Druze leader says community pained by Nation-State Law

Jewish Agency board reaffirms principles of Declaration of Independence

Sheikh Mowafaq Tarif speaking at the meeting of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency on Wednesday (photo credit: JEWISH AGENCY)
Sheikh Mowafaq Tarif speaking at the meeting of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency on Wednesday
(photo credit: JEWISH AGENCY)
The spiritual leader of the Druze community in Israel, Sheikh Mowafaq Tarif, told the board of governors of the Jewish Agency that his people has been pained by the recent approval of the Nation-State Law and called for it to be amended.
At the meeting in Tel Aviv, the board voted in favor of a resolution to reaffirm the Jewish Agency’s commitment to the principles of the Declaration of Independence whereby Israel is a Jewish and democratic state that ensures equality of social and political rights to all citizens, irrespective of religion, race or sex.
The invitation to Tarif and the declaration were the initiatives of Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog, following strong opposition from Jewish leaders in the Diaspora to the Nation-State Law, which was passed by the Knesset as a basic law with quasi-constitutional status.
The law was widely criticized for ascribing national rights to the Jewish people in the State of Israel without specifying the requirement for full equality for all citizens in the same basic law.
Advocates of the bill argued that equality for all citizens is legislated in Israel’s Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, while there had been no previous law delineating Israel’s Jewish character.
The Druze community in particular objected to the law, which it felt excluded them from being part of the state, with its leaders arguing that it reduces them to second-class citizens and ignores their contribution to the country.
Speaking to the assembled members of the board, Tarif noted that the Druze community participates in all parts of Israeli society and the economy, serves in the army at a rate even higher than do Jewish citizens, all of which, he said, the community is proud of.
Tarif said the Druze suffer from discrimination against their municipalities in terms of budget allocations of infrastructure, sanitation and housing developments.
“The community is greatly pained because the Nation-State Law did not mention them and turned them into second-class citizens without equality,” said Tarif.
“We are not against Israel being a nation-state for the Jewish people, but we want that all citizens be equal in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence.”
Tarif also appealed for Israel and the international community to help free Druze captives taken by Islamic State in an attack on the Jabal al-Druze region of Syria in July in which the violent jihadi group took 30 people hostage and massacred 250 people.
Herzog told Tarif and other Druze leaders present at the event that the State of Israel should be deeply thankful to the Druze for standing by the nascent state when it was established in 1948, and for participating in all walks of life, including serving in the military, and for the 400 members of the Druze community who laid down their lives in the IDF during Israel’s wars.
Leader of the Opposition  and Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni welcome the declaration of the Board of Governors, saying that "the Jewish people has again established the Declaration of Independence to be the basis of our values, now it is the turn of the Knesset."