Palestinians in present-day Israel are calling on all Arab citizens of Israel to refuse to serve in the army.
In an emailed statement, the Coalition Against Military Service, led by Baladna, the Association for Arab Youth, and consisting of Palestinian youth and other civic organizations, urges an “escalation in efforts to refuse military service” including “mandatory service imposed on the young Arab Druze and Circassians, as well as the civic service imposed on the rest of the spectra of the Palestinian people.”
The statement followed an announcement by Israeli army radio last week that authorities had begun mailing recruitment notices to all Palestinian Christian youths.
Except for small groups such as the Druze, Palestinian citizens of Israel are not required to perform army service.
“We warn that although these orders are not binding, they intend to pressure Arab youth to enlist in the [army] and separate them from their people. We call to block recruitment and all tactics of the government to dilute and distort our Palestinian identity,” the statement says.
Due to systematic discrimination, Palestinian youths in Israel have few opportunities. With many benefits tied to army service, Israel may be banking on desperation driving some youths into the army’s hands.
Condemning what it calls “Israelization tactics,” the coalition calls on municipalities and local councils to oppose recruitement and urges participation in the General National Congress Against Conscription, organized by the Coalition Against Military Service, which will be held next month in the city of Sakhnin.
The mailing of recruitment notices comes amid an intensified effort by Israel to co-opt Palestinian Christians who form a significant part of the 1.5 million Palestinians who are citizens of Israel.
On 24 February, Israel’s parliament passed a law identifying Palestinian Christians as “a non-Arab minority group” and granting them special status.
Levin described Christians as the “natural allies” of Israel and “a counterweight to the Muslims who want to destroy the country from within.”
In a recent op-ed for The Electronic Intifada, Baladna director Nadim Nashif said that the law was “linked to a much larger and systematic process of ‘divide and conquer’ as well as to attempts to destroy Palestinian identity among Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel.”
A coalition of Palestinian organizations in present-day Israel said that the law’s “racist motives … foreshadow the enactment of more racist bills and policies, which we will oppose.”
Israel’s attempt to recruit and co-opt Palestinian Christians into its army of occupation and colonization comes at a time of increased resistance to compulsory enlistment among the Palestinian Druze population.
Last month, for instance, 18-year-old Omar Saad was handed his sixth jail sentence for his ongoing refusal to serve in the army.
Saad began serving his sentence earlier this month.
Also, earlier this month, 50 Israeli youths of various backgrounds sent a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly announcing their refusal to serve in the army citing Israel’s systematic abuses of Palestinians.
Roni Lax, a 20-year-old signer of the letter, said, “We stand in solidarity with the ultra-orthodox youth and the Arab youth – Christian and Druze, some of whom are currently in an army prison.”