Druse, Circassians intensify protest

Convoy causes disruptions on Acre-Carmiel road in demo against unfulfilled budget promises.

druze 88 (photo credit: )
druze 88
(photo credit: )
Traffic disruptions were reported Thursday morning on the Acre-Carmiel road as protests by Druse and Circassian local authority employees against unfulfilled budget promises intensified. A procession of cars driving at 10 kph was significantly hindering traffic. The group waved black flags and carried signs reading "What have you done to us?" and "What have we come to?" Sitting in the shade near a protest tent outside of the Knesset on Wednesday, Salah Fares, who heads the Forum of Druse and Circassians in Israel, said, "We grow up together, we fight together and sometimes, we die together." "And all we're asking for is equality. We're tired of the government's attempts to stall the issue, and we're tired of coming here with our hand out - we want to see results," he added. Fares said the issue was the state's longstanding neglect and discrimination against the two communities. Last week, the forum organized a demonstration in front of the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem that turned into a near-riot, and on Tuesday it resumed protests, blocking traffic at busy intersections throughout the North, and waving signs calling for government action. Fares said the forum wanted its local councils' debts written off, including water and electric bills that haven't been paid in more than six months, and for a number of other issues - housing and land appropriations among them - to be resolved. Despite statements from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu saying the government would begin tackling the problems, Fares said he had not been given any answers. "Nothing," he said. "They're leading us by the nose." Underscoring the issue, the Mekorot national water company stopped supplying a number of Druse villages in the Galilee on Wednesday due to the local authorities' unpaid bills, drawing renewed outrage from Fares and members of his community. "A Druse soldier enjoys equality only in the army," he said. "And now when he comes home on the weekend, he won't even have water in his sink." Around 120,000 Druse and a few thousand Circassians live in Israel, and while both communities are citizens and serve in the IDF, they have complained of discrimination for years. The reason for the renewed vigor of the protest, Fares said, was because they could no longer push off their bills, and services were beginning to be cut. "The government is giving us funding based on numbers that are years old, and that don't take into account price increases or inflation," he said. "It's simply not enough. And while they have enough money for the haredi schools and the Arab sector, we get nothing. Sixty years of loyalty, and this is what we've got." According to a statement released by the Prime Minister's Office last week, Netanyahu said he planned to intervene on behalf of the two communities. "I recognize and appreciate the contribution of the Druse community to the security of the state," he said. "And I think that we must make an extra effort here, as I did in my first term as prime minister. I am aware of the councils' problems and that all of you realize that there is a complicated global crisis that has yet to be resolved. "But despite this limitation, we will find the solution. Therefore, I ask that a supreme effort be made to help our brothers - they are our brothers." Netanyahu also said that a Druse soldier once saved his life. "That's all fine and well," Fares said on Wednesday. "But they haven't actually done anything. The prime minister told us he would at least begin looking into the issues by Monday, and now it's Wednesday - nothing has happened. The politicians know how to talk pretty, but that's all it is, just talk." JTA contributed to this report.