Israeli-Jews, Israeli-Druze and the Nation-State Basic Law

During 2016-2017, I worked closely with the Druze community in Israel. I got to know then inside out. I visited their homes in several villages, met with their leaders, I visited their military cemeteries and befriended many of them; I got to know their essence, their faith and their culture and I got to deeply respect them and marvel them. The Druze in Israel are incredible people, many are Zionists and they love the land.
Druze Flag (REUTERS)Druze Flag (REUTERS)
With Israel enshrining into Basic Law, what was obvious from its declaration of Independence, in 1948 days, that Israel has a Jewish character and it is the Nation State of the Jewish People, for inexplicable reasons the Druze community in Israel, numbers 130,000, started a roar and protested the law, calling it discriminatory, claiming the law makes them a second class citizens.
Some Druze soldiers went as far as ‘resigning’ from their military duty. Many members of the community marched in protest in the streets, while others filled the media with claims, much could be fashioned as ‘fake news’ and dishonest.
The law had no intention to insult the Druze in Israel, loyal, Zionist, remarkable minority, whom are respected by every Jewish-Israeli.
Nothing in the law changed the status of the Druze in Israel. They are equal to the Jews – they conscript to the military with pride and are equivalent to the Jews in all aspects.
In 1948, when David Ben-Gurion proclaimed Israel’s independence, the Druze community joined the army—but only as volunteers. In 1956, then-Prime Minister David Ben Gurion and then-Defense Minister Shimon Peres declared the Druze to be subject to the military draft, the same as Jewish Israelis. Today, the percentage of young Druze serving in the IDF is greater than the percentage of Jews: 85 percent of young Druze men serve, mostly in combat units, while only 72 percent of Jewish youth do so.
Druze scouts youth-Photo credit Druze Veterans AssociationDruze scouts youth-Photo credit Druze Veterans Association
It is worth reminding the public that strong bond between the Druze and the Jews in Israel began long before the establishment of the state in 1948. The Druze supported the early Jewish settlers who started to arrive to the land in 1880s’ and helped protect the Yishuv-Jewish settlements, established prior to the 1948 Declaration of Independence. Some Druze soldiers participated in the precursor of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) - Haganah.
In 1957, at the request of the communal Druze leaders, the Israeli government designated the Druze a distinct ethnic minority community.
Since the Druze leadership signed an alliance agreement with then the Prime Minister of Israel, David Ben Gurion, to serve in the military and be unquestionably loyal to the Jewish state in exchange for keeping their villages, having full citizenship and integrate into the Israeli society that made the Druze of Israel the most loyal minority. Their agreement with Israel is ‘Life Alliance’.
At the beginning, to build trust, the Druze served in the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) in one battalion they named Cherev (the Sword). Over the years they have proved to be extremely good and loyal soldiers and many made the ultimate sacrifice while defending Israel. Three years ago the Cherev Battalion was dismantled and today the Druze soldiers serve in all of the IDF’s forces, just like the Jews.
With my formed familiarity with the Druze, it bothered me to see the Druze of Israel protesting over the law. It touched me deeply.
January 12, 2017- 70 years to covenant event-Druze elders-Photo credit Nurit GreengerJanuary 12, 2017- 70 years to covenant event-Druze elders-Photo credit Nurit Greenger
I speak at 70 years to the covenant between Israel and the Druze-January 12, 2017-Photo credit Nurit GreengerI speak at 70 years to the covenant between Israel and the Druze-January 12, 2017-Photo credit Nurit Greenger
I therefore contacted one of my Druze friends, an amazing young man, holding a very prominent position in one of Israel’s high education institutes, a reserved officer in the IDF, whose brothers are all high ranking officers in the IDF.
Here is what he told me in Hebrew, which I translated to English:
"אני חושב שהאנשים שלנו פשוט התפוצצו בגלל האי שוויון שקיים כאן, במדינה, לאורך הרבה שנים. החוק בא כתרוץ או הקש ששבר גב הגמל.
סערה זמנית והכל יחזור להיות כרגיל. אף אחד לא זרק את מדי צה"ל, הכל שטויות. יש אלפי חיילים דרוזים שמשרתים עכשיו ושומרים על כולםת פה במדינה.
אני לא צריך את ביבי או חברי כנסת כדי להרגיש שהמדינה היא שלי!
האמת היא שכל כך הרבה אנשים מהעדה הדרוזית מדברים עם התקשורת היום אבל אני כבר הפסקתי לעקוב."
I think our people just exploded because of the inequality that exists here, in the country, over many years. The law came as an excuse, or the straw that broke the camel's back.
It is a temporary storm and everything will return to normal. No one threw off the IDF uniform, it's all nonsense. There are thousands of Druze soldiers who are serving now and protect all of us here, in the country.
I do not need ‘Bibi’ (Nickname for Prime Minister Netanyahu) or MKs (member of Knesset) to feel that the state is mine!
The truth is that so many people from the Druze community are talking to the media today, but I've stopped tracking what they have to say.”
I must note here that like many Israeli-Jews living in the periphery who feel they are less supported of the government, the Druze who live in 16 villages in Northern Israel, some villages are very remote, are also residents of the periphery and thus the inequality claims.
As Boaz Haetzni notes in his article, the progressive fashion that guides the rulings of the courts and the Supreme Court in Israel had thwarted any attempt to expel illegal migrants from the country who have caused much disgruntle to many Israelis and also caused the destruction of Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria, for the sake of destruction only. The High Court of Justice in Israel have been assisting in enabling the nomad Bedouin's takeover of vast land of the Negev and that is a troubling and dangerous phenomenon from which Israel's sovereignty will suffer tremendously. Same court has acted in outstanding and favorable responsiveness to petitions from Arabs and the political Left. The Supreme Court in Israel acts as a state within a state. Therefore, the painful situation the country came to face which demanded of the Legislative Branch of the government of Israel to legislate what was once the obvious, that Israel is the Nation State of the Jewish people.
Beit Jann, Druze village in Israel, monument for the fallen; phot taken on September 2017-photo credit Nurit GreengerBeit Jann, Druze village in Israel, monument for the fallen; phot taken on September 2017-photo credit Nurit Greenger
The nation-state law is an interesting test of Zionism, a reading, comprehension and logic test. Some of those protesting the legislation have not read the law; others have read it and failed the basic comprehension-logic test; others – the worst kind – have read it, understood it, yet have decided to use passing of the law as a political capital to incite and agitate, and thus driving an unnecessary wedge between Israeli-Jews and members of the Israeli-Druze community, whose lives and rights are not impacted one iota by the nation-state law.
My suggestion to the government of Israel is to take a heed. Deflate the frustration of the Druze community in Israel, mend the crack and bring them closer to full equality citizenship; hug them and show them that the Nation Law has done nothing to who they are, an integral part of Israeli society.