Text size

In a few more days, MK-designate Said Nafa, No. 4 on the Balad list, will join the Knesset, swearing he will be loyal to the State of Israel and uphold its laws. In the old days, the swearing-in was little more than a technicality, but it has become a sensitive issue now that the chairman of Nafa's party, Azmi Bishara, is accused of aiding the enemy during wartime and passing information on to the enemy.

Nafa is not deterred by his impending commitment to the state. He is conscious of the fact that he is joining the Knesset under unusual circumstances - Bishara, who denies the allegations, has fled the country and resigned as MK - but promises to faithfully fill his post. Nafa is sure that Bishara won't be convicted and that Balad's activities are legal.

"There were many instances in which the Shin Bet tried to set people up," he said. "They're just trying to behead a prominent Arab leader. They will fail."

Nafa, who is 54 and has nine children, lives in Beit Jann, a Druze village in the Galilee. He joined Balad in 1999 and serves as chair of the party's national council. In 2001, he announced his Pact of Free Druze, which aims to stop the conscription of the Druze and claims the community is an inalienable part of the Arabs in Israel and the Palestinian nation at large. In 2003, he founded a committee to bring together Druze leaders in the Arab world, mostly in Syria and Lebanon.

As a conscientious objector, Nafa has refused to serve in the Israel Defense Forces and was jailed three times. His four sons also stood trial for refusing to enlist.

Before joining Balad, Nafa was a member of the Communist Party, which he joined in 1967, remaining in its ranks until 1997. He received a law degree from Tel Aviv University in 1983. Nafa has also been politically active in his community, serving as local authority head and deputy head during the 1990s.

Why do you oppose Druze service in the IDF?

"Every country that thinks it's democratic and enlightened must grant an exemption to its national minority. All the more so when the minorities are part of a nation that the state is fighting. I am a member of the Palestinian people, I am of Syrian descent, and I have relatives in Lebanon. Our country is in a state of war with our immediate relatives. From a humanitarian perspective, it's unreasonable for us to enlist."

Will you work to stop Druze youth from being drafted?

"My children did not enlist, but were jailed a few times until they were released from service. Even if Syria were to demand that the Jews living there join the army, I would support their right [not to enlist]. Minorities do not need to be part of the army. The mandatory draft of the Druze is part of the system of discrimination against the entire Arab population. I'm not a representative of the Druze, but of the entire Arab public, and I will work for their interests."

You studied at an Israeli university, are well-versed in Israeli law and fluent in Hebrew. Why do you oppose the "Israelization" of Israeli Arabs?

"It must be known what is meant by 'Israelization.' Knowing the language and culture of the Jewish people is something positive. If only we could know all the languages in the world, but that's not the intention. Israelization is to begin to be happy for the pain of my people and be pained by its happiness. Unfortunately, the Jewish majority doesn't feel remorse when the Palestinian people gets its daily dose of killing."