Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Muted Frightened Pride of Israeli-Arab Troops

The tracker killed in yesterday's attack on our border with Gaza was a Bedouin, which isn't surprising since trackers are always either Bedouin or Druze; no Jews have the ancient capabilities of reading the landscape that comes with eons of living in nature and making your living from it. A number of years back there was speculation that perhaps Ethiopian Jews might have the training, but even if they did, their choice to join mainstream Israeli society rather than adhere to being pre-industrial farmers means they're not raising their sons with the abilities. So all trackers in the IDF, that entire branch of the army, is made of Arabic-speaking Druze and Bedouins. In time of comparative calm between wars and large operations, they are the spearhead of the border patrols, statistically more likely to be killed than other troops; that's the explanation for the otherwise curious fact that the Druze town of Beit-Jahn has the highest ratio of fallen soldiers to populace of any township in Israel.

The Bedouins, by the way, are all volunteers (the Druze are enlisted); most of these men are career soldiers, which is always a matter of choice.

More and more often, these days, when one of them is killed his name is not made public. The family knows the name, the neighbors all know him, but the general public doesn't. This didn't use to be true, it's only in the past few years, so the explanation in the article behind that link - whereby there are perhaps family members on the Palestinian side of the conflict - is not persuasive. More likely what's happening is that there's a radicalization among Israel's Arabs: a slow increase of willingness to serve in the IDF on the one hand, and growing vituperation against the trend on the other.


Anonymous said...

In a recent survey, 45% of Israeli Arabs said they are proud to be Israelis. That's down from 53% 2 years ago, but still... .

Sully said...

An interesting post. I vaguely realized that Bedouin Arabs serve in the IDF but your point that they serve in high risk units is an eye opener. I doubt that 5% of Americans are aware of even the basic fact that Muslims willingly serve in the IDF.

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