Amal Asad, Druze Play Important Role in Israel's Regime of Separation

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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An Israeli soldier throws teargas against Palestinian protesters in the West Bank, November 24, 2020.
An Israeli soldier throws teargas against Palestinian protesters in the West Bank, November 24, 2020.Credit: JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

Brig. Gen. (res.) Amal Asad bemoans the destruction of democracy and the principle of equality between Jews and non-Jews in Israel (Haaretz, December 1). But he ignores the separate-and-dispossess regime that exists in the West Bank, which plays a decisive role in inculcating the perception of Jewish superiority that manifests itself in the Basic Law on Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People. Druze military personnel play an important role in this regime of separation.

According to Asad, democracy in Israel began to collapse six years ago, when the cabinet was asked to vote on the nation-state law, “a law whose sole purpose was to void the equality between Jewish and non-Jewish citizens.” He offers veiled criticism of those who, in contrast to him and his fellow Druze, were not outraged at the time by the nation-state law, while today they are demonstrating on Balfour Street and at junctions nationwide in support of democracy. One assumes he is referring to his former Jewish army comrades and businesspeople, and not to members of the Joint List, who immediately warned of the law’s risks.

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It’s good that he wrote, and his rebuke is appropriate. But there are three problems: His dating of the start of the collapse, its background, and the fact that Druze military men are proudly filling increasingly senior positions in the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories unit (COGAT) and its subordinate agencies – the Civil Administration and the District Coordinating Offices.

All these agencies masquerade as institutions concerned about the welfare of the Palestinians. But in reality they are devotedly implementing the government policy of forcing all the Palestinians into scattered territorial pockets in want of land and water, and banning them from their space in the West Bank, while allocating most of it to the Jews. This is the de facto annexation, on its way to becoming de jure. COGAT is also the agency that implements the blockade of the Gaza Strip, cutting it off from other Palestinians and from the rest of the world.

Asad contradicts himself: On the one hand he writes that “historical processes don’t happen at once.” On the other hand he offers a start date and specific circumstances for the beginning of the collapse: six years ago, and the submission of the bill. He ignores the deeper phenomena that led to the law’s coming to fruition and its acceptance by Jewish Israeli society. These processes are directly linked to the dual regime that was established in the West Bank: a military regime for Palestinians, a civilian one for Jews. Against Palestinians and favoring Jews (from all over the world).

Not that the State of Israel was a model of equality between peoples before the nation-state law. Carmiel – which just made headlines after a court registrar cited the nation-state law to deny the right of Palestinian citizens of Israel to live there – was established to “Judaize” the Galilee on lands stolen from Palestinian villages in the area.

But unlike the kibbutzim and moshavim (which were built on the land of villages whose residents were expelled in 1948), and unlike the prestigious hilltop communities, it was not possible to block Palestinian citizens of Israel from living in cities like Carmiel and Upper Nazareth (and to pay full price for apartments built on land that was expropriated from them). It wasn’t real equality, but the status of citizenship sketched out a path in a positive direction – somewhat mitigating the Israeli practice of favoring Jews. The nation-state law has reversed the direction of this path.

The nation-state law overtly and shamelessly expresses the existing reality of Jewish superiority, which despite everything contravened some Israeli laws and the positions of part of the public. But in the Palestinian areas occupied in 1967, the ideology of the Jews as superior to other people doesn’t contradict the law but merges with it; that is, with the regime of military orders. The ongoing military regime has allowed this ideology to grow stronger daily and settle in the hearts of more and more Jews.

The Druze soldiers, including the most senior officers, like Coordinator of Government Activity in the Territories Kamil Abu-Rukun, and head of the Civil Administration Ghassan Alyan, are not the ones who established the policy and ideology of Jewish supremacy, but they are its loyal servants and are working in tandem with the galling, violent settlement lobbies. They shouldn’t be surprised that this ideology harms them as well.

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