Opinion

Israel Has Its Nation-state Law, but What About the Druze?

Druze serve alongside Jewish soldiers in all branches of the military; their officers have reached the highest ranks. But one will search the law in vain for any provision for this community

Druze dignitaries at the graduation ceremony for a flight course at the Hatzerim Airbase, June 28, 2018.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Three Druze Knesset members – Akram Hasoon of Kulanu, Hamad Amar of Yisrael Beiteinu and Saleh Saad of Zionist Union – have filed a petition to the High Court of Justice to strike down the Jewish nation-state law as unconstitutional. They are, no doubt, supported by all members of the Israeli Druze community, and all Jewish Israelis who have not forgotten and cannot forget the bonds of brotherhood and friendship that have been formed between Israel’s Druze citizens and the state.

It’s the Druze who have always asked what they can do for the State of Israel and not what the Jewish state can do for them. Maybe the judges of the High Court of Justice will acknowledge the injustice that the Jewish nation-state law has committed against Israel’s Druze. But the apology for this injustice must, in the final analysis, come from the Knesset. It is the Knesset that has made the mistake and it is the Knesset that has to rectify it.

In the arguments presented against the enactment of the Jewish nation-state law, prominence has been rightly given to the potential the law may have to impede the integration of Israel’s Arab minority into the wider economy and society. This should be a national goal to be advanced by all Israeli governments. But what about Israel’s Druze community? What provision has been made for them in this law? They seem to have been, so to speak, thrown under the bus. Forgotten? Neglected?

Israelis do not need to be reminded of the decades-long service of Israel’s Druze to the State of Israel. Their sons serve alongside Jewish soldiers in all branches of the Israel Defense Forces. Their officers have reached the highest ranks of the IDF command structure. And they have fallen alongside their Jewish comrades.

According to Jewish tradition, the Jewish people never forget those who have helped them in time of danger. One will search in vain among the many parts of the law to find any kind of provision for Israel’s Druze. Have we forgotten this time?

Israel’s Druze have loyally served the State of Israel knowing full well that the country is a Jewish state. They do not need to be reminded of that. But if the law is interpreted by some of them as a slap in the face, we will have done ourselves a great disservice. Downgrading the status of the Arabic language is not only a slap at Israel’s Arab citizens, it’s equally a slap at Israel’s Druze community, whose native language is Arabic.

The Knesset recess is a good time to discuss this issue in committee and come up with a provision that would explicitly acknowledge the place of honor of Israel’s Druze community in the State of Israel. One would expect that no MKs would need convincing of the importance of such an amendment, except possibly the extremist wing of the Arab Knesset representation. This is that much more of a reason to speedily move ahead on this issue.

I have been fortunate in having many Druze friends, including close ones, and have been honored by many Druze villages. It has therefore been especially painful for me to see this great community, allied with Israel from the beginning, seemingly forgotten at the moment. I feel the need to personally apologize for the mistake that has been made, and call on my colleagues in Likud to rectify this situation. It’s not too late.