Muslims and Christians must also serve in IDF (HAŽARETZ NEWS OP-ED) By Moshe Arens 02/28/12)
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It was not right that the attention of the Tal Law´s cancellation has
all been focused on the ultra-Orthodox community´s absence from the
IDF, while the Muslim and Christian community has been effectively
disregarded; equality is indivisible.
If you´re an Israeli citizen who is ultra-Orthodox, Muslim or
Christian, you´re exempt from sharing the burden of the country´s
defense with your fellow citizens who are Jewish or Druze. There is
no discrimination here - these religious communities are equal when
it comes to not defending the country. To be precise, not quite all.
The young men of the small Circassian community residing in Kafr Kama
and Reikhaniya in the Galilee, although Muslims, are obligated to do
compulsory military service. They are the exception.
The wording of the Supreme Court ruling invalidating the Tal Law -
which allowed full-time yeshiva students to defer army service - may
have had great significance to members of the legal profession. They
surely understood when the judges called the law unconstitutional and
not proportional. For the rest of us, there was no need for this
legalese. We knew all along that it was just not right - that the
burden of defense was not being shared equally among all its citizens
regardless of their religious affiliation.
As a matter of fact, it was not right that the attention has all been
focused on the ultra-Orthodox community´s absence from the IDF, while
the Muslim and Christian community has been effectively disregarded.
Equality is indivisible, not even along religious lines. This is
true, everyone must admit, when it comes to the rights that all
citizens of Israel must enjoy. It is equally true in a democratic
society when it comes to the obligations of citizenship. And yet, for
over 60 years this blatant discriminatory situation, affecting the
ultra-Orthodox, Muslims and Christians, has existed in Israel.
Indeed, the number of young men not serving in the IDF has increased
year on year.
The excuses offered for this anomalous situation are numerous. For
the ultra-Orthodox, it is said that their "learning" is more
important to the State of Israel than their presence in the military.
For Muslims and Christians, it is argued that, being Arabs, they
cannot be obligated to fight against the Arab enemies of Israel.
The truth is that the ultra-Orthodox community does not want its
young men mingling with others in the IDF, and ultra-Orthodox
political parties have, over the years, used their political leverage
to bar any changes in the exemption from military service that their
community has enjoyed. As for Israel´s Arab community, it has quietly
accepted the not insignificant economic benefits that accrue to those
not doing obligatory military service, while a small minority
volunteers for military service year by year.
The invalidation of the Tal Law provides an opportunity to tackle
this abnormal situation. The obligations of citizenship must be
shared equally by all of Israel´s citizens. By no stretch of the
imagination can this be done by another law. The present situation
has existed for too long and involves too large a number of Israel´s
citizens for it to be changed in one fell swoop. It is obvious that
the process of normalization can only be carried out gradually, year
The special IDF frameworks that have been established in the last few
years to facilitate the military service of Haredim have to be
enlarged, doubling the number of ultra-Orthodox serving in the IDF
year on year.
For young Muslims and Christians, a number of steps need to be taken.
The Bedouin infantry regiment, in which Bedouin serve on a voluntary
basis, should be enlarged. Another such regiment should be formed,
and volunteering for service in the IDF by Israel´s Arab citizens
should be promoted and encouraged.
Obligatory military service should be applied to the Bedouin in the
Galilee, where the volunteer rate is substantial. It has been
suggested that "national service," or "civilian service," can be a
substitute for military service for those not serving in the IDF.
This is an illusion which only emphasizes that certain sectors of the
population are being allowed to avoid the military service to which
the rest of the population is subject. It serves as an indication
that it is acceptable that certain communities don´t take part in the
defense of the country.
This concept - that a part of the population is exempt from defending
the country because of their religious affiliation - is not
acceptable and never will be acceptable. Defense of the country is
the ultimate obligation of citizenship by all its countrymen, without
exception. (© Copyright 2012 Ha´aretz 02/28/12)
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