Members of the Druse community watch the fighting in the Druse village of Khadr in Syria as they stand on the Israeli side of the border fence between Syria and the Golan Heights.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Syrian Druse have tried to stay neutral since the uprising broke out in 2011 and life has largely continued normally in their communities, unlike for most others in the country, a top Israeli-Druse leader told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.
Former deputy foreign minister Majallie Whbee – now a roving ambassador for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean, a forum for the region’s parliamentarians to come together and achieve common objectives – said that many refugees from other ethnic communities in Syria have taken refuge in Druse areas.
Druse are generally not supporting opposition groups but are seeking to stay out of the conflict, something which has allowed restaurants and night clubs to continue to operate, he said.
There are economic difficulties in Druse areas, but in the southern Syrian city of Sweida there even were New Year’s celebrations, added Whbee.
The former MK disputed the assertion by Israeli-Druse activist Mendi Safadi in a Post article last week that Syrian Druse in the southern Jebl al-Druse region have lost faith in the ability of the Syrian army to protect them.
While Whbee confirms that Druse in the southern city of Sweida established their own security force to protect themselves from Islamist rebels, he estimates that more than half of Syrian Druse support the regime.
“Druse have lost many who fought as soldiers in the regime army – from generals to those with low ranks. Approximately 2,000 Druse soldiers have died since the Syrian conflict began,” said Whbee.
He also disagrees that his Syrian brethren stand between Islamic State and the Israeli border.
The regime is very weak in the southern Druse areas because it redeployed forces to other fronts, and for this reason there are several thousand Druse who are part of a local force defending their community, continued Whbee. And because of this and the war, there is also a lack of law enforcement and the Druse force is trying to act as the local police.
Asked about forces close to Israel’s Golan Heights, Whbee said that Islamic State is not near the border but that al-Qaida’s Nusra front and other rebel groups are present.
Israeli Druse are financially aiding their Syrian brethren, he added.
Regime-appointed Syrian- Druse religious leaders who have been backing President Bashar Assad’s rule have lost their legitimacy because they fully back the government, while independent religious leaders who have tried to keep the Druse from appearing to side with a party in the civil war have gained more of a following.
The intervention of Russia has relieved some of the threat from the Nusra Front and Islamic State on Druse communities, he asserted.
As for Hezbollah efforts to recruit Druse to their cause, Whbee said the Lebanese organization failed since Druse care about their own people and their mountainous base and not about fighting for others.