Israeli-Arab Leaders Warn Against National Service

Israeli-Arab leaders Ra’ad Salah and MK Jamal Zahalka held a rally Saturday threatening Arabs who agree to take part in any national service.

Ezra HaLevi ,

Sheikh Ra'ad Salah
Sheikh Ra'ad Salah

Israeli-Arab leaders Sheikh Ra’ad Salah and MK Jamal Zahalka held a rally Saturday threatening Arabs who agree to take part in any Israeli national service.

Recent proposals suggest that an infrastructure be set up to provide an alternative national service in place of military service for Israel’s Arabs. Currently many Bedouin and Druze Arabs serve in the IDF, but Muslim Arabs have never been required to serve.

A recent government initiative is seeking to gain volunteers from the hareidi-religious and Israeli-Arab populations, recruiting community leaders to encourage participation.

Sheikh Ra’ad Salah, who heads the radical northern branch of the Israeli-Arab Islamic Movement, called upon Israeli-Arabs Saturday to resist any attempts to offer any national service to the Jewish state. This call comes after a declaration earlier this year of an “Israeli-Arab Intifada” in response to construction near the Temple Mount.

“More than anything, I fear that national service will cause internal strife among Israeli Palestinians that could eventually destroy our community.” Salah said, comparing the move to the US Army’s enlistment of Iraqis to police their own people.

MK Jamal Zahalka of the Balad Party threatened Israeli-Arabs promising “anyone who volunteers for national service will be treated like a leper, and will be vomited out of Arab society.”

He warned that former PM Ariel Sharon had suggested mandatory national service for Israel’s Arabs and claimed that the current move, which is voluntary, is but a stepping stone toward the drafting of Israel’s Arabs. “They are trying to Israelize our youth,” he said.

The protest took place in Haifa and was organized by a new movement called Balanda – founded and funded by the radical Balad Party, whose chief, former MK Azmi Bishara, is a fugitive, fleeing Israel during an investigation into his assistance of Hizbullah during the Second Lebanon War.

According to reports, the number of Israeli-Arab volunteers for national service has doubled over the past year, but still remains less than 1,000.