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Photo by: Courtesy Balad
Balad accepts civil service if managed by Arabs
By ARIEL BEN SOLOMON
18/01/2013
Israeli-Arab candidate Yazbak to 'Post': Faction against IDF service, sees current civil service program as seeking to Israelize Arabs.
 
Balad (National Democratic Alliance) is an Israeli-Arab party that seeks to transform Israel into a “purely democratic state” without any Jewish characteristics – “a state for all its citizens,” as coined by its founder, former MK Azmi Bishara.

Bishara was accused of aiding Hezbollah during the 2006 Second Lebanon War and fled Israel in 2007.

MK Jamal Zahalka took his place as the head of the party, which also includes Knesset members Haneen Zoabi and Said Nafa.

Its charter calls for the removal of all settlements, the removal of the “racist separation fence,” recognition of unrecognized Arab villages and construction, autonomy in cultural areas and education, and the right of return of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to Israel.

Sami al-Ali, a Balad spokesman, said that the Psychometric Entrance Test for higher education was inherently discriminatory because they ask questions about Jewish culture that “gives an advantage to someone who grows up in a Jewish home, learning facts about Jewish literature and history.”

Because of this, there are 5,000 Arab Israelis studying in Jordan, although they would prefer to study in Israel.

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Arabs are also not allowed to study toward a degree for three years after high school because they do not enlist in the IDF or perform national service, which keeps youth from advancing in life, Ali said.

“There are plenty of Arab organizations that could run an Arab national service program, but instead it is run by the Prime Minister’s office,” he said. “The goal of the program is to ‘Israelize’ Arabs as a first step toward getting them to join the army.”

Arabs will not join the IDF, he said, and “if they try to force us then they will have to put us all in jail.”

Heba Yazbak is a Balad activist from Nazareth and a member of the party’s central committee. She is also a candidate and sixth on the party’s list for the Knesset election, and a Phd candidate in social sciences at Tel Aviv University.

Yazbak spoke with The Jerusalem Post on Thursday and answered a series of questions.

What do Arab youth, and those in Balad, think about the issue of army and national service in Israel?

We are totally against participating in the Israeli army, as Palestinian citizens of Israel.

We reject taking part in the Israeli army because it is an army that makes wars and occupies the land of the Palestinian people, which we are a part of. We want the Israeli occupation to end.

As for national service, we also oppose this project, which we see as another attempt by the Israeli state to strip the Arab population of its Palestinian identity by the process of Israeli acculturation. So it’s not a volunteering and development project as it is presented, but aims to distort the identity of Palestinian youth.

What changes to the system do you think are needed and do you see any possibility of Arabs wanting to join the army and/or national service in the future? And if so, under what conditions?

The first and main thing is to end the occupation. When Israel ends the occupation and stops building more settlements, the conditions between Arabs and the state will get improve.

I don’t see the Palestinians taking part in the Israeli army under any circumstances, even when the occupation will be finished. This is because the Israeli army took an active and major part in occupying our land and people.

The same goes for national service. We believe that the Arabs themselves must build the volunteering projects for Arabs in order to suit it to their own vision.

How does Balad seek to improve the situation for Arab youth?

All Arab and youth issues are political ones: labor, education, living conditions and housing – it is all political.

When Arab youth want to study at university, his grades are lower than Jewish students because of discrimination.

There is a policy of not investing in Arab students (an average of 35 students per class).

And the curriculum does not recognize us and our own culture.

Further, the Psychometric Entrance Test ignores Arab culture.

Also, some fields have an age limit. In addition, acceptance to the dormitories depends on army or civil crevice, so Arab students who did not serve have less of a chance to get in.

The same is true about the Israeli workforce. Too many fields ask for army or civil service, and this is something that Arab youth do not have. Therefore, it makes it difficult for Arabs to find jobs.

In addition to the areas of labor and employment, the state does not support Arab towns, because of a policy of discrimination, marginalization and exclusion. And even worse is the attempt to put Arab girls under the banner of national service in order to get some benefits instead of supporting them according to the wishes of Arab society.

The Arab youth suffer from a discriminatory policy against them in all fields.
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