In 2010, Cpl. Eleanor Joseph became the first female Arab combat soldier in the IDF. Joseph, a Christian Arab told Ma'ariv that her good luck charm is a drawing of the Star of David with the caption: "I have no other land, even when my ground is burning." Her commander drew it for her.
Joseph explained, "It is a phrase that strengthens me. Every time I experience hardship, I read it. Because I was born here. The people I love live here: My parents, my friends. This is a Jewish state? Yes, it is. But it's also my country. I can't imagine living in any other place. I think every person should serve in the army. You live here? You make your home here? Then go defend your country. What does it matter that I'm an Arab?"
Joseph's story represents an incipient trend of integration among Israel's Arab community.
Among other things, this is manifest in the consistently rising number of Israeli Arab students who elect to study in Hebrew-language schools and in the rising number of Israeli Arabs who elect to serve in national service, the civilian equivalent of military service.
A poll of Arab youth carried out in late 2007 made clear how widespread this integrationist impulse has become. Seventy-five percent of Arab youth aged 16 to 22 supported voluntary national service.
And yet, despite these sentiments and developments, Arab Israelis who seek to integrate into Israeli society and reject the separatist messages of their political leaders are forced to contend with extraordinary social pressures and even coercion to prevent them from acting in accordance with their wishes.
A study completed this week by Im Tirtzu exposes the vast array of NGOs generously funded by the supposedly pro-Israel New Israel Fund as well as by foreign governments which are running a campaign to oppose Cpl. Joseph and her comrades - Arabs and Jews alike. Since 1999, these groups have been conducting a campaign to undermine Arab integration into Israeli society specifically and to demoralize and reduce the social standing of those who serve in the IDF, national service and IDF reserves generally. The campaign is being carried out on a dual track of discouraging Israeli Arabs from serving in the IDF or national service, and of opposing government benefits to IDF veterans, reservists and those who undertook national service by claiming that these benefits unjustly discriminate against Israeli Arabs.
Caroline B. Glick is the senior Middle East fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post, where this article first appeared.
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