Friday, July 29, 2011

Muslims In The IDF--It's Not Just The Druse

Recently, while driving by the Israeli settlement of Nokdim (where Avigdor Lieberman lives), I picked up a hitchhiking soldier. We started chatting, and I asked the soldier his name. "Mustafa," he said. "You're a Muslim?" I asked. "Yes," he answered, "from Haifa."
Aryeh Tepper, Minorities in the IDF, in Jewish Ideas Daily, July 27, 2011

And that is how the article begins.

One of the interesting points the article deals with is the different groups of Muslims who serve in the Israeli army:
After all, in the eyes of many Arab Israelis—Palestinians, according to their own self-definition—Ameer and his fellow Muslim soldiers in the IDF are nothing less than traitors.

Obviously, this attitude is not held among all minority groups.
The Druse, for one, offer a radical counter-example. An offshoot of Shi'ite Islam, Israeli Druse number approximately 115,000, and aside from the Golan Druse who maintain their loyalty to the Syrian regime, the overwhelming majority of men proudly serve in the IDF. This has been so since 1949, when the Druse leadership requested that military service be obligatory. 
Not only do they serve, but they serve with distinction. When the second Lebanon war broke out in 2006, an all-Druse battalion was the first unit to enter Hizballah country (on the first day of the war), and the last to leave.  After a month of combat, the battalion took down 15 Hizballah terrorists, with no casualties of its own.

Like the Druse, the Sunni Muslim Circassians (of whom around 4,500 live in Israel) also loyally serve in the IDF. The Circassians, who practice a moderate, consciously non-nationalistic Islam, established good relations with the Jews in Israel at the end of the 19th century, thanks in large part to the language and culture they shared with Jewish immigrants from Russia. Since 1958, again at the request of their leadership, all Circassian men have been conscripted into the Israeli military. 

The Israeli Bedouins pose a more complicated case. Also Sunni Muslims, the Bedouins distinguish themselves from mainstream Arab society by their more rural (and sometimes desert-dwelling) ways. While not obligated to serve in the IDF, it's estimated that between 5 and 10 percent of draft-age Bedouin youth volunteer for army service, often as trackers. Amos Yarkoni, one of the most celebrated trackers in the history of the IDF, was actually a Bedouin named Abd el-Majid Hidr. In recent years, enlistment has fluctuated wildly, likely because of the increased influence of the Islamic movement among Bedouin communities.
The article also deals with the motivations Arabs have in joining the army--and a comparison between Muslims and Orthodox Jews in the IDF.

Read the whole thing.


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