On Tuesday, the Israeli online newspaper Haaretz reported an incidence of racism by an Israeli Defense Force soldier via social media. The soldier posted from his Facebook account, “There’s nothing better than a dead Arab,” perpetuating the idea that the conflict is deeply rooted in hate rather than working toward peace.
This is not the first time IDF soldiers have been exposed publicizing their hatred online and it raises the question of whether or not there is a dominant way of thinking in the military that encourages this hateful behavior.
This is not only a problem within the Israeli military, of course. It is a problem that permeates armed forces across the world, including the American military. I was shocked when reading No Easy Day, the story of the Bin Laden pursuit, at how the narrator spoke so degradingly about the “enemy.” Obviously the idea of military service is to show allegiance to one’s country. In our hearts, for the most part, people have more pride in their home country than other countries of the world to which they are not attached. However, there is a fine line between patriotism and racism. Blanket statements like the one made in the Facebook post show hate toward an entire race, and not an inkling of pride in the cause for peace.
When one country is at war with another, as Israel is with the Palestinian territories and the United States is with parts of the Muslim world, it is logical that there be enmity between the combatants. It is important to realize, though, that motivation to fight comes from actions by the few, not the many. For instance, in terror organizations only the big wigs are involved orchestrating attacks. Everyone else is primarily involved in fundraising and spreading awareness. Most people aren’t part of terror organizations. In the case of the War on Terror, most people in the Islamic world do not want to kill Americans. In the case of the Arab-Israeli conflict, most people on the ground want peace.
Race, ethnicity, and religion are all complex social constructions, but in an idealistic world our goal is to look past those constructions and build respect for all of humanity. When militaries impose ethnocentric values on their soldiers, it creates a barrier to ever achieving peace and mutual respect. Although the post by the IDF soldier on Facebook is an isolated incident, it is representative of a larger systemic problem within the militaries of the world. It begs the question of whether or not we truly want peace, or military victory? The two are different.