In 2010, Cpl. Eleanor Joseph became the first female Arab combat soldier in the
Joseph, a Christian Arab told Ma’ariv that her good luck charm is a
drawing of the Star of David with the caption: “I have no other land, even when
my ground is burning.” Her commander drew it for her.
“It is a phrase that strengthens me. Every time I experience hardship, I read
it. Because I was born here. The people I love live here: My parents, my
friends. This is a Jewish state? Yes, it is. But it’s also my country. I can’t
imagine living in any other place. I think every person should serve in the
army. You live here? You make your home here? Then go defend your country. What
does it matter that I’m an Arab?” Joseph’s story represents an incipient trend
of integration among Israel’s Arab community.
Among other things, this is
manifest in the consistently rising number of Israeli Arab students who elect to
study in Hebrew-language schools and in the rising number of Israeli Arabs who
elect to serve in national service, the civilian equivalent of military
A poll of Arab youth carried out in late 2007 made clear how
widespread this integrationist impulse has become. Seventy-five percent of Arab
youth aged 16 to 22 supported voluntary national service.
despite these sentiments and developments, Arab Israelis who seek to integrate
into Israeli society and reject the separatist messages of their political
leaders are forced to contend with extraordinary social pressures and even
coercion to prevent them from acting in accordance with their wishes.
study completed this week by Im Tirtzu exposes the vast array of NGOs generously
funded by the supposedly pro-Israel New Israel Fund as well as by foreign
governments which are running a campaign to oppose Cpl. Joseph and her comrades
– Arabs and Jews alike. Since 1999, these groups have been conducting a campaign
to undermine Arab integration into Israeli society specifically and to
demoralize and reduce the social standing of those who serve in the IDF,
national service and IDF reserves generally. The campaign is being carried out
on a dual track of discouraging Israeli Arabs from serving in the IDF or
national service, and of opposing government benefits to IDF veterans,
reservists and those who undertook national service by claiming that these
benefits unjustly discriminate against Israeli Arabs.
Im Tirtzu’s report
argues that the dual nature of the campaign, underwritten by the same funders,
shows that the goal “is to prolong irredentism or non-integration of the Arab
sector in order to encourage it to act as a sector demanding national
recognition and advance the aim of transforming the State of Israel from a
Jewish, democratic state into a bi-national state.”
As the report notes,
it is common practice in many countries to give government benefits and
preferential treatment to military veterans and reservists. The US government
provides massive assistance to veterans in employment, education, housing and
other areas. The purpose of these benefits is to raise general motivation to
serve and to reward those who have because the American people believe that
their personal service advances the interests of American society as a
To substantiate its claims against these NIF- and foreign
government-financed Israeli NGOs, Im Tirtzu’s organized its report as a timeline
of efforts undertaken by various NGOs to advance the goals of Arab separatism
and reducing the morale and social status of IDF and national service veterans
and reservists across the board.
Although the Hebrew-language report is
worth reading in its entirety, a few examples will suffice to show the scope of
In 1999, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel
published a report which claimed it was discriminatory for workplaces to make
military service a qualification for employment. The report went so far as to
insinuate that Israel could be likened to South Africa’s apartheid regime due to
workplace preference for veterans.
That report was followed by a series
of petitions to the High Court beginning in 2002 submitted by ACRI, Adalah and
other groups to overturn laws and government decisions that give preferential
treatment to IDF veterans and those who served in national service. The
petitions have not led to outright court victories. But in a number of cases,
the lawsuits were dropped after the government canceled the benefits under
These groups have opposed every sort of benefit, including
tuition discounts for students, differential reductions on government child
allotments for those who served in the military and national service and those
who did not, preferential treatment in state land tenders and grants and other
Some of these court cases directly targeted benefits to
Arab IDF veterans. For instance in 2005, Adalah petitioned the court against the
Israel Lands Authority for making military service a requirement for receiving
ILA land grants in Beduin villages. And in 2009, Adalah petitioned the court to
revoke preferential treatment to Cirassian veterans in an ILA tender for
homesteads in Kfar Kama, a Cirassian village in the Galilee.
receives nearly a million dollars every year from the NIF, and receives funding
as well from the EU, the UK, Sweden, Norway, Netherlands, Spain, Belgium, the
Ford Foundation and Christian Aid.
Adalah similarly receives massive
funding from the NIF, the EU, Switzerland and Scandinavian governments through
their joint foreign aid organs. It also receives funding from George Soros’s
Open Society Institute.
Some of the organizations involved are both
funders and participants. For instance, the Abraham Fund has participated in
High Court petitions against benefits to those who have served.
And it is
also a donor to Mossawa, an Israeli Arab group involved in the campaign. Mossawa
was co-founded by NIF’s Shatil organization.
According Im Tirtzu’s
report, active NGO campaigning against Israeli Arab national service and
military service began in 2007. That year Baladna, which receives funding from
the NIF, spearheaded what has become a continuous campaign to discourage Israeli
Arabs from participating in national service. Baladna claims that national
service is just military service in disguise.
In its words, “National
service is a direct arm of the Israeli Occupation Army and of security
frameworks that act and always have acted against the Arab population and the
Palestinian nation generally. And so, all attempts to present the notion of
civilian service as service for society are founded in a deliberate distortion
directed at society generally and against the Arab sector in
Following this line of reasoning, in 2010 Omar Nasser, the
head of the Araba Local Council, kicked two Arab women serving in national
service out of the local school. Defending his actions Nasser said, “I object in
principle to the national service project because I view it as a means of paving
the way for male and female volunteers to serve in the military in the future,
and I strenuously object to that.”
As the Im Tirtzu report indicates, the
NGO-led campaign against Israeli Arab military and national service has
contributed to a situation in which Israeli Arabs who support such service are
subjected to physical abuse, social ostracism, humiliation and
In October 2012, the Forum for Military Service in the
Christian Sector held a conference in Upper Nazareth whose purpose was to
encourage Christians to serve in the IDF and national service. Three hundred
people participated in the conference. One of the heads of Mosawa wrote a widely
distributed article accusing the Christian leadership of collaborating with the
IDF. She suggested blacklisting the communal leaders involved.
of the conference got out, one priest who participated was banned from the
Church of the Annunciation. Another priest had his tires slashed and a
blood-stained rag placed at his doorstep.
The children who participated
in the conference were singled out for abuse. Their photos were disseminated on
Facebook and in the Arab media. They were humiliated by their teachers and
Soldiers like Eleanor Joseph feel compelled to take off their
uniforms before they return home, because when they have worn them home, they
have faced harassment. One female IDF soldier reportedly was severely beaten by
The general campaign against benefits for IDF veterans and
those who served in national service also involves a similar campaign to
demoralize high school students and encourage them not to serve. For instance,
in 2008, Social TV, which is supported by the NIF and the US government,
broadcast a propaganda film targeting Jewish Israeli youth. Its aim was to
discourage them from serving in the IDF.
In 2009, 22 self-proclaimed
feminist organizations, many of which are financed by the NIF, launched a
campaign to support seven members of New Profile who are under police
investigation for launching websites instructing young people how to dodge the
draft – a felony offense.
But the main thrust of the anti-military
campaign has been to prevent and undermine Knesset and government action to
provide benefits for those who serve – Jewish and non-Jewish alike. According to
Im Tirtzu, the campaign has intimidated Justice Ministry officials into
obstructing bills still before committee hearings.
For instance, in May
2012, at a Knesset Economics Committee hearing on a bill to provide housing
benefits for IDF reservists, MK Miri Regev said the bill was being held up
because the attorney-general feared legal challenges in the High
This week, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved a
bill that would allow IDF soldiers to sue for libel those who wrongly accuse
them of having committed war crimes during their military service. Justice
Minister Tzipi Livni opposed the bill. Her opposition indicates that the bill
may face a similar fate as the Knesset’s attempt to provide benefits to
Military and national service are vital national
institutions. Integration of the Israeli Arab community is a vital national
interest. It is obscene that a handful of well-funded radicals are able to
undermine them both – while paralyzing our representative
Im Tirtzu’s report concludes with a list of recommendations
the Knesset and government ministries should take to help those who serve the
country, and to protect Israeli Arabs who serve and those who support them.
While they are all correct, and should be followed, they do not go far enough.
The time has come for the government and the Knesset to rein in the twin forces
– the NGO sector and the legal fraternity – which in the name of “democracy”
undermine our democracy.
Every election we send our representatives to
the Knesset. And every election the vast majority of our elected representatives
share our desire to support those who serve in the IDF and national service
without reference to their religion, race or gender. We want to support them
because they contribute to the general good of all of Israel.
But due to
a handful of NGOs that receive their funding from outside Israel from
governments and groups that do not share our values and interests, and due to
the cooperation they receive from activist judges and radical Justice Ministry
attorneys, the will of the people is stymied again and again and