Last weekend, the Saudi Arabian London-based magazine Al Majalla ran a cover story featuring Arab Israelis who serve in the IDF. The article describes the IDF as”‘the people’s army,’ in which Israeli Jews, Druze, Muslims, Arabs, Bedouins, and Christians are brothers in arms.”
The article begins by delving into the story of Druze conscripts serving in Israel’s army in what is referred to as a “covenant of blood.” The Druze are the only non-Jewish minority drafted into the IDF. More than 80% percent of Druze men enlist in the IDF, the highest enlistment percentage of all communities and sectors of Israeli society, including Israeli Jews.
But, as the article notes, the Druze are a distinct ethnic community separate from Palestinian Muslims and Christians who live inside Israel. Israel has a population of about 10 million, of which 74.3% identify as Jewish, followed by about 17.9% who identify as Muslim, 1.9% as Christian, roughly 2% as Druze, and about 4% as ‘other.’
The article notes that Israeli Arabs “possess the same rights as Jewish Israelis under the law. Israeli Arabs are integrated into the Israeli workforce and represented in every sector of the society, including the highest political echelons and the Israeli Defense Forces.”
This flies in the face of anti-Israel media, which inaccurately perpetuate the libelous claim that Israel is an “apartheid state.”
The article’s stated purpose is to tout the increasing role of Arabs in the IDF, as it wrote:
“Despite the fact that Israeli law does not force Israel’s Arab Muslims, Christians, or Bedouins to join the IDF, the past few years have seen a sharp and steady increase of young men and women from Israel’s Arab society joining the IDF in great numbers compared to a decade ago.”
Though not great, the number of Muslim Arabs serving in the IDF is indeed increasing. The article claimed that within the Christian sector, the IDF is recruiting between 130-150 soldiers; Bedouins from the South roughly about 150 a year; Bedouins from the North between 300-350. The article claimed that 40-100 soldiers from various Muslim Arab towns and villages are recruited annually.
A JPost article reported that despite the recent conflict with Gaza that was accompanied by riots in mixed Israeli cities, there was a sharp rise in the number of Muslims drafted to the IDF. Some 606 Muslim Arabs were drafted to the IDF in 2020, compared to 489 in 2019 and 436 in 2018. More than half of those who have drafted went to combat roles. The number of those drafted to the Bedouin reconnaissance unit has almost doubled in two years, from 84 in 2018 to 171 in 2020. In 2017, only 45 people were drafted to the unit. The IDF now opens two platoons for basic training for each draft in light of the increase.
The article interviews several Arab soldiers serving in the IDF who all express enthusiasm and pride in their service. But the article also interviewed Hanin Zoabie, a Christian Arab member of Knesset known for her anti-Israel stance. She claimed, “Israel is after people to serve in the army who are poor and have no work.” Zoabie continued, saying, “Ninety percent of the Arabs who serve in the Israeli army don’t have equality with Israelis. Israel does not need them to protect its security; it’s a political issue – first to divide and rule.”
Zoabnie’s assertion was refuted by Hassan Kaabia, a former Lieutenant Colonel who served in the IDF for over two decades and currently works as the spokesman for the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“The IDF is the only institution where there is no discrimination, and there is total equality and inclusion,” Kaabia said. “It is not true that they are joining because of economic factors. The majority of Israeli Arabs who join the army do it for one reason: they want to be part of the state. They want to integrate into the civil society and also get better career opportunities, as most companies prefer candidates who done their military service.” Kaabia adds that “Zoabi has a political agenda that has resulted in some not wanting to be integrated into the Israeli society. But it’s fine for her to work in the Parliament and get a very high salary from the government of Israel, who also pays for her car, office, and so on.”
“We are not holding a stick and forcing people to join,” Kaabia said in conclusion. “We have enough soldiers in the IDF who are more than capable of protecting Israel. Israel is for all Israelis – Jews, Muslims, Bedouins, Christians, Druze, and so on. The IDF is here to serve all the People of Israel. We see the IDF as a home, a family where everyone should make to feel welcomed and included. Israel is a multi-faith and cultural society with many minorities. The IDF can be a great platform to connect all of us to our homeland, Israel.”