An IDF Beduin tracker on patrol. Unlike other minorities that serve in the army, for Beduin, service is on a volunteer basis..
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)
Twenty-five Beduin IDF reservists wrote to Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Sunday saying that will not serve until the until the government starts addressing systematic discrimination against their community.
The open letter written by residents of the Beduin town of Bir al-Maksur in the Western Galilee said we for “years contributed our share to the nation.
“We served in combat units in the IDF and we have shed blood and tears in safeguarding Israel’s borders and of its citizens. Unfortunately, when our military service was over, we realized that we were on our own. The country that sent us to fight on the battlefield abandons us day by day, hour by hour.”
The signatories said they felt a “sense of betrayal” when upon the completion of their military service, they had hoped to start their education and find work, both in the security field but also in more mundane jobs such as driving buses, but were unable to.
“We all bore weapons when we were 18 to defend the citizens of Israel. But the country now seems to think it is dangerous to again trust Beduin who wish to join the police, to be firefighters, and so on, with weapons.
“Yes, it seems that a gun in the hands of a Beduin is dangerous. We understood that we can’t work in anything that contributes to the security of Israel. So maybe we’ll work in transportation?” they wrote.
Beduin are not obliged to serve in the army; since 1948, more than 110 Beduin volunteers have died defending Israel.
Earlier this month the IDF promoted a Beduin officer, Hassan Abu Saleb, to the rank of colonel to be in charge of Beduin recruitment.
The IDF has stepped up attempts to recruit from the community, including sending Beduin troops into towns to encourage youths to volunteer to serve. According to a senior IDF officer, 357 Beduin joined the IDF in 2015: 254 from the North and 103 from the South.
According to the open letter, there was a significant decrease in the number of recruits from among the Beduin population, and if the systematic discrimination felt by the community doesn’t stop, there will be a further reduction.
“We will not be able to teach them that they should enlist,” they wrote.
One-third of Israel’s 200,000 Beduin live in unrecognized villages where the inhabitants suffer from lack of infrastructure, rely on solar panels for electricity, don’t have roads or sewage, are not connected to the water supply network, and are not provided health or educational services.
“We say, no more! We no longer allow the continued spitting in our faces by those who sent us to spill our blood. We will not continue to fulfill our duty if no one sustains our rights. We hereby announce the termination of our active reserve service. We will not return to serve until we feel the state treats us as equals as citizens of Israel,” the letter stated.
In a statement obtained by The Jerusalem Post, Liberman, who still hadn’t received the letter, said he has “placed special emphasis on strengthening minority populations in the army and among Beduin soldiers” since taking becoming defense minister last May.
According to the statement, one of the reasons behind his visits to the Desert Reconnaissance Battalion was to “convey the message to the soldiers that he met there and the entire Beduin population, that he intends to see to it that the Beduin soldiers serving in the IDF receive a comprehensive aid program before and after their service, and that he intends to allocate the necessary resources for it.”
Once he will receives the letter, Liberman’s office will convey this message to those who signed it as well, the statement from his office said.