+972 Magazine's Stories of the Week

Directly In Your Inbox

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

Palestinian citizens cannot be expected to serve Jewish state

By Fady Khoury

In an earlier post, I argued that the expectation for Palestinian citizens of Israel to serve in the army or in any alternative service lacks moral justification. I will elaborate on this argument here.

It goes as follows:

If (1) national service is an alternative to military service;
And (2) there is no moral basis upon which Palestinians can be expected to serve in the army;
Then (3) there is no moral basis upon which Palestinians can be expected to serve in national service.

Going forward, I will attempt to prove the first two statements of my argument, which if I succeed, will prove the conclusion in the third.


The key word here is alternative. In Israel, national service was introduced as an alternative to military service, for religious females and those who are exempt for a variety of reasons including health problems and conscientious objection. The thought behind establishing these additional forms of service was to repair an imbalance of duties between citizens in order to achieve equality between citizen groups. This took into account the obstacles that might arise from an attempt to enforce military service on all citizens.

The requirement for national service was first applied to religious Jewish women who were exempt from the military; in 1947, David Ben-Gurion said, “A girl or woman, who due to religious reasons or a religious family way of life, cannot enlist, is exempt from service.” In 1953, the Knesset passed a law requiring these women to serve in an alternative form – national service – for two years. In the 1990s, the government considered several initiatives to expand the national service program, against the backdrop of public demands calling for all those who were exempt – not only religious women but also Palestinian citizens – to serve the state. Nowadays, public opinion widely holds that Palestinian citizens should be obligated to do national service in exchange for their military exemption.


What is the function that the military aims to fulfill? “Security” is a popular answer, and partially true. But any army serves a more abstract function, which is to defend and uphold the basic constitutional framework of the state. In Israel, this framework is represented by the Jewish-democratic paradigm. Some states include this function in their constitutions. Israel has yet to complete its constitution and the Basic Law: the Military does not elaborate on the functions that the IDF is supposed to fulfill. The ethics code of the IDF – called “IDF Spirit” – states the following:

“…IDF soldiers will operate according to the IDF values and orders, while adhering to the laws of the state and norms of human dignity, and honoring the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.”

One of the values promoted by the IDF is “…commitment and devotion to the State of Israel – a democratic state that serves as a national home for the Jewish People – Its citizens and residents” (emphasis added).

Clearly, the IDF is dedicated to protecting Israel from threats that come its way – most prominently the threat to its Jewish nature. Therefore, in order to determine who is morally obligated to serve in this institution, we should point out that it is the Jewish citizens who are most invested in the Jewish definition of the state, gain the most from it, and are more likely to be willing to sacrifice to maintain it.

The Palestinian citizens on the other hand oppose this definition because it excludes them. The Jewish identity of Israel is the source of their marginalization and status as secondary citizens in their homeland. They cannot be morally expected to uphold and protect the basic features of the entity that they oppose by serving in the institution whose job description is to do so. The existence of the occupation is a factor, but is not the main consideration. It is not merely a question of whether it would be morally justified to expect Palestinians to serve in the IDF and contribute to the oppression of their people in the occupied territories. It is much broader than that. The question is whether it would be morally justified to expect Palestinians “to fight, to dedicate all their strength and even sacrifice their lives in order to protect the State of Israel” which “serves as a national home for the Jewish People.” In my view, it most certainly would not be morally justified.


The absence of a moral duty to serve in the IDF leads to the conclusion that any alternative duty is equally lacking a moral basis. Those who argue for the implementation of national service for Palestinians in order to balance the Jewish citizens’ military service overlook the set of rights that is afforded to the Jews by the mere identification of the state as Jewish. As I have stated before, only a bi-national state can give rise to a moral obligation on the part of the Palestinian citizens to serve in the army or in any alternative service.

Fady Khoury is a legal intern at Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and not Adalah. 

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. Aaron

      That’s a good argument. I basically agree with it, but I’m not still sure I agree with every word as I did in your earlier post.
      What about the Druze? Can they be “expected” to serve in the IDF (or “national” service)? Why or why not? I’d guess it’s something like this: They can be expected to serve in the IDF because they freely accept and support the existence of Israel as a Jewish state. Other Arab Israelis do not collectively support the existence of Israel as a Jewish state, so they are not morally obligated to serve.
      In other words, I’m suggesting that the relevant fact is not that Arab Israelis are excluded – so are the Druze – but that Arab Israelis *choose*, for whatever reason, not to support the state – which is their right, because they were here first. In a hypothetical bi-national state, Arab Israelis would have an obligation to serve not because the state is bi-national, not because they are “included,” but because they presumably would have consented to the state’s establishment.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Richard Witty

      I think national service is a very very good thing, and affords Palestinian Israelis a way to assert that they are contributing to the nation, thereby short-circuiting the idiotic rationalizations for excluding Palestinians from full national participation.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Noam W

      Fadi – thank you for your detailed answer in the previous post and for this post as well – I have been busy and so disappeared.

      I think I understand your argument, but I am not sure I am convinced. To focus my, I will call it lack of conviction for now, let us see where we do agree. I agree with you that there is nefarious discrimination against Palestinians in Israel. I agree with you that the Palestinian population in Israel is indigenous.

      I also agree – and this is going a step further – that Palestinians have no moral duty to serve Israeli institutions that promote the Jewish nature of the state of Israeli qua being Jewish.

      But this does not mean, I think, that Palestinians owe no duty to the states as citizens. I agree with you completely that rights are independent on duties. I am not sure that duties aren’t also independent of rights.

      I understand duties to be corollary to rights. So the rights of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship to vote, is corollary with the duty of the Israeli government to enable the Palestinians to vote. It is not dependent on Palestinian oaths of fealty, military service etc.

      Now, if we think that citizens of a state have a duty to provide national service, unless there is something that is inherent in the national service itself that negates that right I do not see a reason for that right to be dependent on an extrinsic issue.

      When we apply that to the army, that is there (unfortunately) to serve the “Jewish” state, there is an inherent contradiction, because I agree with you that the Palestinians have no duty to uphold the Jewishness of the state (at least not as it is formulated now – whether there can exist a Jewish state that Palestinians can have a duty to uphold is a more complex question to which I have no answer).

      But, national service is not national service to uphold a Jewish state (at least not inherently so – if as a national service Palestinians were obliged to support another Jewish qua Jewish aspect of the state the duty would not exist). National service can be at local schools, hospitals etc.

      In other words, if duties are independent of rights, I have a hard time following your reasoning…

      Reply to Comment
    4. Fady K.

      @Aaron: I don’t believe Druze should be morally obligated to serve in the military. I truly believe they are victims of the initial Israeli approach that viewed Arabs as several religious groups and not as one national group and victims of a leadership that didn’t know better (to say the least).
      @Richard: I think your point is invalid and the Druze example is the perfect example for an Arab sub-group, the members of which serve in the army, yet are still discriminated against as all Arabs.
      Additionally, What nation? there is no nation here. there are two nations living within a territory that is politically controled by one. the exclusion of Palestinians is not only something that is being done, but something that stems from the nature, identity of the Jewish state.

      Reply to Comment
    5. aristeides

      I think the right word here is not “expected” but “required.”

      Reply to Comment
    6. Fady K.

      Thanks for your comments. They are challenging (and that’s a good thing)
      I get your point. But I respectfully disagree. Palestinian youth do volunteer. I don’t argue that they shouldn’t. But the fact that national service is perceived as an alternative to the military service reveals its true purpose, which is to create equality in duties between those who serve in the army and those who don’t. This view doesn’t take into account the fact that those who serve in the army are already favored in one main set of rights that is given to them by the definition of the constitutional identity of the state as a Jewish state.
      I see it as follows:
      I don’t have a land; therefore, I’m not required to pay property taxes.
      I and a land owner pay the same taxes and the land owner pays an additional property tax.
      Then the land owner demands from the state to require me to pay an additional tax in order to achieve equality.
      MY argument would be in that case, since there’s no moral justification for me to pay property tax, any alternative tax would be equally morally unjustified. I would continue to argue that the land owner has more wealth than me, therefore the appearance of inequality is mistaken.

      I agree that rights should not be conditioned on duties. But taxes are normally paid in expectation for some return that can be somehow grasped. Therefore, when Sderot was under Hamas missiles and Israel wasn’t able to provide it with the security it should have, taxes were lowered. So when it comes to taxes, duties (paying taxes) are connected to rights (getting services).
      Army service is a type of tax, time and effort type of tax imposed on citizen in order to provide a public good which cannot be provided by the free market. Just like the man who’s not a land owner in my metaphor should not pay an alternative tax since there isn’t any moral foundation on which it can be based, the same conclusion should be recognized in the service tax. If the main tax (army service) is unfounded morally, then the alternative would be unfounded morally as well.

      Reply to Comment
    7. sh

      Noam’s made most of the points that occurred to me, much better than I could have, but:
      1) I see national service recruits working in old people’s homes, institutions for the handicapped, schools, hospitals, and probably a lot of places I don’t know about. Does Israeli national service include working in what we have allowed to be called “the Arab sector” or is it restricted to only the Jewish one (assuming Jews are a sector too)?
      2) I have a problem with this sentence: “Clearly, the IDF is dedicated to protecting Israel from threats that come its way – most prominently the threat to its Jewish nature.” That startled me as it’s not at all clear to me. I see the most prominent threat – and thus the army’s first duty to defend against – as being to life, limb and infrastructure, not Israel’s Jewish nature. In other countries – I’m basing this on what I know about a particular European country and supposing it is not the only one that does this – conscientious objectors do national service (someone I know kept the yard of some institution or other clean for a year as his contribution to the country he lived in).
      3) Included under the military service umbrella are teaching jobs in schools in another sector we’ve invented called the “peripheria”. These are often done by young women in army uniform, which seems kind of odd. Does anyone know why jobs like that are not part of national rather than military service?

      4) Isn’t military service a branch of national service rather than vice versa? Also, I wonder whether waiting to do anything for one’s own people until the country gets a government that treats all citizens equally isn’t doing things back to front.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Michael W.

      “those who serve in the army are already favored in one main set of rights that is given to them by the definition of the constitutional identity of the state as a Jewish state.”

      What rights do “they” have?

      Reply to Comment
    9. Richard Witty

      I think that in discouraging national service by Palestinian Israelis, that you are more supporting the likud argument than opposing it.

      By that I mean that your actual participation in Israeli society is what creates the relationships, and the relationships create the political platforms and then legislation.

      If like in the J-14 demonstrations, you fully and enthusiastically participated in the demonstrations as peer, then that would be the actual relationship, rather than the external form, the clothing.

      So, by discouraging national service that puts Palestinian in a peer status with Jewish Israelis (especially if similar choices are afforded to Jewish Israelis), you will be encouraging the ACTUAL separation and subordination of Palestinian Israelis.

      Participate, and then claim your stake, as has happened in all civil rights efforts historically. For example, in the US, after black Americans served in the US military and as peers in industry and unions, when they returned to the US, they were persecuted. That cognitive dissonance did not last. The peer status was the reality that the separate and unequal status grossly conflicted.

      Its the old question of whether normalization or anti-normalization is the more effective means to assert one’s rights.

      I say PRIMARILY normalization, then when established, to work to change the external form, rather than working to change the external form and then hope that the reality also changes.

      Using South Africa as an example, the form of apartheid ended, but the reality of the gross imprisonment of poverty and illiteracy remains for the majority of blacks.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Zayzafouna

      I second Fady’s argument and take it one farther. I dont recognize Israelis right to a single grain of Palestine. Therefore, “Israeli” Palestinians should not contribute anything that would strengthen “Israel”, but should boycott anything that is “Israeli”. I wish to be excluded from “Israeli” national life because it is an illegitimate country

      Reply to Comment
    11. Aaron

      Re voluntary civil service by Arabs, I agree that would be wonderful, if done for patriotic rather than selfish reasons, but I don’t see it happening in great numbers in the near future. If it did happen sometime, then that would be one sign of active loyalty as opposed to passive obedience, which would be one sign of consent to the existence of the state, which in turn would then entail (according to my theory) the *obligation* to serve in the IDF or otherwise. So completely voluntary service would lead to a moral obligation to serve: kind of a dialectical thing.
      On my Druze example: Discrimination against Druze is very different from discrimination against Israeli Arabs in general. But even ignoring that, what if Russians (goyim) were discriminated against as badly as Druze? Should they then be exempt from service? Of course not. As Fady said in the last post, the Russians have implicitly consented by coming here. The Druze have also consented, whether or not that was a wise decision.
      Viewing this as an issue of discrimination leads to absurd conclusions. It’s about will and consent, not discrimination or exclusion. The Arabs are agents here, not passive objects.
      Noam, I don’t see any categorical duty of citizens to serve in the army or civil service. The duties of citizens are defined pretty arbitrarily, and I don’t see any reason that all citizens should have the same duties. To be a little provocative here: what if Arab Israelis were called subjects rather than citizens? I’m sure that’s how many view themselves, regardless of their right to vote. Do subjects have the same duty to serve in the citizens’ army?
      To answer a factual question asked here: As I remember it some Arab Israeli leaders did say that they would consider national service only if it were within the Arab sector. Some Jewish politicians rejected that out of hand, saying that “national” service would be for all Israelis, not just for one sector.

      Reply to Comment
    12. Martin

      It seems there’s a question here of whether it’s better to change institutions/countries from “within,” or not. Here in the U.S.A, one could maybe make a similar argument: African-Americans could have refused – on similar moral grounds – to enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces during the First and Second World Wars. But they did enlist, despite the fact that there continued to be widespread and systemic discrimination, and despite the fact that they were forcibly segregated into “negro units.” It’s possible to argue that, the fact that they served in the army, only strengthened their critiques of discrimination and racism in the US. Is it not possible that the same could be same for service in Israel?

      Reply to Comment
    13. Sam

      I agree wholeheartedly with Fady’s post, and would like to add that, in my opinion, although it might not be stated anywhere, the role of the IDF is that of a melting pot: the Israeli society is very divided – racially, by class, by geography, etc. As I see it, it would be very difficult to keep the society together were it not for these 2 or 3 years that are constant in almost every Israeli’s (not Palestinian) life in this country – no matter where you come from, what you did, what you’re going to do, you probably have something in common with a lot of people, irrespective of where they come from, what they did and what they’re going to do.
      It’s difficult for Israelis to realize this, but it is enough to spend a lunch break with fellow other Israelis to find that the conversation reverts, each and every time, to the military service, who did what, who knows whom, etc.
      I pass – I do not want to be part of this melting pot.

      Reply to Comment
    14. Cortez

      “Here in the U.S.A, one could maybe make a similar argument: African-Americans could have refused – on similar moral grounds – to enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces during the First and Second World Wars. But they did enlist, despite the fact that there continued to be widespread and systemic discrimination, and despite the fact that they were forcibly segregated into “negro units.” It’s possible to argue that the fact that they served in the army, only strengthened their critiques of discrimination and racism in the US. Is it not possible that the same could be same for service in Israel?”
      But you can’t make that argument because the U.S. law and the principles underlying it are premised are not premised on ideas of ethnonationalism where one group is supposed to be superior over another. Our culture is premised on civic nationalism where anyone can be a part of the state in theory and many times in reality (i.e. Obama..some level of diversity in our army and military) by being active. In practice, as you correctly show, the law has not been applied equally. However, the basic framework of the relationship between the state and citizens(and many times immigrants) is one of acceptance and equality for all.
      Currently, an individual who is not Jewish under Israeli law, has less rights than a person who is Jewish. The IDF’s culture is premised not on the protection of all Israelis of different colors but on the protection of the Jewish state.
      It would be one thing if the government would get creative and say that Druze, Arab-Israelis, Samaritans are also all “Jewish,” in a theoretical, nominal, or post-zionist–or pre-zionist if we truly wanted to actually deal with history, facts, genetics and not with myth–but that would never happen.
      So we are left with ethnoreligious state that deems a group of citizens inferior in theory and in practice. How is it morally appropriate to have these people perform national service or military service to celebrate the moral apparatus of an exclusive majority and to celebrate their own lesser, inferior, lowly status?

      Reply to Comment
    15. Richard Witty

      Its a question of whether it is better to be at war and hinder the progress of an entire people for decades, or better to be at an uncomfortable peace and have a path.

      Reply to Comment
    16. Cortez

      “Its a question of whether it is better to be at war and hinder the progress of an entire people for decades, or better to be at an uncomfortable peace and have a path.”

      The peace doesn’t have to be uncomfortable if the right steps are taking to create a united people rather than a divided people…its been done in the same land before.

      Reply to Comment
    17. Michael W.

      “its been done in the same land before.”

      Reply to Comment
    18. Cortez

      When European Jews from Eastern Europe came to Levant and created a whole new culture of Jewishness with Jews from North Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere who didn’t have the same language, cultural customs or national identity (if any such existed).

      When the inhabitants of the land hundreds of years ago, which include the present day Druze, Samaritans and Palestinians, where Hellenized and then Arabized.

      Reply to Comment
    19. Carl

      Fady, thanks a lot for writing this article: much appreciated. Same to those responding.
      If I had a brain today, I’d add my piece. I don’t, so I’m just absorbing everyone’s comments instead. I know more than when I woke up, anyhow.

      Reply to Comment
    20. Noam W

      Fady – thank you for your detailed responses and for the post. It is a challenging question for me as well which is why I am engaging in this.

      I understand your point of view more clearly now I think. I am not sure I agree, but I understand it better.

      Where I think I and you and I are on a different page is whether Arabs, because they reap less of the benefits of the State, also have less duties. I expect State policies to stop being racist notwithstanding national service, and vice versa.

      I think your tax metaphor is a little off, because taxes, unlike fees, are exactly something that you pay without expecting an exact return in kind. I think Sderot got a tax brake to show solidarity, not as a compensation. I am sure that tax break in Jewish Settlements in the OT are a form of incentive and not as a compensation for anything, because they certainly get more than a fair share.

      SH – you would think that military service would be a branch of the national service and not vice versa – that is unfortunately not necessarily how Israelis see it (and in that sense I think Fady’s argument is strongest).

      If we’re asking that question, we may also ask why on earth is the Army there to defend the Jewish nature of the state as opposed to the state in general? That is, I think, at the root of the whole thing.

      Aaron, there is definitely no categorical imperative for national service. But I disagree with you vis-a-vis the question of duties and rights of citizenship. I think that, writ large, citizens ought to have similar rights and duties. Of course, we differentiate between those who are different – the question is what we consider a relevant difference, and I believe at the base of this whole discussion is the idea that race or ethnicity should not be a relevant difference for treating people differently.

      If the Arabs were subjects the discussion would be different. But that would be changing the entire formula. I would never argue that Palestinians in the OT (who are subjects of sorts) should serve Israel in any form or way.

      Reply to Comment
    21. sh

      @Aaron – “As I remember it some Arab Israeli leaders did say that they would consider national service only if it were within the Arab sector. Some Jewish politicians rejected that out of hand, saying that “national” service would be for all Israelis, not just for one sector.”
      That’s why I asked if Jews do national service in Israeli-Palestinian schools or institutions. Surely if Jewish politicians reject their doing national service in their own sector, it would be because it was already being done there by people from other sectors (i.e. people Israel qualifies as Jews). Does anyone know?
      @Martin – “It seems there’s a question here of whether it’s better to change institutions/countries from “within,” or not.”
      Yes there is, but the case of African-Americans fighting in the US army is different to the presence of Palestinian soldiers in an Israeli army. African-Americans were as much a part of the colonization project as the people on the Mayflower were except that they did not arrive by choice so much as by force. The equivalent American example is Native American Indians who, Google tells me, did fight in the US Army in WWII. http://www.shsu.edu/~his_ncp/NAWWII.html and valiantly too, but their plight didn’t change as a result. – Not something Palestinians can be recommended to emulate.

      Reply to Comment
    22. sh

      @Noam – ” that is unfortunately not necessarily how Israelis see it”.
      Umm… I’m Israeli too – not educated here though.
      “If we’re asking that question, we may also ask why on earth is the Army there to defend the Jewish nature of the state as opposed to the state in general? That is, I think, at the root of the whole thing.”
      Agree totally.

      Reply to Comment
    23. Carl

      I think anyone’s take on it will reflect their view of the state. So national religious types will happily join up to the IDF, but any of the numerous Jewish anti-Zionist sects wouldn’t. Likewise, I wouldn’t expect many Israeli Arabs/Palestinians would identify enough with the state (without a major re-purposing of it) to sign up for either explicit military service or an entirely separate social or administrative role.
      I think it’s interesting to see how one of the original purposes of national service – common experience for a diverse group – has changed. The pressures from exceptionalism, notably from Jewish sects, seem to be challenging this purpose. Obviously you’ve got the ultra-Orthodox get-out clause, but then there’s the hesder yeshiva ‘kind of national service’, Bedouin units, and so on. It gets harder for anyone to argue for Palestinian involvement when exceptions are so widespread for other groups.

      Reply to Comment
    24. Noam W

      SH – it is hard to know if you don’t use your name… and it seemed like such a naive question (which is not to say necessarily bad) that I thought you may not be familiar enough with the way most of our compatriots see the issue.

      My apologies anyway.

      Reply to Comment
    25. Aaron

      Noam, I was kind of surprised to read this: “why on earth is the Army there to defend the Jewish nature of the state as opposed to the state in general?” Of course the army is there primarily to defend the state in general. But as Fady correctly noted, it’s specifically the Jewish nature of the state that’s under attack, which is exactly the essential characteristic of the state that Arab Israelis do not consent to. If the Jewish nature of the state is abolished, the state is abolished.
      I might be contradicting what I wrote earlier, I don’t know – I’m still thinking through all this – but I don’t think Arab Israelis should be obligated to defend the state against any threat at all, whether to its Jewish nature or not. At least, not until they (collectively) consent to the existence of the state, like the Druze – then they should be obligated to serve, just as African-Americans were obligated to serve in the US army during the period of Jim Crow, etc. Again, the essence of the problem is *consent*. Therefore, my position is more strongly “pro-Arab” and radical than Fady’s.
      I also disagree with your analysis here: “at the base of this whole discussion is the idea that race or ethnicity should not be a relevant difference for treating people differently.” The fact that Arabs are an ethnie is neither basic nor essential. What matters is that they are a stable, self-consciously political entity, and that they were here before the Zionists. The question would be exactly the same if they were united by confession or some other property other than ethnicity.
      More than that. It’s not even essential that Israel is defined as a 19th-century style nation-state, i.e., based on an ethnic nation. What matters is that it’s defined (partially) by a special relation to some group, and that Arabs are not members of that group. You can argue about the justice or injustice of such a state form, but given that form, it follows inevitably that citizens will have different duties based on their membership in different groups.

      Reply to Comment
    26. Noam W

      Aaron, thank you for your response (and Fady, sorry for hijacking your post with these wall conversations).

      I don’t think I agree with you about your definition of what an army does. The American army is not there to defend the “American” nature of America and the French army is not the keeper of the French nature of France. Both of these are armies are certainly not there to ascertain the Christian or ethnic natures of the state. An army exists to defend the territorial boundaries of a state so that the state can exercise its monopoly of the use of force within those boundaries.

      At any rate, what the “Jewish” element in the Jewish state means, is a highly contentious issue in Israeli politics (as I assume you know). Just as the American nature of America is in constant flux. This is what politics is all about.

      Following this disagreement about the “nature” of the state, when the state is abolished is much bigger than its Jewishness. Should the army, if it is charge of defending the Jewishness of the state, do something to ensure there is always a Jewish majority?

      Political opinion or identity is still not a good enough reason to deny a minority its rights, or release it from duties (neither is sex, sexual orientation, religion, etc.).

      Finally – how far would you go with your lack of allegiance argument? Are Palestinians not morally obligated to pay taxes? To obey criminal law? To obey traffic laws?

      Reply to Comment
    27. Aaron

      Yeah, sorry likewise for hijacking the thread. (I’ve already been called a “fascist troll” by one blogger here, so I should watch my step.) Nevertheless–
      The threat-to-the-Jewish-state thing is kind of moot because I said that my argument applies to threats to the state of any kind, but since you asked: I think the army should defend the (lower-case “c”) constitution against *military* threats both external and internal. American soldiers also take an oath to defend the Constitution. If Arab Israelis were to take up arms to create a Palestinian state, or if Avigdor Lieberman’s followers were to take up arms to install him as Fuehrer of Israel, I’d hope the IDF would have something to say in response. That’s not at all to say that the army should be a political actor as in Turkey.
      You assert that it’s wrong to base rights and duties on group identity. Why is it wrong? I guess that’s too big a question to argue, but I’ll at least note my disagreement. For one thing, I think the State of Israel owes a collective debt to Arab Israelis, because they were conquered/settled unjustly. And if you contrast open-ended, virtuous duties – e.g., loyalty – with legalistic, well-defined obligations – e.g., taxes – then I think your assertion about duties is inconsistent with any kind of nation-state, in the original sense of that term.
      On “how far would I go to exempt Arabs from obligations?”, a partial answer is, no further than I’d go for non-citizen subjects. Subjects, even those who were subjugated by force, at a minimum have to pay taxes and obey the laws. It’s the Hobbesian deal of protection in exchange for obedience. Arab citizen-subjects owe at least that much.
      You could argue that military or civil service is just another form of tax. For patriotic citizens it’s a lot more than that, but for citizen-subjects – maybe just a tax. While it may be OK to require military/civil service of subjects in some cases, there are at least two reasons why Arab Israelis should not be expected to pay that “tax.” First, it’s especially onerous, because the natural allies of their people (“natural” has the same root as “national,” of course) are also the enemies of their state. Thus, the Jewish nature of the state comes in again through the back door. This is an argument against military service but not against civil service.
      A second reason, which argues against both military and civil service, is that both are seen as patriotic duties, not merely as legal obligations or burdens to be fulfilled. As long as they’re characterized this way, it’s unjust to expect unpatriotic, citizen-subjects to take part. I’m basing that on group identity. I could even half-seriously imagine that being done individually as well: sign a public declaration, “I’m disloyal and unpatriotic, please don’t draft me.”
      If someday, as I hope, Arabs do become patriotic citizens like the Druze – and the choice is collectively theirs alone, a matter of will – then they should take part in military or at least civil service.
      This answer was way too long and wordy. But instead of erasing it, I’ll just apologize for that and try to keep my future comments short and concise.

      Reply to Comment
    28. sh

      @Noam W – “and it seemed like such a naive question ”
      Yes, sadly all mine are. For the longest time I actually believed the stuff about equality for all in the Declaration of Independence too. Never imagined that that said, Jewishness could overrule equality and such a text would nevertheless stand uncorrected. I also think that even if elected leaders of countries say they go to war to uphold constitutional principles, they in fact go to war for often unstated reasons to do with national interest, but the public believes the war is primarily to defend them from being overrun. – Could just be autism of course. 🙂
      Back to military service, we could also remember the lengths to which many Jews went to avoid being enlisted in countries that woefully victimized them but expected them to serve. Mind you in Germany after their emancipation, many volunteered to fight in WWI and if they survived were granted special status along with their non-Jewish counterparts; the lesson to the Palestinians is that this did not save them from the chimneys a quarter of a century later. Not that I expect similar, but transfer does come up too often for comfort.
      That’s why I don’t think it’s for us of all people to demand from a Palestinian Israeli that he enlist in the military while sections of our joint history are still suppressed by law. But civilian national service without discriminating between “sectors” (no-one answered my question about how that works) seems too potentially valuable a leveling experience for school-leaving future voters to have to miss out on.

      Reply to Comment
    29. Noam W

      This was a good discussion. I will leave it at its peak.

      Reply to Comment
    30. Carl

      Yes indeed.
      Once again, thanks to Fady for putting it up, and thanks to all the respondents who put the time and effort in. Very much appreciated.

      Reply to Comment
    31. Click here to load previous comments