DADT repeal exposes Israel’s discriminatory policies

on 26 Comments

For several nights this week Chris Matthews was thrilled by the repeal of Don’t ask/don’t tell, and he many times repeated the idea that Catholics and Jews had “assimilated” into American society when they had served in World War II and the rest of society saw what they were willing to do for their fellow citizens. Now gays too will be fully assimilated, he said.

And every time he said it I reflected that Palestinians are not drafted into the Israeli army. They can serve, I am told; and the Druze are drafted. But by and large, young men and women from the 20 percent Palestinian Israeli population do not serve and aren’t wanted either. This is rationalized because they wouldn’t want to serve in forces fighting other Arabic-speaking people– slaughtering children in Gaza. And on Israel’s part, they would be regarded as a potential fifth column. 

But why constitute a society in such a way that you can’t trust such a sizeable minority in the army? How can such a society last? This is further support for the argument Fawaz Gerges put forward in the Nation earlier this year– Hamas is coming to tolerate Israel’s presence because Saladin also tolerated the presence of a Crusader state along the coast. Yes and how long did that last?

26 Responses

  1. Richard Witty
    December 25, 2010, 3:27 pm

    “But why constitute a society in such a way that you can’t trust such a sizeable minority in the army? How can such a society last?”

    You mean like the United States? (Don’t forget that Japanese weren’t drafted, they were imprisoned in WW2, for being Japanese.)

    • Philip Weiss
      December 25, 2010, 3:43 pm

      huh. and when was that richard? and is that a model?

      • Richard Witty
        December 25, 2010, 4:04 pm

        Its another question of “what do you propose?”

        Stick your neck out.

      • Citizen
        December 25, 2010, 4:52 pm

        Your model is faulty, Witty. See my other comment. I will stick my neck out: Israel should allow its Arab population to join or be drafted into the IDF. Prior thereto, Israel should quit the shabby way it treats even the Druze who volunteer to serve it. Get rid of any loyalty oath to a “Jewish” state as a precondition. No oath should use that word. This blog has often discussed how the IDF is central to Israel’s structure and life. The benefits and priority to IDF vets far exceed what the US gives its vets. Of course the US military does not require an oath to an ethnic or religious state… What say you? Perhaps there is a few things to learn from the accurate model afforded by the US history?

      • Citizen
        December 25, 2010, 4:39 pm

        After the attack on Pearl Harbor, over 110,000 Japanese Americans (including 70,000 native-born American citizens) were interned on the mainland. That hardly amounted to 20% of the US population of the time, even including the Japanese Americans who made up roughly a third of the population of Hawaii. On the US mainland, Japanese Americans totaled less than 1 % of the population. Again, not even faintly close to 20%. No Japanese were interned in Hawaii. By end of ’41 1400 Nisei had been drafted in Hawaii. In February of ’43 a couple of all-Japanese army units were formed (with white leaders); these Nisei units earned top American military awards for their highly distinguished service. (As old veterans, they led the campaign led for redress that resulted in a formal apology and compensation from the U.S. government to Japanese Americans who were interned.) Those interned on the mainland were later allowed to volunteer, and many did; many more were drafted after they too took a loyalty oath; a few resisted the draft. If memory serves, the 422 Nisei Regiment was the most highly decorated American combat unit in WW2.

    • tree
      December 25, 2010, 5:01 pm

      Richard, Japanese Americans in Hawaii served in the Army during World War II and were awarded for their exploits and bravery. The internment of Japanese Americans on the West Coast during WWII was a shame upon the US. The US officially and formally apologized in the 80’s and provided compensation to those who were interned. (and compensation went to the eligible internee’s child or spouses or parent in the case of deceased internees).

      The internment camps in WWII were a blight upon our record, but the apology and compensation were a bright spot in our history. Why is it so hard for you to acknowledge that, Richard? Korean Americans, Vietnamese Americans, Iraqi Americans, Afghani Americans. None of those US citizens were interned. We learned our lesson. Is Israel incapable of admitting its mistakes and learning from them?

      • Richard Witty
        December 25, 2010, 9:29 pm

        “Is Israel incapable of admitting its mistakes and learning from them?”

        I hope that it is.

        If 10% of the United States military declared in 1941 that it might side with its enemy (1/2 of the 20% of Israelis that are Arab), I would have a quandry.

        If the number were 1%, it would be difficult (a much higher number during Vietnam but also a high number during WW1).

        The prospect of civil war is a very difficult real condition.

        If Phil were to advocate in the US that universal conscription be applied and simultaneously that soldiers disobey the orders of their officers if they didn’t like the politics of the officers or the chain of command, then he would be advocating for something less than civil.

        He gets to argue for those two from the comfortable distance from Israel.

        I don’t know what to recommend. I do note that the decisions are very different in the US than they are in the middle east. Humility is a useful value to incorporate into one’s publications.

      • Shingo
        December 25, 2010, 11:20 pm

        I hope that it is.

        You hope that Israel is incapable of admitting its mistakes and learning from them?

        Is that a typo?

      • Richard Witty
        December 26, 2010, 4:40 am

        I hope that Israel is capable of reform.

  2. Citizen
    December 25, 2010, 3:38 pm

    Did we once have a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy applicable to Catholics and Jews?
    I know when I was in the US Army our religion and blood type were stamped on our dog tags. I guess that was in case we needed the last rites on the battle field. And the blood type was stamped there so we could get a quick compatible blood transfusion if needed. In our new military, at least for combat units, should HIV be stamped there too if appropriate? Back in the day nobody new about such a thing. Now, everybody does. Gotta do all we can for the troops, right?

  3. romweb
    December 25, 2010, 3:39 pm

    In addition, if you do not serve in the IDF or the IOF (Israeli Occupying Forces) you loose social and economic benefits such as housing, new-household subsidies, and employment, especially government or security-related industrial employment. The only democracy in the Middle East??

  4. Citizen
    December 25, 2010, 3:54 pm

    I’m not sure it matters if you can’t trust a sizable minority in the Army, so long as you don’t suddenly need conscription. Our US PTB seem to think we won’t ever again need a sizable Army, period. OTOH, Israel highly values conscription and needs it more than we do. So that’s a good question for them. And it might eventually be a good question for the US too in regards to gays in the military–unintended consequences of attacking Iran? Do gays constitute 20% of US males? How about if we throw in lesbians? Equal rights, right? Wonder if the flamers would be selected to be point man in a combat squad? Nobody wanted that job when I served. Of course the squad leader was a little god, and the platoon sergeant was a bigger god–either could just point their finger at you, and you hussled right up front…

  5. MRW
    December 25, 2010, 5:22 pm

    “This is rationalized because they wouldn’t want to serve in forces fighting other Arabic-speaking people– slaughtering children in Gaza. And on Israel’s part, they would be regarded as a potential fifth column.”

    Which underscores that this isn’t about the security of the nation of Israel, it’s about religion, and the supremacy of a religious group.

  6. The Hasbara Buster
    December 25, 2010, 6:18 pm

    It is usually asserted that those Arabs who do serve in the IDF are respected and honored. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Just two days ago, a Druze IDF veteran was kicked out of an apartment he was renting in Tel Aviv because he’s an Arab.

    The Druze community sold their souls to the devil so that they could feel part of the mainstream Israeli society. Bad news for them; they’re not.

    • Walid
      December 26, 2010, 10:46 am

      HB, at the end of the day, they are Arab as you said; Israelis are always looking over their shoulder about them. The first loyalty of the Druze is to their own kind no matter where they may be living. They are surely not fooling themselves about where they stand with the IDF even after having served in it. Their religion tells them to do in Rome as the Romans do but to never forget who they really are. The ones fooling themselves about the relationship are the Israelis, not the Druze.

  7. Avi
    December 25, 2010, 7:23 pm

    Palestinians in Israel are required by law to serve in the military, but since 1948, every year the Israeli minister of ‘defense’ has waived that requirement.

    As romweb mentioned, military service affords veterans benefits and incentives, some financial, others work-related.

    However, there are very few incentives for non-Jews to serve in the Israeli military as those who have served in the past have often been denied services, and employment opportunities.

    In other words, military service is cited by society and the state as a ticket to equality and assimilation, but those who do serve are still denied that which Jews in Israel are granted, as evidenced by the daily news roundup by Seham and Kate. Discrimination, therefore, spans all aspects of life, from university housing, private housing and employment, to banking, loans and mortgages, and land ownership.

    As evidenced by several polls, both the Israeli government and Israeli society view the 20% non-Jewish population as a threat to the national security of the state and as a disloyal collective, despite the historical record of the 20% non-Jewish minority.

    • Richard Witty
      December 25, 2010, 8:26 pm

      Did you change your post to include the acknowledgement that they may?

      If they have the option to, but not the requirement, isn’t that a privilege more than a persecution?

      • tree
        December 25, 2010, 11:47 pm


        They MAY apply but applying does not guarantee that the IDF will take them. Of the few that apply only a few of them are accepted by the IDF. This is not a privilege, it is discrimination.

        Israel uses the “subject to conscription” clause to provide multiple benefits to Jewish Israelis to the detriment of Palestinian Israelis who are NOT subject to conscription. Refusing to conscript its Palestinian citizens provides two chances for Israel to discriminate on the basis of religion/ethnicity. One, it allows Israel to provide more benefits and chances at social and economic elevation to its Jewish citizens above those meager opportunities given to its non-Jewish citizens without explicitly saying that it is doing so. And two, it makes it easier to abuse the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza since the IDF is overwhelmingly made up of Jewish soldiers who do not identify with those it is oppressing.

      • Avi
        December 26, 2010, 1:41 am

        Refusing to conscript its Palestinian citizens provides two chances for Israel to discriminate on the basis of religion/ethnicity.


        The logic that Israel uses is circular logic. On the one hand the Palestinian citizens of Israel are allegedly not trustworthy, they are allegedly treasonous. On the other hand, the lack of military service is thrown in their collective face as justification for state-sanctioned discrimination.

        They are damned if they do, and damned if they don’t.

      • Richard Witty
        December 26, 2010, 4:45 am

        You could see it that way if you chose.

        I favor a mandatory service requirement for all youth, either military or social, with the social service directed towards need. So, that would include services primarily to haredi, Palestinians, mizrahi, elderly, infirm, uneducated.

        For haredi and Palestinians, they should have no objection to serving. For haredi, Torah study is primary, but next in importance is prayer and social service. Mitzvot.

        So, what do you propose? I still haven’t really heard it stated in those terms.

      • annie
        December 26, 2010, 1:47 am

        If they have the option to, but not the requirement, isn’t that a privilege more than a persecution?

        it might be if it was their ‘option to exercise’ but it isn’t. it is only their ‘option to apply’. and no, it is not a privilege to merely have the option to apply when it is a requirement for jewish citizens.

        the acknowledgement that they may?

        acknowledgment? what are you smoking?

  8. Kathleen
    December 25, 2010, 8:02 pm

    Chris Matthews has been supportive of repealing DADT and legalizing gay marriage for a long time. BUT he and the rest of the MSNBC crew will not touch the human rights of Palestinians with a ten foot pole. Nope human rights issues there. Now if all of the Palestinians were gay Rachel Maddow would be all over it.

    Just after Israel’s execution of the 9 human rights activist on the Mavi Marmara. Chris Matthews showed the same clip of the Israeli soldiers roping down to the Mavi Marmara and being beat up. Matthews did not mention the Israeli soldiers shooting live ammo before they hit the deck or the slaughter of the 9 individuals. The clip he showed 9 times in seven minutes was an Israeli released clip. He is a I lobby puppet. Had a tiny indication the few times I have directly talked with him that this was not the case. But his actions or lack of speak much louder than his words “I am not in control of programming”

    Dylan Ratigan is the only MSNBCer who will stick his neck out on this issue. Bet he was slapped down after he and Greenwald wiped up the floor with Cliff May’s lies
    If you have not seen this worth it
    link to

    • Citizen
      December 26, 2010, 7:34 am

      “Programming” sure is the right word for it, eh? Puppets on a string. There really is a man behind the talking charming heads curtain, a really ugly one. Oz. Sic ’em Toto!

      • Kathleen
        December 26, 2010, 1:22 pm

        Chris Matthews said that to me when I challenged him at the Libby Trial about the basically complete absence of coverage about the I/P conflict on MSNBC. I all ready knew he would do the dance of denial. But asked anyway just to hear what is answer would be.

        Totally avoided taking any responsibility for the silence. Lately Matthews seems to beating the Iranian war drum himself. Also showed the Israeli released clip of Israeli soldiers hitting the deck of the Mavi Marmara and beating beaten 9 times in seven minutes. Matthews never touched the issue of disproportionate and violent response. The 9 human rights activist who were executed. Never touched the story again either.

        Basically complete compliance to the I lobby and Israel. Chris Matthews falls in line.

  9. clenchner
    December 26, 2010, 12:18 am

    This argument is a bit removed from the actual state of debate in Israeli, and Israeli-Palestinian society. There it is more about the possibility that the state will make civilian alternatives to military service more possible, through funding allocations and needed capacity building.

    Understand: to perform ‘sherut leumi’, the service that some orthodox women perform (and others), you MUST be certified as exempt from service. Since most Arabs are never called up, they are also never certified as exempt!

    Most Arab politicians reject mandatory civilian service for a variety of reasons, but it’s kind of academic when the state won’t even provide decent options for voluntary service. I mostly agree with the minority Arab-Israeli view that voluntary service is an option that should be expanded, as a vehicle that serves individuals, communities and the Arab minority itself.

    As for military service, as long as Israeli society is so deeply militarized, there is no hope for peace or equality. Talking about Arabs serving in the army is kind of irrelevant.

  10. tree
    December 26, 2010, 12:40 am

    As for military service, as long as Israeli society is so deeply militarized, there is no hope for peace or equality. Talking about Arabs serving in the army is kind of irrelevant.

    I have to agree with those two statements. I suspect that some of Phil’s thinking on this comes from the fact that in the US one of the first places to become integrated was the US Army.

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