Lebanon's Druse leader Walid Jumblatt.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The spiritual leader of Israel’s Druse community, Sheikh Moafaq Tarif, on Friday rebuffed comments by Lebanese Druse parliamentarian Walid Jumblatt, who called on his co-religionists in Israel to support the Joint Arab List.
The Druse in Israel “are an inseparable part of Israeli society and they enjoy freedom of expression and freedom to do as they please,” Tarif said in an interview with the Arab-language website Huna. The Druse field candidates who run with both right-wing and left-wing parties and its lawmakers in the Knesset serve the community’s interests irrespective of ideology, the sheikh said, adding that the Druse in Israel refrain from commenting or “interfering” in the internal affairs of their brethren in neighboring countries, so he would expect “others to respect the right of Druse in Israel to vote as they please.”
The controversy started when Jumblatt, the head of Lebanon’s Progressive Socialist Party, took the unprecedented step of publicly imploring fellow Druse south of the border to back the amalgamation of Arab parties running in the current election.
“The current situation necessitates that Arab Druse confirm their Arab identity and their national Palestinian heritage,” Jumblatt said in a statement, the text of which was reported by the English-language Lebanese newspaper The Daily Star. “[Voting for] The Joint Arab List is an important step in taking their rights as equal citizens.
“I direct this call to the Arab Druse in occupied Palestine who, along with their Palestinian brothers, are suffering from the occupation, oppression and injustice of the actions of Israel.
“[Israel] wants to completely eliminate the Arab identity and [deny] all the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people,” he said.
Meanwhile, Majali Wahabi, a former deputy foreign minister and Knesset member with the Labor Party, condemned Jumblatt on Friday, telling Israel Radio he “has no scruples.”
“He should know that he has no right to intervene in Israeli politics, just as the Druse in Israel do not interfere in Lebanese politics,” Wahabi said.
IDF Col. (res.) As’ad As’ad, a prominent Druse and a Likud supporter, joined the chorus condemning Jumblatt, urging the Lebanese lawmaker “to stop his idle chatter.”