golan druse shepherd.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Druse leaders blasted on Sunday the "peripheral minority of the [Druse] community" who have recently visited Syria and who warned of an upcoming "Druse intifada."
"These statements come to turn back the clock on the tremendous advances made in the integration of the Druse into public service, and to harm the Jewish-Druse covenant of life that we have been building for many years," wrote Nabia Nasser Adin, head of the Forum of Druse and Circassian Mayors, Yusef Nasser Adin, the chairman of the Druse Zionist Movement in Israel and Moshe Ben-Atar, the director of the Israel Zionist Council, which works with Israel's Druse communities on issues of Zionist identity and integration.
The letter, addressed to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit and Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, called on the government "to aggressively prevent a continued wave of similar visits to Syria, which only serve extremist elements in the Arab sector, and to continue to strengthen the Israeli identity of Druse youth in the Galilee and Carmel."
In early September, 330 Druse religious leaders led by Druse MK Sa'id Nafa (Balad) went on a tour of Druse religious sites in Syria.
In the immediate aftermath of the visit, Deputy Knesset Chairman Majalie Whbee of Kadima called it a "trip of flattery to [Syrian President Bashar] Assad, initiated by members of the school of [former MK] Azmi Bishara," and said it "represents only the extremist margin groups and not the mainstream Druse population of Israel."
According to Whbee, the trip was "another sign" that the state of Israel "sticks its head in the sand and is not doing enough to halt subversive actions perpetrated under the auspices of [extreme left-wing Arab party] Balad and its leaders."
Nafa, who replaced Bishara on the Balad list after the latter fled Israel amid accusations of espionage, led the trip to Syria despite having his request to go rejected on security grounds by the interior minister. It is against the law for Israelis to visit countries with which Israel is technically at war, including Syria and Lebanon.
The writers of Sunday's letter did not dispute that there was some frustration among the Druse over the underdevelopment in Druse areas. The letter called for "speeding up development and striving for equality that will help to lessen the sense of frustration among the population. Don't give oxygen to those seeking to sabotage the Jewish-Druse covenant of life."
Sheera Claire Frenkel contributed to this report.