Saudi Magazine Runs Cover Story Praising Arabs Serving in the IDF

The times they are a-changin’ in a huge way:

Last weekend’s edition of the Saudi magazine Al Majalla, published from London, ran a cover story unusual in the Arab world – a positive feature about Arab Israelis who serve in the IDF.

The article describes how a battalion of combat troops assembles early one morning in the Negev Desert.

“And yet, these are not regular soldiers, but Arabs who chose to volunteer to fight and even sacrifice their lives to defend the state of Israel,” the piece tells readers.

“These young people, who include women, are proud to be part of the Israeli army. One of the young men, A-Raqib Imad, says proudly, ‘It’s a great honor to hold a weapon in one hand and the Quran in the other to defend my homeland, Israel,'” the article continues.

The article also says that mainstream media outlets err in their portrayals of the Israeli military out of the mistaken perception that it only represents Jewish Israelis, and notes that the IDF represents all Israelis – Jews, Muslim, and Druze.

The article is actually now available online. What is particularly interesting is how it directly addresses criticism from Israel-haters:

Enlisting is still controversial in some Arab communities in Israel and there are those who have voiced their anger and concerns. They claim among other things that the enlisting of Israeli Arabs is a ‘politically motivated,’ and that the IDF is aiming to divide the Arabs of Israel.

One of those critics of the enlistment drives is Hanin Zoabie, an Arab Israeli Knesset Member. She claims that “Israel is after people to serve in the army who are poor and have no work.” Zoabie continued, saying, “Ninety percent of the Arabs who serve in the Israeli army don’t have equality with Israelis. Israel does not need them to protect its security, it’s a political issue – first to divide and rule.”

Al Majalla has asked Mr. Hassan Kaabia to comment on MK Zoabie’s assertion. Kaabia is an Israeli Arab and a former Lieutenant Colonel who served in the IDF for over two decades and currently works as the spokesman for the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This is what he had to say – “The IDF is the only institution where there is no discrimination and there is total equality and inclusion. It is not true that they are joining because of economic factors. The majority of Israeli Arabs who join the army are doing it because of one reason and that is they want to be part of the state. They want to integrate in the civil society and also get better career opportunities, as most companies prefer candidates who done their military service.”  Kaabia adds that “Zoabi has a political agenda that has resulted in some not wanting to be integrated in the Israeli society. But it’s fine for her to work in the Parliament and get a very high salary from the government of Israel, who also pays for her car, office and so on.”

Mr Kaabia’s son, Captain Asaf, decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and joined the IDF a few years ago. MK Zoabi’s argument of only ‘poor men with no jobs’ is getting even thinner when you consider that Mohammed Zoabi, her very close relative, joined the IDF.

Al Majalla also asked the “Senior IDF Official from the Manpower Directorate” to comment on MK Zoabi. His reply “listen, I say we are not holding a stick and forcing people to join. We have enough soldiers in the IDF who are more than capable to protect Israel. Israel is for all Israelis – Jews, Muslims, Bedouins, Christians, Druze and so on. The IDF is here to serve all the people of Israel. We see the IDF as a home, a family where everyone should made to feel welcomed and included. Israel is a multi-faith and cultural society with many minorities. The IDF can be a great platform to connect all of to us to our homeland, Israel.”

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia just opened its airspace to Israeli aircraft today. It is clearly only a matter of time before we see a new normalization deal.

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David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media