Tuesday, April 5, 2016

He is one of Israel's top soldiers, but to his friends he is a traitor

Israel's highest-ranking Muslim soldier has described how he endeavours to make his service a source of pride to his father, despite many treating him as a traitor.

Growing up in the village of Reineh in the Galilee - where many believe he has betrayed Arab-Israelis - Major Alaa Waheeb said he never imagined he would be part of the Israeli Defence Forces, let alone go on to become its most-decorated Muslim. 

The major was speaking while in Britain for a tour of communities organised by the grassroots group Zionist Federation.

But the soldier, who has served as a platoon commander and was an operations officer in the Gaza brigade during the disengagement in 2005, could not even speak Hebrew until he was 18. [..]

He admitted that when he first joined the IDF, he was "very hesitant" about fighting Arabs, especially as people in his village would ask: "Are you going to kill and murder Arab people, because this is what the IDF is doing, isn't it?"

The major said he "understood where this question comes from, because these Arabs in Gaza and Lebanon are relatives of people who live in my village," but said that when it came down to it, "I had no special feelings.

"Those are my enemies as well. If someone is firing rockets from Gaza, they may be an Arab, but their rocket can hit my house as well.

"Slowly but surely I began to fall in love with the people in my unit. My life never felt like it was less important than their lives. We became brothers in arms. I am happy with that, because every moment of co-operation between Israeli-Arabs and Israeli Jews reduces the risk of war, and makes the chances for peace higher."[...]

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