As The Election Campaign Heats Up, The Israeli Druze Community Is Continuing Its Fight Against The Nationality Law

Israel’s Nationality Law comes under renewed attack by the Israeli Druze community and elements of the Israeli left in the run-up to the April elections.

The picturesque Druze town of Daliat Al-Karmel (pop. 17,000) located on the slopes of Mount Carmel near Haifa, Israel
Copyright: Nemo [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

Members of the Committee for Revising the Nationality Law were in Jerusalem today for meetings with the Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked and other politicians. The Committee is primarily made up of members of the Israeli Druze community, who, unlike most other minorities serve in the IDF, often in combat roles and often with distinction, many choosing to extend their service beyond the obligatory three-year period and make military service into their full–time career. The Druze are an ethnoreligious group who split from mainstream Islam in the 11th century AD. Currently the Druze population in the Middle East is split between the majority Muslim countries of Syria and Lebanon and Israel, where they number roughly 150 thousand. Most Israeli Druze reside in Druze-only villages of Dahliat Al-Karmel and Osfiyeh on Mount Carmel and several mixed Druze-Arab villages in the Lower Galilee.

The Druze survived in the volatile Middle East for nearly a millennium by maintaining closely-knit communities that do not strive for power and in fact make a point of serving the existing government, regardless of its ethnicity or religion. The Israeli Druze alignment with the Jewish majority in the country follows the same pattern and has provided the Druze community in Israel with many economic benefits. That being said, the Druze service, often as commanding officers, alongside Jews in the closely-knit environment of the IDF combat units as well as their close contact with their Jewish neighbors on Mount Carmel and in the Galilee makes the recently passed Nationality Law, which can be read as giving preferential status to Jewish citizens over any other ethnoreligious grouping in the country, particularly hard to swallow.

Among the Druze who met with Israeli politicians today were many who suffered severe wounds while serving in combat for the IDF and remained severely disabled as a result. Their appeals to the Israeli public, claiming discrimination after they gave their all to the defense of the country were particularly emotional. Arguments against the Nationality Law resonate among the more left-leaning elements of Israeli Jews, who place higher value on equality and human rights than on the Jewish character of Israel and its long-term survival as the exclusive homeland of the Jewish People.

The Druze delegation left with a degree of frustration since neither Justice Minister Shaked nor her colleagues could commit to supporting any changes in the law. They did however acknowledge that the Druze community and its alliance with Israel and its Jewish majority was both highly valued and extremely valuable and that their claims of being harmed by the new law were not without a kernel of truth. Ms. Shaked opined that one way to address the situation was to introduce legislation that would cement in law the special status of the Druze community in Israel. It is likely that the next Knesset will take up that legislation when it convenes after the April 9th elections.

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