Prime Minister Ehud Barak yesterday ordered IDF Chief of Staff Shaul Mofaz to investigate alleged comments by Chief Education Officer Elazar Stern denigrating non-Jewish immigrants.
Yedioth Ahronoth's Internet edition, YNET, yesterday quoted Stern as having told a group of soldiers and officers that "non-Jewish soldiers are inferior soldiers." According to the article, Stern paid a visit this week to an education base in the north of the country, where hundreds of immigrants are studying Hebrew and training as combat soldiers.
During a conversation with soldiers he learned that some of the immigrants are Christians and had asked to take their oath of loyalty to the army on the New Testament rather than on the Jewish Bible.
Officers who took part in the conversation said Stern reacted angrily to this and said the army should work to convert these soldiers. He then reportedly added that non-Jews make inferior soldiers because their connection to the state is weaker. However, he did add his criticism did not apply to Druze, Bedouin and Circassians, who were born here and "have made a covenant with the state in blood."
Stern denied having made the reported remark, which he said would be racist. But he said he does believe Judaism - though not religion - should be a part of the soldier's identity. "The chances a non-Jewish soldier ... will want to be part of us are not as high." A non-Jewish soldier, for instance, might be less interested in becoming an officer, he said, noting that a relatively low proportion of officers are immigrants.
Any desire to convert must come from the soldier, he said, but the army should help by making the conversion process more friendly.
Barak denounced Stern's statements yesterday. He said non-Jewish immigrants have even been killed in the country's defense.
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