The truth is we want the wages, the
benefits from the state, the land.
Hatim, from Kufur Kanna,
served in the military for three years
SOLDIERING IN THE ISRAELI MILITARY IS DANGEROUS, perhaps even more so for Arab soldiers, whose fatality rates are claimed to be higher. It is also unpopular—Arab soldiers are widely criticized in their communities as traitors. They serve in the military of a state that colonized them and that is fighting other Palestinians only a few miles away. So why do hundreds of Arabs volunteer to join the Israeli security apparatus?
To a large extent, the answer is economics. Despite the political nature of the decision, the majority of soldiers I interviewed argued that material conditions were their primary motivation. Major political events such as the Oslo agreements in the 1990s, the October 2000 killings of unarmed Palestinian citizens, or the death of co-villagers do not appear to be clearly linked to a change in the number of Arab volunteers. I asked Haitham, a middle-aged policeman from the Abu Ghosh area near Jerusalem, what effect he thought the Oslo Accords had on the number of Arabs volunteering for the military and police. I thought that optimism for a possible peace settlement between Israel and the PLO at that time might have meant a slight increase in the number of Palestinian citizens joining the Israeli military. But Haitham explained to me that “Oslo is not relevant. Those who are looking for work don't think about that kind of thing.” The few statistics available on the number of Arab volunteers over the years do not suggest an overwhelming correlation