"You want rights? Make your contribution. If not in the army, then help the community, your sector, your town." These are not the words of the Plesner Committee chairman but of Ibrahim al-Huzeil, a Bedouin from Rahat who says "I see no problem with everyone enlisting, including Arabs and haredim."
Arab Knesset members are just some of the strong opponents of the Plesner Committee which has been tasked with regulating the enlistment of haredim and Arabs. But they do not speak for the entire non-Jewish community.
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Al-Huzeil described MKs Ahmad Tibi and Talab el-Sana as "freeloaders who do not represent the Negev or the Bedouins. They represent the Palestinian Authority and terror. They do more harm than good to Bedouins."
Bedouin patrol unit (Archive photo: Haim Horenstein)
A father of nine boys, eight of whom have enlisted in the IDF, al-Huzeil serves as chairman of the Bedouin branch of the Association for the Wellbeing of Israel's Soldiers and works to recruit young Bedouins.
"Whoever lives in this country must defend it because there is no other. A country is a mother, and you don't give up on a mother so easily.
"I regard the uniform as the real manifestation of equality. Enlistment to the IDF builds youth, whether they're Bedouin or haredi," he said. Al-Huzeil sees the army as a platform for self-advancement, citing his son as an example of someone who completed high-school due to the army. "Today he has a BA and is a battalion commander, and that's thanks to the IDF."
Druze battalion (Archive photo: Hanan Greenberg)
G., a 21-year-old soldier in the Desert Druze Battalion is also in favor of universal draft. "Why shouldn't it be this way? We live in this country and it needs protection. True, not all Bedouins enlist but most do. There are always extremists. Not all Jews enlist either. My brother did, my father did and my children will. It's a tradition."
But not everyone shares this view. "I don’t know if everyone should enlist," said H., a Druze soldier serving in the Combat Engineering Corps. "Not everyone is suitable to serve in such a system."
Ali, 19, said he will not partake in military or national service. "The government humiliates us and denies us our rights. If they want us to enlist then treat us like any other Jewish citizen and stop the racist laws against us."
Hamdan, 20, stressed that "as long as the government green-lights the razing of our homes and the occupation of our lands" universal draft is not possible. "A high percentage of Bedouins enlist without seeing what road it leads them to. It's disgraceful to enlist when the state tramples over us."
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