November 17, 2018

Understanding the Druze Reaction to the Nation-State Law

“In an interview following the government’s announcement of the push to increase funding, Riyad Ali, a Druze journalist, assailed the law as “a death-blow to my Israeli dream.” Reverting to the moment of Israel’s founding in 1948, he explained why:

You were a nation still licking its wounds from the Holocaust. You were in very hostile surroundings that didn’t want you. And it was the Druze, only the Druze, who extended their hand and offered an alliance. Why do you think we did that? Because, what, in our minds, we’re mercenaries? Because you’re the chosen people and we were just waiting for you to show up to be your servants? Because we were going with the strong? You were weak! We went with you when you were weak! Why?

I’ll tell you why. Because we saw similarities between your collective memory and our collective memory, between your narrative and our narrative. Understand, in your memory there’s this word “Holocaust.” In our collective memory there’s the word mihni, arrogance. We’re a small people, weak, persecuted from our very beginnings; a hostile Sunni ocean persecuted us and sought to annihilate us, to convert us. Our religion is secret—not because we are hiding something, but because we were hunted, secret because we went underground, we have lived underground for a thousand years. Then you arrived, and we recognized what we share. And we held out our hand for a covenant between minorities, between the weak and persecuted.

In their rush to explain away Druze anger, right-wing Jewish leaders had ended up delivering the message that the Druze had purchased Israeli tolerance and funding with the blood of their fallen sons. This was a message more galling than the original law: an explicit statement that the Jews saw their relationship with the Druze as a contractual one and that the lives of Druze children were part of the transaction.”

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