Both the ordinary operation of Israel’s major institutions and specific government programs and policies have fostered the isolation and internal fragmentation of the Arab community and its economic dependence on the Jewish majority. While the operation of these dynamics is complex, massive, and subtle, the barring of Moslem Arabs (the vast majority of the Arab population) from military service can serve as a symbol of the Palestinian population’s isolation and lack of access to important resources. The question of Palestinian army service is a difficult one, tied up with broader questions of Jewish Israeli security and self-definition. Yet since the army is a key institution in building a sense of Israeli identity, transmitting a wide range of skills, and providing entrée to jobs and public assistance programs, the exclusion of Palestinians from the army means they are ‘cut off from the major dynamic processes of social integration and mobility which exists in Israel.’
The contradictions of a democracy in which 17 percent of all citizens are suspected as a fifth column and subjected to discrimination are vastly intensified by Israel’s direct military rule over a million and a half Palestinians on the West Bank in Gaza. In the occupied territories, there is no pretense of democracy. Palestinians have no control over the government that determines the conditions of their existence, no right of appeal against the judgments of military courts, no secure rights to the land on which they live.
…It seems that the Jewish experience of oppression has led not to the just exercise of power by Jews in power, but to the Jewish repetition of strategies of domination. The many forms of oppression to which Jews have been subject, from denial of fundamental rights and outright expropriation of resources, to lack of respect for Jewish culture, to discrimination in housing and employment, are recapitulated within and between various groups in Israel. Not only has the Jewish historical experience not served as a lesson and warning, but past oppression has even been used as a justification for the right to oppress others. Past Jewish suffering is presumed to confer a moral purity that covers over and excuses moral weakness and rage.