Monday, June 1, 2009

A Question of Loyalty

Israeli society has major divisions in society. Some of the major tension points are Jews/Arab, religious/non-religious, left/right, those who do army service and those who don't. Yisrael Betaynu ran on a platform of unifying some of the divisions focussing on the goals of the state. The loyalty oath law was rejected by the cabinet on Sunday.

The downside of this plan received a lot of attention world wide. It called on all Israelis to take a loyalty oath towards the state in order to receive citizenship. Failure to take the oath would lose the benefits of social assistance and other government programs.

It is a strange scenario where individuals who are so set against the country they live in, have no problem reaping the benefits from the government. Every country in the world requires some sort of citizenship oath and loyalty to the country they choose to live. This law is supposed to create the same type of atmosphere that in order to recieve citizenship you need to believe in some degree in the values of the country and desire for the continuation of the country in wich you live. Those who would not accept the oath would likly be in the category of prefering Israel not to exist.

The desire for this oath is understandable. The problem is opening the door for the government to decide the line between loyal citizen and loyal citizen who disagrees with government policy. This aspect of the bill accomplishes very litte with the potentional to open many undesirable, unforseen consequences.

Unfortunatly one of the best aspects of the Yisrael Betaynu platform was also rejected with this bill. Currently every Israeli is obligated to do Army services. Arabs are exempt and there is also a religous exemption. Girls are allowed to do Shirut Leumi (National Service) instead of the army. This means that they do some sort of community service, so that they still serve their country in a non-military way.

The bill tried to do away with the exemption by requiring all citizens to do some sort of community service. Arabs would do service within their own communities and something similar would probably be worked out for the Haredi communities. This proposal is at the forefront of labelling Yisrael Betaynu as a racist party. This is a classic case of the label covering up the facts.

Israel has a mandatory draft. It is only fair that people who are not going to be putting their lives on the line to defend their country, to find a way to serve in a manner acceptable to one's own personal beliefs. In Ontario, community service hours have become a mandatory part of the high school curriculim. Community service helps society as a whole and brings valuable experience to those who participate. Putting the same goals into the context of Israeli society balances the playing field for everyone, while helping make the country a better place to live.

In the face of enemies both from outside and within there is a natural reaction to reject those who want to take from society but are not willing to contribute and in cases willing to destroy. Making the system of who has to serve the state and how would have been an excellent way to bridge many gaps in Israeli society. Unfortunatly this idea adds extra obligations to those who get a free ride. Combined with some political spin and the optics are that it is aimed to opress the Arabs. The purpose of trying to balance society is completly lost. Combined with the loyalty oath and the bill had no chance of being passed. The positive idea with have to wait for another time to be considered again.

No comments: