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How Israel betrayed its most loyal minority

The Nation-State Law, which enshrines supremacy for Jews in Israel, has made it clear to the country’s Druze population that we are not equals. So why don’t we demand it be abolished completely?

By Dalia Halabi

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with leader of the Druze community in Israel, Sheikh Mowafaq Tarif, at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, July 27, 2018. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with leader of the Druze community in Israel, Sheikh Mowafaq Tarif, at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, July 27, 2018. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

The Jewish Nation-State Law has been a watershed moment for Israel’s Druze population and its relationship to the Jewish state and its institutions. The law clearly states that there is no such thing as an “Israeli” citizenship; that this land is home to those who were born Jews, as well as those who were not born to the “chosen people.”

Over the past few days, I have heard many from my community reel in real anger, pain, and disappointment. How could it be that after so many years of unconditional sacrifices on their part, the country that they so believed in returns the favor with a racist law that removes the Druze from the equation and defines them as not belonging to their homeland? How does one deal with such a slap to the face, and how can we accept this new reality, enshrined in law, which defines the supremacy of the Jewish people as lords of this land, while denying the rest of its residents — including the Druze — the basic right to feel a deep connection to this place? Could it be that the alliance they struck with the Jewish state is slowly being shattered?

The responses by Druze members of Knesset, former and current high-ranking IDF officials, council heads, and religious leaders were quick to follow. They all shared one common demand: fix the law so that it ensures equality for Druze citizens. They did not, heaven forbid, demand it be abolished entirely. As long as we as a group remain protected from this law, we won’t have a problem with it. As long as we ensure that it does not infringe on our rights, we won’t oppose it.



This kind of discussion is not only strange, it is immoral. We must demand that the law be rescinded for good, since it harms all of us: Arabs and Jews, Druze and non-Druze. I cannot fathom that we cannot discuss the fact that this law is a disaster for all of us, and how, once again, we Druze are unable to break through the boundaries and unequivocally oppose what is happening here.

These are undoubtedly difficult days — not only in Israel, but across the world. The forces of the far right are making their way into positions of power, and hate of the “other” has turned into a legitimate, even necessary, way of marking clear boundaries and preserving the power of the social, political, and economic hierarchy. It is happening in Europe, in the United States, and here in Israel. A messianic right wing has taken over and is employing every strategy in order to corrupt itself and enhance its power. The Jewish Nation-State Law is another way to ensure right-wing rule over the country, while doing away with the Supreme Court, one of the last strongholds protecting Israeli democracy. The new law ensures that the democratic system is subordinate to the directives of the messianic right, while paving the way for future legalized injustices

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with newly recruited Israeli soldiers at the Tel Hashomer army base on July 26, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with newly recruited Israeli soldiers at the Tel Hashomer army base on July 26, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Furthermore, the Jewish Nation-State Law does not leave much room for maneuvering. Many are having a hard time continuing living under the false pretense that Israel has been good to the Druze, as opposed to the other members of the Palestinian minority in Israel. Now it is clear that we are not really “brothers.” If many Druze believed the scam that Israel created over the years, which disconnected them from their identity and their Arabness, left them in dire economic situation, without proper education, beset by a lack of infrastructure in their villages, and subject to the expropriation of 70 percent of their land — the Jewish Nation-State Law brings us back to the basics.

This is the reason I cannot identify with the struggle of my people. Is it possible to struggle for “half justice” or “partial equality?” Is it possible to struggle for dignity when a whole population is living under occupation? Is it possible to go out to war for the sake of rights and justice when I am denying those very things to an entire people?

If the Druze want to lead a legitimate struggle, it must be a moral one that unequivocally opposes the Jewish Nation-State Law. That struggle belongs to all inhabitants of this land who believe in human dignity and freedom, regardless of nationality, race, religion and gender.

Dalia Halabi is the Executive Director of Dirasat — The Arab Center for Law and Policy. This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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    1. Ben

      Well, nothing so clearly exposes the core racist supremacism, that at bottom really motivates the GOI and the Israeli right and center and portions of the so-called left, than the nation state law and the betrayal of the Druse.

      All along the right wing did two things. It said “trust us, we can handle ‘a Jewish State’ fairly and democratically.” And it justified its blatant discrimination against non-Jews by fear-mongering about loyalty and security issues.

      The treatment of the Druse with this law gives the lie to all the double talk. It shows that Noam Sheizaf is unequivocally right:

      Noam Sheizaf
      September 11, 2013
      Why I oppose recognizing Israel as a Jewish state

      Reply to Comment
    2. Bruce Gould

      “Israel ministers seek changes to ‘nation state’ law after Druze outcry”


      Two influential Israeli ministers have called for changes to a deeply controversial law declaring Israel the nation state of the Jewish people, after a backlash and a court challenge from the Druze minority….On Thursday, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon called for changes in response to the concerns of the Druze, saying the law had been “passed in haste”.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Yes, but be mindful that what Kachlon and others are now trying to do is place a fig leaf on the law. Be mindful of what Dalia Halabi says about “half justice…partial equality.” And be mindful of what Chemi Shalev writes:

        “…Critics of the law who are demanding that elements of the Declaration of Independence be incorporated into the Jewish nation-state law are missing the point: the nation-state law is a declaration of independence in and of itself, by a new Israel, Jewish, nationalistic, ethnocentric, full of itself and oblivious of others….”


        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          As Chalev noted:’The unexpected protest from the Israeli Druze community threw a spoke in Netanyahu’s wheels. It infused new energy into what was already looking like an awakening of an Israeli-style “resistance” movement, previously galvanized by Netanyahu’s abrupt and shameful about-face on surrogacy rights for gay men. In the perverted Israeli reality, the Druze protest served as a protective patriotic shield that immunized moderate Israelis from the claim that they oppose the nation-state law because they aren’t Jewish enough. Netanyahu knows he must win the Druze over to his side so that he can once again isolate a leftist-Arab block, identify one with the other and accuse both, directly or indirectly, of flirting with treason.’

          But the betrayal of the Druse shows that in a “Jewish state” any minority, even the most loyal and patriotic, will be treated as an afterthought, a minor detail, to be manipulated or worse. This will also be true in Orban’s “Hungarian state” and Duda’s “Polish state” and Trump’s wished for “(white Christian nativist) America.” So it is not to hold Netanyahu to some double standard, it is to hold him to the (failing) standard of the states of the company he keeps.

          Reply to Comment
    3. Unimpressed realist

      Druze don’t care about equality, they care about their privlage. They don’t want to share the same fate as Palestinians, much less fight for actual equality, nor do they have the integrity to stand beside them at this hour.

      Druze have done more to ensure Jim Crow and enshrine Apartheid than actual Jewish Israelis. And as far as I am concerned they have no right to demand anything of anyone. They aren’t in it for everyone, they are in it only for themselves. And that zero sum mentality is why they are hypocrites of the highest degree.

      They should count their blessings instead of complain. Its not as if the IDF was ever going to raid their homes and throw them out and deny they ever existed or arent a people. In fact they most likely would dress in IDF uniforms and do just that to Palestinians without even blinking.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Is this a message from the campaign?

        “A few minutes after the start of the evening prime time newscasts, reporters covering the meeting between the prime minister and the Druze delegation broke in with the story, exactly as it was concocted by Netanyahu’s distortion machine. A retired Druze general, Amal Asad, had incensed Netanyahu by asserting, out of the blue, that Israel was an “apartheid state.” A proud prime minister stood up for his country’s honor and stormed out of the meeting. Asad, by implication, had gone over to the dark side.

        By the time the truth came out, it was too late: Netanyahu’s political acolytes and social media mob had gotten the message. The Druze were now the enemy. They were being funded and/or bamboozled by George Soros, the New Israel Fund and the perfidious left in general. The Druze, embraced only last week as blood brothers, could now go and live in Syria and see how they like it there, as countless tweets exhorted.”

        It no longer mattered that, in fact, it was Netanyahu who brought the loaded term “apartheid state” into the meeting. He came prepared with a Facebook post that Asad had written several days earlier – and which few people had heard of. Asad hadn’t asserted, either at the meeting or in his post, that Israel is an apartheid state, but rather that the new nation-state law would allow it to become one. Netanyahu had demanded that the group of former IDF officers led by Asad leave the room and leave him alone with established Druze leadership. They refused.

        So Netanyahu decided that when the Druze went high, he would go to the gutter. He would stain the Druze and their demonstration with his favorite paintbrush of treason. He would rally his base to accost Asad, besmirch the Druze and portray the Kikar Rabin demo as a subversive putsch. He would divide and split Israeli Jews between those who stand with the Jewish nation and those who aid and abet its enemies. He would push all the right buttons that he’s mastered over three decades of incitement and pave the way for another triumph of Jewish nationalism over the depraved, cosmopolitan, Jew-hating, terrorist loving left.”


        Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        The Druze are smart, they don’t want to throw in their lot simply “with the Jews” or “with the Arabs.” Their vision for the future includes something deeper and more fundamental and enduring:

        ‘Many say that the demonstration, led mainly by retired army officers and mayors, was seen as a challenge to the community’s traditional spiritual leadership, headed by Sheikh Muwafak Tarif. Therefore, it is said in the community that the struggle depends on those leaders, rather than on the spiritual figures. A key activist told Haaretz that the spiritual leadership sensed the energies of the demonstration and heard its messages, which is why it was not quick to accept the plan offered by the prime minister last week. The only way to bring about a change in the nation-state law or create legislation that would ensure equality for everyone, the activist said, was to continue fighting on all fronts: publically, legally and in the Knesset.

        “Netanyahu will try at any price to break this weekend’s show [of unity], and the tactics are known – the carrot and the stick or divide and conquer,” Marzuq Halabi, a writer and columnist who lives in Daliat el-Carmel, said. Halabi, who attended Saturday night’s rally, said that the claim that the left was behind the rally is part of the same campaign attempting to break the protest, while offering a plan that would give the Druze community a “carrot” in the form of funding.

        “It’s not working for them because the Druze community feels that this time the struggle is not only for benefits but for the future of their status between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean. The best situation for a minority within a minority is to feel part of the general community as an equal citizen. Because if you look at the situation today, the Jews on the one hand and the Arabs on the other are almost equal in numbers if you erase the Green Line [the pre-1967 border], and so where are the Druze in this equation?”’


        Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        “Suddenly Everyone Loves the Druze… Where were you all these years when the Druze were suffering from a housing shortage in their communities, when Druze soldiers had difficulty finding jobs following their military service? Now, after you ignored them and humiliated them with the Basic Law on Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People, a racist and crazy piece of legislation that you negligently passed, you hurriedly run around dispensing fake hugs and empathy, talk about a “blood pact” and call the Druze “our brothers”? That’s not leadership. It’s cheap politics. […]

        Were you really unaware of what you were doing, I would ask? Did you really fail to understand that the law is abusive to a group that for many, many years has simply been contributing to the state, an ethnic group that has lost over 400 of its finest sons in defense of the country? Now you’re finding the missing money to bribe and silence the Druze, as you usually do to ultra-Orthodox Jews?”


        Reply to Comment
    4. Nathanael

      This is, for reference, *exactly* like the history of South African apartheid. In the colonial days before apartheid, there were various black people (of various ethnic groups) and “colored” people who had rights which they could exercise, though there were also plenty who were oppressed. (Bluntly, it was about social class, money, power, and historical accidents; much like the situation with non-Jewish citizens of Israel.)

      But as the National Party took power, formal apartheid got implemented one step at a time — and eventually everyone who wasn’t white got all their rights taken away.

      And white people who opposed apartheid were pushed out of power, had their organizations suppressed, and had their free speech gagged (with the exception of the one woman who managed to keep getting elected to Parliament).

      Yeah, Israel’s following the same path, to the letter, as apartheid South Africa. The difference is, I don’t see a de Klerk on the horizon. Rabin might have done it, but he was assassinated.

      Reply to Comment