Druse 'Zionist' youth demand equal treatment from state

Druse Zionist youth de

druze memorial 248.88 (photo credit: )
druze memorial 248.88
(photo credit: )
A gathering of self-described Druse Zionists on Tuesday sent a letter to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu demanding that the state fulfill decades-old promises to the Druse minority. At the Druse Zionist Youth Congress, held Tuesday in the northern Druse town of Daliat al-Carmel, some 350 young members of this religious and ethnic minority sent a letter to the prime minister demanding that promises from the 1980s to equalize state funding for Druse and Jewish towns in the Galilee be implemented. "Our message is that despite the deafness of government ministries and prime ministers - except Yitzhak Rabin, rest his soul - there is no better state for Druse in the world and no better friend to Israel and the Jewish people than the Druse," Yusef Nasradin, chairman of the Druse Zionist Council, told The Jerusalem Post. The event took place at Daliat al-Carmel's Yad Labanim, a building that commemorates the town's fallen IDF soldiers. Unlike other Arabic-speaking minorities in Israel, the Druse elected in the 1950s to submit to the draft. Druse soldiers have since attained every IDF rank except chief of the General Staff. "We want benefits for Druse villages that match what Jewish towns receive of the same size and locations," said Nasradin. "We also need help providing work for about 80 percent of Druse women who work from home, and we need to solve some issues related to [the budgets of] our local councils."   The letter speaks for some 1,700 Druse youth who are members of the Druse Zionist Council. "We, Druse youth from the villages of the Galilee and the Carmel," the letter reads, "have gathered today…to express our identification with the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state and as a state that grants equal rights to all its citizens without regard to religion, race or gender, as is stated in the Declaration of Independence. "As youth that will soon enlist in the IDF and who identify with the values of the State of Israel," it continues, "we ask you [Netanyahu] to take active steps toward a true integration of the Druse community in the civil and public structures of the State of Israel."   Israel, the letter says, "has not yet fulfilled its obligation to guarantee complete equality for the Druse community in Israel."   The letter cites "discrimination in budgeting" and the poor infrastructure in Druse population centers, and ends with a vow by "us, the next generation of Druse leadership in Israel," to work toward "erasing all discrimination and creating an infrastructure for real equality."   "This is a call to the prime minister to be much more militant in pushing for equal funding for Druse regional councils," according to Moshe Ben-Atar, chairman of the Israel Zionist Council. "The Druse are fed up with years of talking about their importance and their contribution. The want equal resources and all the benefits that they deserve," he added. The letter, copies of which are being delivered to the entire cabinet and to President Shimon Peres, specifically notes government decision 373 from February 1986, which according to Nasradin is a 23-year-old government order to equalize state funding for Druse regional councils with that of Jewish towns in the area. Decisions in support of Druse equality are not lacking, says Nasradin, but these decisions are not implemented. Tuesday's Druse Zionist Youth Congress is one of several sectoral conferences preceding the National Zionist Youth Congress slated for late December in Ashdod. Some 120,000 Druse live in Israel, mostly in villages in the Galilee. There are estimate to be some one million Druse worldwide.