LOS ANGELES, California — Four Israel Defense Force (IDF) reservists from the country’s non-Jewish religious minorities praised their military service and their country at the American Jewish University on Sunday night.
Christian Arab Jonathan Elkhoury, Muslim Bedouin Mohammad Kaabiya, Muslim Arab Dema Tayah, and Druze Arab Ram Asad spoke to an audience of several hundred as they represented the “Reservists on Duty” (RoD) organization at an event hosted by the Israeli American Council. RoD was established in 2015 by Israeli combat soldiers and veterans to counter the message of left-wing organizations such as “Breaking the Silence,” a largely European-funded left-wing Israeli veterans’ group that spreads accusations of war crimes by Israeli soldiers.
“Some of the things that are [falsely] said about us is that Israel is being an apartheid state … And we are here to share our stories,” Elkhoury said. He explained that he and his colleagues are particularly interested in reaching college campuses.
In May 2017, they faced such virulent protest at University of California Irvine, where their speaking event was disrupted by pro-Palestinian activists, that they had to be escorted off campus by police. (As a result, the UC Irvine chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine was sanctioned with probation for two years.)
“What apartheid are they talking about?” Tayah asked, noting that Israel was a society of many colors and many cultures. She noted that she had been criticized by some within her community, but that she wanted to live “hand in hand” with her Jewish compatriots. She contrasted life in Israel to “jungle” life in the neighboring Arab countries,”Israel gives you a chance to express yourself … one of the strongest rights that democracy has.
After she had been profiled in Arab media, she was told by some people she was no longer a Muslim. “Who gives you the right to tell me that I am out of Islam? Did God put you on earth as a manager for Him?” She added that she believes most women in her community feel the same way, but were afraid of expressing that view in public.
“It was my pleasure to be a fighter, a combat soldier, to serve in the IDF,” Asad added, noting that his family had a long history of service in the IDF — including his father, who had attained the rank of brigadier general.
Kaabiya agreed, adding that many Bedouin Arabs had sacrificed their lives to defend Israel, are more would volunteer to do so.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.