+972 Magazine's Stories of the Week

Directly In Your Inbox

Analysis News
Visit our Hebrew site, "Local Call" , in partnership with Just Vision.

Knesset goes after artists who didn't serve in the IDF

What’s wrong with the “military service shirkers” bill? Well, just about everything

The Ministerial Legislation Committee is scheduled to debate tomorrow (Sunday) a bill by MK Moshe Matalon (Yisrael Beitenu), which prohibits government support of artists who are “military service shirkers” (Mishtamtim, in Hebrew). In explaining why the bill is essential (Hebrew document), Matalon says: “The spread of the phenomenon of evading one’s duty of serving in the IDF is critically supported by celebrities, particularly of the arts and sports fields, who undoubtedly serve as a role model for the youth, and who are unwilling to let a contribution to the State harm their own career advancement. This sends a severe message to the youth, according to which the worship of the celebrities and the love they receive do not necessarily derive from a contribution to the existence of the State and society and sharing the [common – YZG] burden.”

One does wonder what Matalon thinks of the example set by his fellow USSR Beitenu MKs, the famous patriots Faina Kirshebaum and Anastasia Michaeli: Look, kids, you can make it to the Knesset, and as bloviating ultra-nationalists, without serving even a single minute in the IDF! Perhaps MK Matalon should clean his own house first?

Snarkiness and the usual hypocrisy of Yisrael Beitenu aside, Matalon’s bill contains several reasons for concern. For starters, there is no such thing as “shirker.” The IDF is responsible for discharging anyone who doesn’t serve; none can do so without the IDF’s approval. There are people who avoid the service, even though they are lawfully bound to this indentured servitude, and they are generally called defectors. For its own reasons, the IDF has repeatedly tried to confuse the terms “shirker” and “defector,” trying to make Israelis think defectors are shirkers. Now, if the IDF suspects that someone has cheated it, and avoided indentured servitude – to which yours truly has finally bid goodbye this week – through cheating, then it has to gather the evidence (it is a criminal offense), and drag that person to court. Somehow, this very rarely happens. There is no “evading phenomenon:” there is only whining by the IDF.

The IDF plays fast and loose with the data. It repeatedly hints that most of the people discharged for mental reasons are faking it, and that most of them are secular people. But when it was forced to expose the data, it turned out (Hebrew) 45% of the people getting a mental health based discharged are ultra-Orthodox – who are free of military duty anyway. Why are the haredim, who are already discharged, asking for a mental health discharge? Because with a mental health discharge, they are no longer bound to their yeshivas and can legally go to work. Why does the IDF play this game? Hopefully, we’ll find out some day.

You know your bill is over-patriotic when it troubles Limor Livnat (Credit: Activestills)

You know your bill is over-patriotic when it troubles Limor Livnat (Credit: Activestills)

Onwards. Matalon’s bill demands that people who did not serve in the National Service should also be punished. However, no Israeli citizen is obligated to serve in the National Service; due to ultra-Orthodox pressure, the National Service Law of 1953 was never accompanied by the necessary ordinances, and the law itself says that as long as there are no ordinances, the law is not valid. That is, people can volunteer if they so wish, but they are not obliged to do so. Furthermore, the National Service, in its present form, is a hobby of the girls of the religious-nationalist sector.

Perhaps the most alarming issue regarding the bill’s National Service clause is the fact this is a clear discrimination of the Arab citizens. When Arab youth ask to serve in the National Service, the government goes out of its way to say no (Hebrew). It perfectly fits the mentality of USSR Beitenu for the government to boycott the people it refused to allow into the National Service, because they failed to serve in it.

Perhaps the strangest bit in the bill, and the most Soviet, is the authority granted to the Minister of Culture and Sports to allow an artist to perform even though he did not serve in the IDF. That is, Matalon and the rest of the MKs who signed the bill want to turn the Minister into a current and Israeli version of Andrei Zhdanov: at his whim, the artist may either work or starve.

Even Limor Livnat, the current minister – not a blushing violet she: her artistic career began in disturbing theater shows which were not patriotic enough for her taste, and she later upgraded her act into physical assault of a protester; some would say her main contribution to Israeli culture was giving inspiration to the young punk band, “Punch Limor Livnat in the face,” even she does not want to become the second coming of Zhdanov, and she announced (Hebrew) she would oppose the bill.

Such bills rarely become laws. The problem with them is the atmosphere of false resentment they create: Look at those bastards in the Knesset/the High Court of Justice, they’re defending the shirkers. They’re all non-patriots, they’re all traitors. That’s how you pull the ground out from under sane politics, a politics of citizenship and human rights, and replace it with a politics of blood and land, of unthinking grudge. It seems that, for members of Yisrael Beitenu, that is precisely the point.

Before you go...

A lot of work goes into creating articles like the one you just read. And while we don’t do this for the money, even our model of non-profit, independent journalism has bills to pay.

+972 Magazine is owned by our bloggers and journalists, who are driven by passion and dedication to the causes we cover. But we still need to pay for editing, photography, translation, web design and servers, legal services, and more.

As an independent journalism outlet we aren’t beholden to any outside interests. In order to safeguard that independence voice, we are proud to count you, our readers, as our most important supporters. If each of our readers becomes a supporter of our work, +972 Magazine will remain a strong, independent, and sustainable force helping drive the discourse on Israel/Palestine in the right direction.

Support independent journalism in Israel/Palestine Donate to +972 Magazine today
View article: AAA
Share article
Print article

    * Required


    1. am an Israeli.Me and my fiednrs are not poor people, have high educations, god jobs, enjoy our life, love our democracy and freedom.However we are taking part in the social protest because we think that major corrections should be done in our society.–Not to revolution- Yes to evolution!Not to pure capitalism, communism, socialism!Yes to a learning form mistakes and make correction- adaptive system for the benefit of the citizens. _I am for:1: Power to the people:The governmental system should be changed:Presidential government-direct elected.Parliament members-direct elected.Parliament t members will not take part in the government2: Econamical incentives to citizens contributing to society.*Differentiate social priorities and benefits:The ones fulfilling their citizen’s ship duties should be get priority on affordable housing, cheep education from children garden up university, lower income duties, lower and differentiated indirect taxes example the VAT3: The government should encourage:*Increase national income by pursing unproductive sectors to join the working citizens* Provide government incentives to start ups committing build in Israel in addition of development centers local manufacturing as well.* Industry and start ups to move from Tel Aviv area to peripheries. —I oppose:* New elections ahead of the 4 years elected period*Demands to changing the current government*Connecting the protest to foreign policy*Politicians attempt to split the people between left, right, secular, religions, Ashkenazi, Sfaradi .*Increase budget deficit

      Reply to Comment