Attrition: The Israeli Mosaic


July 10, 2019: Recently the Israeli Air Force gained its first Druze pilot as he completed the course for helicopter pilots. He could have attended the fighter pilot course but had a preference for helicopters. There is also a Druze serving in the air force as a navigator. That officer was recently promoted to lieutenant colonel and now heads a staff school. While only two percent of Israelis are Druze, they are subject to conscription because they, like Jews, are also hated by most Moslems because Druze are considered heretics or pagans, depending on which misconception you choose. Early on Jews and Druze established a “blood covenant” in which both Jews and Druze declared their loyalty to Israel and each other. The only other Moslem group subject to conscription are the Circassians, a Sunni Moslem group originally from the Caucasus that were exiled to what became Israel by the Ottoman Empire. Arabs saw the Circassians as foreigners. Before and during the Jewish war for independence the Circassians, along with the Druze, sided with the Jews and were accepted as Israelis citizens when Israel became a state. The Circassians sought and were allowed to be conscripted. The Circassians were always a small minority because, like European Jews, they sought secular education and had smaller families so all the children could be well educated. There are only about 4,000 Circassians in Israel and they are allowed to attend their own schools in order to maintain their culture.

Not all Druze living in Israel belong to the Druze covenant. For example, in late 2018 several dozen Israeli Druze in the Golan Heights held a pro-Assad demonstration that was acknowledged by Syrian soldiers guarding the border (who shouted encouragement). The Israeli border police did not interfere. While most of the 20,000 Druze living in Israeli controlled (since 1967) Golan Heights have retained their Syrian nationality, Israel did not hold that against them. A growing number of younger Druze are accepting the offer of Israeli citizenship. But older Syrian Druze are more concerned with kin who still live in Syria and are subject to persecution the Assads discover family members who are Israeli citizens.

Many of the Druze in Syria (about five percent of the population) turned against the Assad government by 2015. From late 2014 until 2018 al Nusra and other Syrian rebels controlled most of the border adjacent to Israel. This created problems with the Israeli Druze who feared for the safety of the 500,000 Syrian Druze. The 130,000 Israeli Druze have been pressuring Israel since 2013 to rescue or help protect Druze living across the border in Syria.

Israel agreed to help but never released a lot of details. The solution apparently involved quietly making deals with Syrian rebels. This solution meant there was no need to allow lots of Syrian Druze into Israel or send Israeli troops across the border to establish a “safe zone” for Syrian Druze. This would preserve the lands of Syrian Druze and not turn them into refugees, but would also be more expensive (in cash and lives) for Israel to defend this new border. That never happened. With ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) gone from the Israeli border by late 2017, al Nusra (al Qaeda rebels) and Assad forces controlled most of the border. Al Nusra was driven away from the Israeli border by Syrian soldiers and Iranian mercenaries in early 2018 and from then on the entire southern border was controlled by the Assad forces.

Arab Israelis can volunteer for the military and many do, but at the most, only a few thousand Arab volunteers are in the military, and this includes Arab Christians and Bedouins. The Bedouins are looked down on by most Arabs and early on Israel tried to deport its Bedouins to Jordan. But many preferred to stay in Israel and eventually Israel accepted that. Despite the deportation efforts the Bedouin prefer living in Israel and military service is admired among the Bedouin so many volunteer to serve and several have won medals for valor in combat while others have become career officers.

Many Israeli Arabs, especially young ones, are attracted to Islamic radicalism. For example, in mid-2010 sixteen Israeli Arabs were accused of terrorism or providing assistance to Islamic terrorists. This treason by Israeli Arabs has been an increasing problem. Some 20 percent of Israeli citizens are Arabs. Not all are Moslem (12 percent are Christian and eight percent are Druze.) The tiny Circassian Moslem minority are the only Israeli Arabs subject to conscription. Other Israeli Arabs can volunteer, and a few do, after being carefully screened. Despite that, one of the Israeli Arabs arrested in 2010 was a career army NCO, who worked on vehicle maintenance in a northern Israel army base. He provided the names of seven local Israeli Arab civilians who, like he, were also working for a drug smuggling gang. What was most troublesome about this was that the drug gang was known to work with Islamic terror group Hezbollah, which controls most of southern Lebanon.

The NCO provided information to the smugglers on which border posts were having problems with their surveillance equipment or other gear, and what the patrol schedules were. The drug gangs bring their stuff in from Lebanon, where Hezbollah has to be paid off. Information on the Israeli military is very valuable, and it's believed that Hezbollah was getting what the Israeli sergeant was passing on to the drug gang. The Israeli NCO admitted he did it for the money. Hezbollah has had increasing success getting Israelis, usually Israeli Arabs, to spy for them for cash.

Israel also has problems with Bedouins and smuggling. Bedouins are unpopular in many Moslem countries because Bedouins were nomads for thousands of years and tended to disregard borders. For many Bedouins, smuggling is not considered a crime but an ancient Bedouin tradition. Israeli police can at least get the Bedouin smugglers to cooperate, especially when the Israeli Bedouin were having problems on the Egyptian (Sinai) side of the border. Few Bedouin Israelis get involved with Islamic terrorism. That is an exception.

Eight of the Israeli Arabs arrested in 2010 were directly involved in Islamic terrorism. Several of them were charged with murdering three Israeli Jews in 2009. The eight were also involved in buying, selling and smuggling illegal firearms, and seeking to obtain explosives for terror attacks. Several of these men traveled overseas a lot, and it was their trips to Ethiopia and Kenya which put them under investigation.

While Israeli Jewish gangsters stay away from terrorism, the Israeli Arab criminals use their ethnic ties, and knowledge of Arabic, to work with gangsters in neighboring Arab states. These gangs are more willing to work with Islamic terrorists, especially in Lebanon and Syria where Islamic terrorism is, for all practical purposes, legal.

Israel had adapted to all these “ancient customs” by carefully screening Moslems seeking to join the military and quietly keeping an eye on the behavior of Moslem troops to detect any signs of problems and, if possible, stop it before the Moslem soldiers gets himself in major trouble. Sometimes a quiet discharge or not allowing a Moslem soldier to re-enlist solves the problem. Israel prefers to honor the loyal Moslem soldiers and weed out the questionable ones, quietly if possible.

Meanwhile, the first Druze helicopter pilot in the Israeli air force is considered a very successful man by his family and fellow Druze, but he and his family prefer that the pilot’s name not appear in the media.




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