Commentary Magazine


Scott Wilson’s War

An interesting ombudsman column in Sunday’s Washington Post: Back in December 2007, Scott Wilson, then the Post‘s Jerusalem bureau chief, wrote a piece entitled “For Israel’s Arab Citizens, Isolation and Exclusion.” The story included the following assertion, which is simply and flatly false: “Except for a relatively small Druze population, Arabs are excluded also from military service.”

The Post‘s ombudsman asks: was “excluded” the wrong word to describe the treatment of Israeli Arabs by the IDF? According to the dictionary, “excluded” means “to prevent the entrance of” or to “shut out from consideration.” It would mean, in Scott Wilson’s telling, that save for a few Druze, there are no Israeli Arabs in the Israeli military.

Well, there is in fact no prohibition against or exclusion of Israeli Arabs in the IDF. What does exist is a sensible if regrettable accommodation that has been struck on behalf of the social harmony of everyone involved. For the Israeli Arabs, it derives from a general desire not to serve in the Jewish state’s army; for the IDF, it derives from an entirely legitimate fear of security risks from soldiers whose loyalties are not to the IDF. As is typical, such nuance had no place in Wilson’s story, and the ombudsman says that “The Post‘s Wilson is firm on his word choice.”

But reality has a way of correcting fantasy. Here is a paragraph from today’s Haaretz story about Hamas’s attempt to crash through the Gaza border on Passover eve:

IDF success depends greatly on the quick judgment of the commander in the field. Saturday it was the Bedouin Desert Battalion deputy commander, Major Wahid, who correctly foresaw the impending explosion of a booby-trapped vehicle, and ordered his men into protected vehicles, certainly limiting casualties.

Major Wahid? Oops.