15 July 2013

There's always some good news!

This article appeared in The Times of Israel on 14 July (is it significant that this was Bastille Day? you decide) which announced that a new Israeli-Christian party had been formed which was demanding that Israeli-Christian young people should enlist in the IDF.

This raises an intriguing question: should a country like Israel, which depends for its survival on near universal conscription of most of its young males and many of its young females into the armed forces or alternative social/public service, insist on the right to vote depend on undertaking such service? It's meant as a serious question and, if taken as such, would also have to allow for appropriate exemptions: on medical grounds, on proven grounds of conscientious objection, and so forth.

I really don't have an answer for such a question, not least because my own country (the UK) abolished military conscription just long enough before I would have "qualified" for me to avoid having to face such a question myself.

Anyway, the article in question does raise intriguing questions about how we might decide questions of citizenship qualification and, also, whether we want to enter such a quagmire. For example, it is noted in the article that "Despite the harsh opposition, Arab volunteerism is on the rise, and is not limited to the Christian population. New data released by Israel’s Administration for National-Civic Service indicates a rise of 76% in Arab youth volunteering for civil service since September 2001. Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett recently celebrated the 3,000th Arab volunteer, almost double the number of volunteers in 2012 (1,700)."

There are, of course, external pressures pushing this development. As readers of this site will know only too well, "[t]he violence against Middle Eastern Christians in the wake of the Arab Spring has likely pushed Israel’s Christians to more publicly express opinions considered unacceptable in Arab society. Coptic Christians in Egypt have faced attacks on churches and murders of priests since Hosni Mubarak was toppled in 2011."

There aren't, of course, any simple answers, but this might just be a sign that Israel's population is becoming more aware of the need to (in Benjamin Franklin's phrase, concerning the American 'revolution' against the British) hang together or otherwise hang separately. That is, act as one nation to protect all the advantages we have, or lose them all separately in a one-state "solution" to the problem: Moslems and Christians alike.

By Brian Goldfarb.