The Druze Protest against Israel’s National State Law: Where is it Leading?

Prof. As’ad Abdul Rahman

Everyone knows that the Druze community lived in Palestine as an integral part of the Palestinian Arab people. In 1948, when the ‘State of Israel’ was established, its governments sought to isolate the community from their Arab environment by striking at the fact that Druze was a nationality in itself. In order to bring them closer, Israel exploited the story of the marriage of the Prophet Shuaib’s daughter to Prophet Moses, to show the Druze that there is a historical interrelationship with the Jews, similar to their relationship with the Arabs.

In 1956, David Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel  issued a decree obliging the Druze to serve in the Israeli army, a decision which faced heavy resistance by the community. Despite Israel’s success in imposing conscription, it still faces several Druze institutions demanding the repeal of the Compulsory Recruitment Law. In 1959, the Israeli authorities separated the Druze courts from the Islamic Shari’a courts in order to strengthen their separation from their natural Arab environment. In addition, local authorities, schools and special curricula were dedicated to create a sense of belonging to a Druze sect, independent of Arabs and Palestinians.

All of the above, however, failed to protect the Druze from the Israeli policy of racial discrimination and did not preserve their land from confiscation for the establishment of Jewish colonial communities. Today, it was natural to see the “National State Law” angering the Druze community, because it “denies the existence of a non-Jew in Israel.” The Druze realized that the issue was not a matter of sect or religion but the Israeli policy of Judaization. Thus, the law is not only targeting the Druze or any other minority, but anyone who is not Jewish, and therefore the Druze, like others, becomes victims of this policy. This prompted the continuous multifold strong Druze protest campaign: Statements attacking the law, Demonstrations against it, Resignations by some Druze officers of the Israeli army, as well as raising voices rejecting the recruitment law, with a number of Druze groups opposed to the military service. Those groups, after an emergency meeting, affirmed that their community is “an integral part of the Palestinian people, and committed to all decisions of the Higher Follow-up Committee on the issues of the Palestinians of 1948, and that they reject the law entirely, and not only amending it.”

This protest campaign was the focus of the Israeli press when it quoted the failure of Benjamin Netanyahu’s meeting with the Druze leaders. For example, the Druze Brigadier General (res.) Amal Assa’ad criticized the law, calling Israel a racist state, concluding: “Israel is an apartheid state.”  Haaretz newspaper echoed the same view saying that “the Israeli prime minister sees Israel first of all as a Jewish state; democracy is less important to him. The mission of his life was and still is the international recognition of Israel as “the state of the Jewish people”, his state only. The national state law is the most determined step to establish this position in Israel’s emerging constitution. The vote on the law has drawn the line of the new political divide in Israel: the camp of discrimination versus the equality camp, the supporters of the apartheid versus the supporters of democracy.”

But, what’s new in the nation-state law? Since 1948, the policy of discrimination against Palestinians has been based on ‘principles’ of Jewish supremacy, supporting Judaization and reducing the demographic proportion of the Palestinians, as well as denying the “Right of Return” of the Palestinian refugees. The most serious relevant issue is that there is a difference between ethnic and racial practices, and a law that obliges acting with racism. With the law, racial practice would acquire constitutional support that is legally binding for discrimination against Arabs. Thus, the law turns daily and unconstitutional discrimination into a constitutional, methodological and institutional principle as one of the pillars of the Israeli legal system. Racial practices are then transformed into the principle of the rule of law. Indeed, a growing volume of political literature affirms that the new Israeli national state law is a colonial law with the characteristics of apartheid. It defines matters on racial grounds: equality applies to all Jews as Jews, whereas non-Jews are excluded and discrimination against them becomes justified and legal regardless of their geographical affiliation. So the law turned the Druze soldiers into mere mercenaries.

The legitimate question that remains: What is the fate of the Druze protest campaign? If it fails to abolish the law, it will be a blessing, for this will distance that part of the Druze community that links its fate to the Zionist entity and allow many of its members to return to their right place among the Arab Islamic and Christian communities.  It may even signal the beginning of a more comprehensive process, where the Druze become the spearhead of the struggle towards equality of all Muslim and Christian communities in Palestine 48. However, if the campaign succeeds in changing the Israeli government discriminating position, then, they might reach parity with the Jews that may distance the community from the rest of the other Arab groups and thus the old/new Zionist goal of separating them from their fellow Arab Moslems will be achieved. Indeed, the fate of this protest campaign remains to be seen.