One of the foremost Arab Israeli journalists is Khaled Abu Toameh of the Jerusalem Post and the Gatestone Institute. He has a recent article published entitled simply The Arabs of Israel in which he writes the following:
Israel's Arab citizens are clearly not listening to the bad advice they have been getting from some of their leaders, including Arab members of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, who keep inciting them against Israel.Nonetheless, according to Abu Toameh a recent report by the Israeli Administration for Civil-National Service demonstrates a 76 percent increase in Arab volunteers for national service since September of 2011.
These leaders and parliamentarians -- who say they want the Arab citizens to boycott national service and any attempt by the government to fully incorporate them into Israeli society -- have been waging a campaign against the Israeli government's plan to recruit Arab citizens for (civilian) national service as an alternative to military service.
Economics and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett said in response that he was aware that some leaders of the Arab community were strongly opposed to the idea of national service for Arab youths.Unlike most of the surrounding countries in the Middle East, Israel is a highly diverse enclave on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean that does, in fact, seek to integrate all of its citizenry into the larger society. What Abu Toameh suggests is not that Israeli Arabs are seeking political rights, because they already have something near full political rights, but jobs and rights to equality in terms of the distribution of services.
"There are some who do not want to see the Arab and Jewish sectors live in fine and healthy coexistence," Bennett remarked. "But we won't let them win."
The Arab volunteers are sent to hospitals, schools and even fire stations in their own communities.
I think that we can pretty much all agree - however grungingly by some - that services within Israel should be allocated as a fairly as possible and should not in any way be dependent upon anyone's religion or ethnicity. I do not know the extent to which the government of Israel shortchanges the Arab minority when it comes to services such as access to water, employment, education, medical necessities, and so forth, but I do know that the Muslim Egyptians are chasing Christian Egyptians out of that country, that Jews have been driven out of almost the entire Middle East, and that I am not even allowed to step foot in Saudi Arabia if I out myself as a Jew.
Thus it becomes rather difficult for me to give much veracity to hysterical claims of oppression against the local Arab population, particularly given the fact of Pallywood which means that we cannot trust the toxic claims coming from anti-Israel Arab leadership, to begin with.
And that's the problem.
The struggle, as is often pointed out, is maintaining Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people while still giving non-Jewish Israelis the fullest measure of democracy and freedom as possible. That's the goal, or it certainly should be, in my opinion. Therefore I am heartened to see a significant increase in Arab-Israeli participation in national service programs despite the fact that many of their leadership encourage them not to do so and despite the fact that the numbers of people involved in those programs still remain rather low.
I am not one of those who thinks that Israel is on the verge of self-destruction unless it capitulates to all Arab demands prior to the institution of the two-state solution. I am not a fan of the status quo but I also do not see why it cannot continue, on and on and on, as it has done decade upon decade. In the mean time, Israeli Arabs who are not terrorists or Islamists should be encouraged as much as possible toward national participation and integration into the larger Israeli community.
I have full faith that Israel will continue to thrive and prosper going forward for a long time to come, but the more that Israel can live up to its founding documents the better.