As a diplomat and Israel’s ambassador to the Dominican Republic and as a reserve officer in the Israel Defense Forces I am shocked at the conduct of Israel’s government on the topic of the proposed nation-state bill.
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Last May Israel celebrated its 66th Independence Day. For all those years the Druze community struggled and strived for full equality and for full integration into Israeli society. Now, the government intends to pass a bill that would ignore the existence of our community and its contributions and sacrifices towards the vision of establishing the nation-state of the Jewish people as a Jewish, democratic and equitable state.
I see the shameful conduct accompanying the ratification of this law and ask myself if the initiators of this bill remember the last two victims of the Druze community, Zeidan Seif and Jidan Assad, blessed be their memories, who risked and sacrificed their lives in order to protect Israeli citizens, including worshippers at a synagogue. These victims join a long list of Druze community members who fought and paid with their lives in defense of this country, their country.
In Remembrance Day ceremonies the “blood pact” between the state and the Druze community is often touted, with warm and noble words heaped upon us. We always asked ourselves whether beyond a “blood pact” there is also a “life pact” between Israeli society and the Druze community.
The nation-state bill currently before the Knesset rides roughshod over our “blood pact,” leaving little room for the “life pact” we wish to have. This law sends a sharp and clear message to the Druze of Israel: “You are not our allies.”
From the state’s founding we Druze were taught to love our homeland, including the flag, the anthem and the Declaration of Independence, which cleverly intertwined Jewish and democratic components, like a scarlet thread running through the state and society of Israel. The Declaration of Independence anchored and protected human dignity, equality and freedom of worship. For years our language, Arabic, was recognized as an official language of Israel.
And now, in sharp contrast to the spirit of the Declaration, the objective of the nation-state bill is to turn Druze citizens into second-class ones, while ignoring the fact that members of the community fulfill all their obligations as do all other citizens, yet continue to struggle for equal rights. If there is no significant change in the upcoming elections, it seems that this struggle still has a long way to go.
These days I serve as Israel’s ambassador to the Dominican Republic and to several Caribbean countries. I attained this position after serving in many diplomatic and military posts. I particularly remember my service as a diplomat in the Israeli delegation to the UN. I stood on the podium, extremely proud to be a citizen of Israel, defending the positions of my country and homeland, facing the derision of Arab state representatives.
In November 1975 the General Assembly adopted a resolution equating Zionism with racism. This resolution gravely damaged the image and vision of the Zionist enterprise. Only in 1992 did we manage to repeal this dismal resolution, doing justice to the Zionist vision. While at the UN I headed the team that gathered the support of 111 countries in favor of repealing that shameful resolution.
How does the state of Israel expect me, a diplomat representing it around the world, a member of the Druze community, to explain or defend this discriminatory law? How will people at different foreign ministries react? How will international media and public opinion respond to such a proposal? There is no effective tool to explain in a reasonable manner such a bill, which omits mention of equality and democracy, that ignores minorities and their language, which conflicts even with Jewish values.
According to the vision of Herzl, Jabotinsky, Ben-Gurion and Begin, Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people – the Law of Return expresses this – and it is a democratic state with equality for minorities, with freedom of religion and culture. The Druze community was proud to be a partner to this vision.
Over the years the Jewish people suffered from persecution, discrimination, pogroms and a Holocaust that annihilated a third of its members. Would the Jewish people in Israel and in the Diaspora accept a similar initiative in the U.S. Congress? How would world Jewry and the Israeli government itself react to the legislation of a law similar to the proposed nation-state law? I have no doubt that this initiative will increase anti-Semitism around the world. The law, if it passes, will isolate Israel and arms its foes with lethal ammunition that will be unanswerable.
I call upon the public’s representatives and the people of Israel to demonstrate responsibility and stop the passage of this bill before it creates a fissure that will be impossible to mend, as well as causing irreversible damage to Israel’s image.
Bahij Mansour is Israel's ambassador to the Dominican Republic.