Arab, Israeli, and Proud

5-Minute Videos  ⋅  Yoseph Haddad  ⋅  

Yoseph Haddad has served in the Israeli Defense Forces. He’s also an Arab. Why would an Arab volunteer to join the Israeli military? If Israel really is an apartheid state, why would Haddad be proud to defend it? He explains.

Browse All Videos

The mission was straightforward: Rescue comrades coming under heavy anti-tank fire.

But now the sun was up.

And our cover was blown.

We were totally exposed.

I felt a heavy whoosh of air.

Then I felt nothing. Just a ringing in my ears.

I was on the ground. I could see through my thigh. Even worse, I couldn’t see my foot.

It was gone.

When I awoke in the hospital, it took every ounce of courage I had to look down my leg.

Somehow. Some way. My foot was there.

The doctors had managed to re-attach it.

We have the best surgeons.

Unfortunately, they get a lot of practice at this sort of thing.

That’s life in Israel.

That’s life as an Israeli soldier.

And that’s what I am.

I’m also an Arab.

Sometimes people say to me, “Yoseph, how could you fight for the IDF?” I say, it’s simple. It’s not the Jewish Defense Forces. It’s the Israeli Defense Forces. And I’m an Israeli. 

Are you surprised?

If so, I don’t blame you. You probably get your news about Israel from… well, the media. They amplify extremists and sell conflict because conflict sells; conciliation doesn’t.

Stereotypes make for simple stories. Too simple. So, let’s examine some.

Let’s take the simplest: That there are Israelis. And there are Palestinians. And that each side defines itself against the other.

Turns out that fundamental division is false. According to a poll in 2020, only seven percent of Arabs living in Israel self-identify as “Palestinian.” By contrast, 74 percent consider themselves either Israeli-Arab—or just plain Israeli.

This is typical. 

So, here are a few. 

In America, given their numbers, Jews are disproportionately represented in the medical profession. No surprise. 

But did you know this?

In Israel, Arabs are disproportionately represented in the medical profession. Arabs comprise 20 percent of Israel’s population—but 30 percent of its physicians and 35 percent of its pharmacists.

You’ve probably heard the stereotype that Jews are bankers. This suggests that they control things behind the scenes. So, you may be surprised to learn that the head of the biggest bank in Israel is an Arab.

Worse than the stereotypes are the lies. The worst lie is this: Israel is an “apartheid state.”

In an apartheid state, some can vote, and some can’t. But in Israel, Arabs don’t just vote—they sometimes call the shots. In 2021, as an article in Al-Monitor put it, “for the first time in Israel’s 73-year history, Arab [Parliament] members will likely have final say on whether a government is formed and even who will head such a government.”

In an apartheid state, some get an education, and some don’t. But in Israel, Arab enrollment in higher education is exploding—more than doubling between 2008 and 2018. And Israeli Arab Christians actually outpace Israeli Jews in higher education degrees relative to population.

You probably don’t know these facts because the media prefers to demonize Israel rather than report about it fairly.

That may never change, but whether or not they report it, Israel is experiencing an important generational shift.

Our parents' and grandparents’ generations witnessed major wars—in 1948, 1967, and 1973. My generation and the generation after me haven’t seen such conflicts. But we have all grown up under the shadow of terrorist violence—from suicide bombers to Hamas rocket attacks.

And terrorists don’t discriminate between Jews and Arabs.

When you come face to face with this reality—when you have face-to-face conversations— you realize that everyone within the borders of Israel confronts the same threat. And then you can begin to understand that the real story isn’t two groups—Jews and Arabs—locked in eternal conflict, but two parts of a nation coming together in a process I call Israelization.

A silent, but ever-growing majority of citizens simply want to live in peace with their neighbors—the ones across the street and the ones on the other side of national borders.

Like I said, extremist voices get amplified. The media likes it that way. It generates clicks, sells papers, and boosts TV ratings. Unfortunately, stories of good people living and working side-by-side without strife don’t do any of those things.

But that doesn’t make those stories less true or those people any less real.

The real peace process happens one person at a time. With each passing year, I see that process expanding.

It won’t be smooth because nothing in this part of the world goes smoothly.

But no one is going to stop it.

Just like no one is going to stop me from defending my country, Israel.

I’m Yoseph Haddad, founder of Together: Vouch for Each Other, for Prager University.