Surrounded: Palestinian Soldiers in the Israeli Military

By Rhoda Ann Kanaaneh | Go to book overview
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Military Ethnification

SOON AFTER THE FIRST MINORITIES UNIT was established in the Israeli military, a deadly fight broke out between the unit's Druze and Bedouin soldiers. Military authorities attributed this clash, known as the Nesher Incident, to preexisting animosity between the Druze and Bedouins. However, the fighting reportedly broke out as a result of disagreements over guard duty and leave rotations—these were formally divided and organized by the military along Druze-versus-Bedouin lines. According to one of the soldiers involved: “Who is it that stirred up the Druze? The Jews promoted sedition among us.”1 Druze and Bedouins were then placed in separate units.

The recruitment of Arabs into the Israeli military does not aim simply at adding their strength to the ranks. Beyond “military utility,” their selective recruitment fits well with the policy of dividing and subdividing the Arab population.2 This segmentation is also practiced within the ranks. Categorization as Bedouin, Druze, Muslim, or Christian (versus Jewish) is paramount within the so-called melting pot of the Israeli military. A sign on the door of the Bedouin recruitment center in Bir al-Sabiʿ states that enlistment “strengthens the identification between the Bedouin sector and the state/IDF.” This sectoral view of soldiers and citizens informs unit structure, assignments, promotions, and benefits in the military.


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