Send a Tweet
Most Popular Choices
Share on Facebook 19 Share on Twitter Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 8/28/13

Israel seeks to pit Christian Arabs against Muslims in a cruel clash

By       (Page 1 of 2 pages)   No comments
Follow Me on Twitter     Message Jonathan Cook
Become a Fan
  (28 fans)
Source: Sabbah Report

The Holy Land may be the cradle of Judaism, Christianity and Islam -- the three Abrahamic faiths that share much in common -- but Israel has preferred to draw on a tradition that imagines the region in terms of a clash of civilizations.

Theodor Herzl, the father of Israel's national ideology, Zionism, averred that a Jewish state should act as "a rampart of Europe against Asia, an outpost of civilization as opposed to barbarism." On this view, Israel is on the fault line between a Judeo-Christian west and the barbarian hordes of the Islamic east.

The idea of a clash has played out most obviously in Israel's repeated wars against its Arab neighbors, its threatening posture towards Iran, and its interminable occupation of Palestinian territority -- heavily subsidised both directly and indirectly by the United States and Europe.

But Israel also wanted to exploit this model inside its own territory, among its citizens. Decades of institutional and systematic discrimination and internal repression of its 1.5 million Palestinians who have citizenship have been justified to the Jewish majority in these terms.

This is the context for understanding the announcement this month by Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, of what is being called innocuously a "forum" between the government and Israel's Christian Palestinians.

Its troubling goal is to end the exemption Christians in Israel have enjoyed from serving in the military.

On a practical level, Mr Netanyahu hopes that Christians can help enforce Israel's illegal occupation of their kin in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. But this move is not really about swelling the army's ranks.

Both Christians and Muslims are excluded from Israel's military service. Individuals can seek a waiver on this exclusion and each year a few do so: around two dozen among Christian Palestinians and small numbers of Muslims, mostly from the Bedouin community.

If Christians are made to serve, they will join Israel's tiny Druze community, which has been conscripted since the 1950s. That will then leave only the largest section of Palestinian citizens -- Muslims -- excluded.

The role of the Druze is illustrative. They have few benefits to show for decades of army service, even though Israel has treated them as a national group separate from other Palestinian citizens. They even have their own school system to inculcate beliefs that the Druze and Jews are historic allies.

Keen to prove their loyalty to the state, the Druze are much feared in the occupied territories, where they are seen as even more brutal than their Jewish comrades.

If Mr. Netanyahu succeeds, he will achieve an important task, reversing the long-term commitment of Christians and Muslims in Israel to unity. The two communities have set up joint political institutions and secular parties that cut across the sectarian divide.

In recent years their identity as Palestinians has strengthened -- not least because Israel has defined the core Israeli identity in terms of belonging to the Jewish people.

Mr. Netanyahu would rather turn the clock back to the 1950s when the native population were known simply as "the minorities," and expected to identify as sectarian groups. The aim was to exploit these differences to keep each sect weak, isolated and, ideally, feuding.

Now Mr. Netanyahu sees a chance to use military service as a vehicle for implementing a policy of divide and rule.

Next Page  1  |  2

(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).

Rate It | View Ratings

Jonathan Cook Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He is the 2011 winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are "Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East" (Pluto Press) and "Disappearing Palestine: (more...)

Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Writers Guidelines

Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEd News Newsletter
   (Opens new browser window)

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

Military pollution is the skeleton in the West's climate closet

The battle for Syria's skies will see a move from proxy clashes to direct ones

After Sy Hersh's Bombshell Investigation, Why Won't Media Tell the Real Story of Trump's Military Strike in Syria?

American liberals unleashed the Trump monster

Mandela: a Dissenting Opinion

Tide Turns against Israel: Pariah Status and Isolation Lie Ahead

To View Comments or Join the Conversation:

Tell A Friend