Darwish: Israeli Arabs won't do civil service

Founder of Islamic Movement says service would call into question their loyalty to Palestinian cause.

Jerusalem Arabs 248.88  (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Jerusalem Arabs 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Israeli Arabs will never agree to do national service for the State of Israel because it would call into question their loyalty to the Palestinian cause, Sheikh Abdullah Nimr Darwish, the founder of Israel's Islamic Movement, said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post Sunday. "Any type of national service, no matter what it is, would be perceived by the Palestinian people as military service," said Darwish, speaking at his home in Kafr Kasim. "He [the Israeli Arab who volunteers for National Service] would be seen as an enemy to the Palestinian people. "To prove his loyalty to the Palestinian cause, he would be forced to join the Palestinian resistance movement against Israel. I do not allow my young people to enlist in organizations that fight for the Palestinian cause. But do not expect me to allow them to join the Israeli cause," added Darwish, who heads what is considered to be the more moderate southern wing of the Islamic Movement, created in the late 1990s. The Northern wing is headed by Sheikh Raid Salah of Umm al-Fahm who, unlike Darwish, opposes participating in national elections for the Knesset. Darwish was commenting on a government decision from August to encourage national service among Arabs - both Christian and Muslim - with Israeli citizenship. The service is voluntary and is aimed at helping the Arab community. Arabs youths who are exempt from military service are asked to volunteer in hospitals, community centers, drug rehabilitation centers, schools clinics or any other charity services. Nevertheless, Darwish said that it would be impossible for Israeli Arabs to do national service until Israel agreed to give the Palestinian people a state that included all land conquered by Israel in 1967 including east Jerusalem as its capital. In an exclusive interview with the Post, which will appear in its entirety on Tuesday, Darwish shared his thoughts on a wide range of subjects, including his movement's opposition to the definition of the state of Israel as Jewish, his inability to recognize a state of Israel that occupies east Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria, and his belief that if Israel does not agree to the Saudi initiative the next generations of Israelis will curse Israel's present leaders for missing an historic opportunity. In a related incident, President Shimon Peres and Chief Rabbis Shlomo Amar and Yona Metzger met with Druse leaders in the western Galilee Sunday as part of the Id al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice) celebrations. Peres said that the state of Israel was proud of the Druse's contribution. "Among Druse there is 0% draft dodging and 100% dedication to Israel's security," the president said. He said that 54% volunteered for combat duty. Metzger said that "we are not just brothers in arms, we are brothers in peace and coexistence and love. I come to you with a request that you allow every person to live among you in peace. If a Druse comes to Tel Aviv to live, I will accept him with a blessing. If a Jew comes to Peki'in, accept him in a similar way." Metzger was referring to a violent incident staged by residents of the Druse village of Peki'in against Jewish residents there. Meanwhile, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter told a crowd of Israel Arabs at the opening of the first Kadima branch in an Arab town, Shfar'am, on Sunday that "whoever speaks for 60 years about the catastrophe befalling them [referring to the establishment of Israel in 1948], will suffer a real catastrophe in the end." He did not elaborate. Israeli Arab leaders have threatened to boycott state events for Israel's 60th anniversary next year, saying they don't feel part of the celebrations. Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.