A group of 25 Bedouin IDF reservists said on Sunday that they will discontinue serving in the military unless discrimination against their community is addressed by the government.
In an open letter to Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, the reservists, from the Bedouin town of Bir al-Maksur in the western Galil, contend that after taking up arms for the country, they were denied a fair chance to find employment and receive government services.
“We served in combat units in the IDF and we have shed blood and tears in safeguarding Israel’s borders and its citizens. Unfortunately, when our military service was over, we realized that we were on our own. The country that sent us to fight on the battlefield abandons us day by day, hour by hour.”
They cited a significant decline in the number of recruits from among the Bedouin population, and warned that if the situation does not improve, fewer and fewer Bedouin will enlist.
Bedouin citizens of Israel are not required by law to serve in the IDF; those who do so are volunteers. Since 1948, more than 110 Bedouin soldiers have died defending Israel.
Liberman said he had not yet received the letter, but said he has “placed special emphasis on strengthening minority populations in the army and among Bedouin soldiers” since becoming defense minister last May, according to The Jerusalem Post.
One of the reasons for his recent visits to the Desert Reconnaissance Battalion was to “convey the message to the soldiers he met there, and the entire Bedouin population, that he intends to see to it that the Bedouin soldiers serving in the IDF receive a comprehensive aid program before and after their service, and that he intends to allocate the necessary resources for it.”
That message, he said, will be communicated directly to the signers of the letter, once it reaches his office.