Good news, bad news on ‘price tag’ attacks

The hooligans carrying out ‘price tag’ attacks – it doesn’t matter whether we call them terrorists or neo-Nazis – have the same aim as certain Arab politicians: to prevent the integration of Israeli Arabs into Israeli society.

Moshe_Arens_cropped-150x150By Moshe Arens

The good news is that there are indications of substantial progress toward the integration of Israel’s minority populations into the fabric of Israeli society. The bad news is that sectarian vandalism directed against Israel’s minority populations continues almost unchecked, greatly overshadowing the futile debate over who was responsible for the breakdown of the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. It is the ability of Jews and Arabs to live peacefully together in the State of Israel that will determine Israel’s future more than anything else. When the state’s Jewish and Arab citizens share equally in the rights and duties of citizenship and benefit equally from its opportunities, Israel will be at peace.

Here’s the good news: The number of draft-age Arab teens volunteering for national civil service is increasing from year to year: from the north, Arab Muslims and Christians; from the south, Bedouin. Ten years ago, there were 100 such volunteers. Last year, there were 3,000 — 76 percent more than in the previous year. Most impressive of all is the fact the majority of the volunteers are female.

And there’s more! The number of draft-age Arabs who volunteer to serve in the Israel Defense Forces for three years is also rising. This year attention has been drawn to the number of Christian Arabs volunteering for military service, and the encouragement of such service by Greek Orthodox priest Father Gabriel Naddaf. In recent years, around 100 Christian Arabs have enlisted in the IDF each year. That number is now increasing: In the second half of 2013 alone, 81 Christian Arabs signed up to serve.

Some analysts attribute the growing desire by Israeli Arab Christians to serve in the IDF to the civil war in Syria and the heavy toll it has extracted from the country’s centuries-old Christian community. Perhaps the bloodbath taking place in Syria will induce Israel’s Muslim youth to follow a similar course, in realization of the benefits enjoyed by all Israeli citizens in these turbulent times in the Middle East.

Some of Israel’s Arab politicians have expressed vocal opposition to volunteering for national military or civilian service by members of their communities. They know such service will lead to these volunteers’ integration into Israeli society. These politicians have seen the example set by young Druze men, who since 1956 have been called up for compulsory military service, and their subsequent integration into Israeli society, and they would prefer that the country’s Arab community remain separate from Israeli society as a whole. These politicians want to spread a “Palestinian’ umbrella that is hostile to Israel over all of Israel’s minorities – Druze, Christian, Bedouin and Muslim. They claim that by encouraging Christian Arabs to serve in the IDF, the government is trying to “divide” the “Palestinian” camp in Israel.

In fact, in moving toward equal civic duties for all Israelis, the government is acting wisely, gradually encouraging all minorities to assume their obligation to serve in the defense of the country but concentrating initially on those communities, such as Bedouin and Christians, where there is already a willingness to serve in the IDF.

Far more serious than the opposition of some of Israel’s Arab politicians to Arab national civilian or military service are the acts of vandalism perpetrated by Jewish youths against Muslim and Christian places of worship and the property of Arab citizens. These gangs of hooligans — it does not matter whether they are called terrorists or neo-Nazis — have the same aim as some of the Arab politicians, namely to prevent the integration of Israel’s Arab citizens into Israeli society. The potential damage here is less to Israel’s international reputation than to Israel itself.

It seems that Arab youths are overcoming the radical Arab politicians by voting with their feet. It is up to the security services and the police to put an end to the “price tag” phenomenon.

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