Al Majalla, a Saudi-owned, London-based political news journal published in Arabic, English, and Persian, with headquarters in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, earlier this month ran a story titled, “Exclusive: IDF – ‘Our Mission is to Enlist as Many Israeli Arabs as we can’” with the sub-headline, “Statistics Reveals the Campaign is Working.”
The article may not stand up to journalistic standards, as you’ll see below, but it’s astonishing that a Saudi propaganda arm publishes such a positive article about Israel, its army, and its egalitarian treatment of its Arabs, without once referencing Palestinian refugees, Jerusalem the capital of Palestinian, and the rest of the familiar anti-Zionist prerequisites. Someone at the top in the Kingdom ordered this.
Reporter Suzan Quitaz (also London-based) who also writes for the Dubai daily Al Arabiya, tells her readers: “There is a massive misconception in the mainstream media about the Israeli Army. Most people believe it’s predominately Jewish,” but “the IDF represents the whole nation, ‘the people’s army,’ in which Israeli Jews, Druze, Muslims, Arabs, Bedouins and Christians all are brothers in arms.”
Quitaz contacted us and sent us a link to the version in Arabic (which we could not originally find), a screenshot of the frontpage, and to let us know that she personally interviewed the IDF soldiers mentioned in the article.
Quitaz deals first with the Druze, and writes that “in 1956, Druze leaders signed a ‘covenant of blood’ with the Israeli government, conscripting the community into the IDF making it as the only non-Jewish minority serving,” and since then, “serving at the IDF has ever since been part of Druze identity and source of pride, love, and loyalty to Israel.”
That’s inaccurate. The covenant of blood followed the 1948 battle of Ramat Yochanan between a Druze battalion and the pre-state Jewish Haganah that ended in a Druze defeat. That’s when the Druze realized it was the Jews, not the Arabs, who had the upper hand and joined them. Later that year, Druze agents facilitated the IDF takeover of Shfaram, and soon after, several key Druze families forged the pact.
Quitaz notes that “above 80% percent of Druze men enlist in the IDF, the highest enlistment percentage of all communities and sectors of Israeli society, including Israeli Jews.”
Quitaz eventually gets to the promise of her headline, writing, “Despite the fact that Israeli law does not force Israel’s Arab Muslims, Christians or Bedouins to join the IDF, the past few years have seen a sharp and steady increase of young men and women from Israel’s Arab society joining the IDF in great numbers compared to a decade ago.”
This may be true about Christian Arabs, who have been leaning toward “Zionism” in recent years, encouraged by inspired priests. Among the Bedouin, the trend is reversed. Only a few hundred Bedouin soldiers serve in the IDF today, certainly fewer than in past decades.
In the end, Quitaz is able to provide only scant evidence in support of her heartwarming headline. She writes: “This year, on 5 May, 2022, President Isaac Herzog hosted the annual Independence Day Ceremony at his official residence. … The ceremony was to honor and hand out ‘Commendations of Excellence Service’ to 120 IDF soldiers and officers from a diverse set of units in the military. To the 120 soldiers and officers, President Herzog said ‘You are our true pride. I salute you. I have read your stories. I was moved by your stories.’”
She asserts that “a number of Israeli Arab officers were among those who received ‘Commendations of Excellence Service.’”
So, 120 non-Druze soldiers altogether. I would file it under “Quaint.”
Finally, Al Majalla illustrated the story with this picture of Golani Brigade soldiers being sworn in at the Kotel and claimed these were “Israeli Arab troops during basic training.” Here’s the screenshot: