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
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
Because of this, there are 5,000 Arab Israelis studying in
Jordan, although they would prefer to study in Israel.
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
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
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
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.
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
How does Balad seek to improve the situation for Arab youth?
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
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
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.