural form of "Shahid" – martyr in Arabic).

Before Arab Israelis receive favorable and distorted discrimination (affirmative action) in state institutions, precedence for academic studies and governmental positions and jobs, in obtaining land and economic support from the state – it is also appropriate to ask them in advance: "What did you do for Israel before receiving another allowance, compensation, scholarship and benefit?"

Did any of those Arab Israelis think about thanking Israel publicly and asking politely "is it possible to contribute in an important social endeavor," instead of just coming out with cries of alleged discrimination, "occupation" and apartheid?.

Why is it that my children, all born and raised proudly in Israel, contributing as part of the youth movements, in "Magen David Adom" (first aid organization) activities, in a year of service in nonprofit organizations and then as soldiers and officers in the military for several years – do not enjoy any favorable discrimination in Israeli universities, various jobs, nor obtain land or free housing, like many Bedouins in the Negev area enjoy, for example?

How is it that a significant portion of the Arab Israelis who commemorate the "Nakba Day" (they consider the Israeli declaration of independence in 1948 as a disaster until now!) and the "Naksa Day" (their shame due to the Arab defeat in the 1967 war), proudly waving the Palestinian flag, raging against the Zionist state and the Jews, supporting terrorists and gloating over Israeli citizens in times of need –literally win the jackpot?!

To all the "angels" and the sanctimonious who immediately went out to attack and ask "But what about the haredi Jews?" I will answer simply – They are my brothers and sisters who do not wish for my death or to send my family back to Auschwitz or to Jewish Ghettos in Arab states. Their contribution to the preservation of our Jewish heritage, that kept Jews throughout hundreds and thousands years of exile, until our return to the Promised Land, is important, significant and indestructible. Orthodox Jews escort us in times of need from birth to death, immediately enlisting help and doing good deeds in rescue and welfare organizations like "Zaka", "Yad Sara", "Hatzala", "Zichron Menahem", etc. They quietly and modestly integrate into many frameworks, including the military in various positions that are not only in the Military Rabbinate necessarily, but also in C4I units, intelligence and even combat battalions.

Favorably discriminated

I will emphasize and clarify – most Arab Israelis throughout the country are favorably discriminated compared to Druze and Jews who are veterans of the army and national service!

Many Arabs in Israel behave as if they are the landlords and "Sheikhs" in the fullest sense of the word. They dishonor national symbols, the laws and the morals of the country that honors them much more than any other country in the Middle East, ever did!

They receive benefits and rights without being required to fulfill obligations as are Israeli Druze and Jews, which in any case are not strictly enforced towards them as they are enforced on Jews, for example.

This is the case in traffic laws, construction laws and regulations, taxation and labor laws, health regulations- like enforcing the Covid 19 restrictions, education regulations, hunting regulations, gun possession and more.

Many Arab Israelis feel today, certainly with the decrease of governance and deterrence in parts of the country lately, that they lack a basic commitment to the state. Israel became a "springboard" way to maximize personal rights, live in welfare and security, but to their chagrin not from their Arab brothers in the neighborhood or village.

After all, if the Jewish state is so bad, why is there no migration from the villages and cities of Arab Israelis in the Negev and the Galilee to the so-called "Occupied Territories"? Why do they come to study and work in the "Zionist institutions" and not at the Arab universities in Judea and Samaria, the Gaza Strip, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, etc. which are also open for them with Israeli I.Ds, but to all Jews are closed and prohibited?

If it is so bad to live in the Jewish state, the Arab Israelis can unite families in Lebanon, Gaza, Syria and Jordan or even just in Hebron, Nablus and Ramallah, Inshallah (with G-o-ds help). Out there, the free use of firearms and driving without a license does not necessarily constitute an offense or a nuisance, maintaining the dignity of the family and the honor of blood – are a clear and dignified need, marriage to several women is not necessarily considered an offense and building permits constitute a kind of joke.

Unfortunately, Israeli media figures, accustomed to sycophantic interviews with articulate and "nice" Arab Israeli Knesset members, escape the fundamental and difficult questions in the vast majority of interviews. They flee and disappear during a confrontation with Arab Israelis, but in front of Jewish interviewees, see it as a wonder: the paralysis and fear disappear in an instant, and sanctimonious attacks take their place. Where are all the great politicians and idealists who wrangle against each other and disgrace each other uninhibited until it reaches the relations of Arabs and Jews? How is it that most people consider interviews with Israeli Arabs like dealing with porcelain, abstaining the hard questions, and are not willing to confront them with facts instead of false narratives?

Col. (res.) Tal Braun is a former IDF recon battalion commander, and head of the Doctrine Department in the IDF ground forces. He is a strategic consultatant and a member of Habithonistim - Protectors of Israel's advisory board. He holds an LLB, a BA in Political Science, and an MA in Military and Security Studies.