Opinion |

Israeli Druze in the Line of Fire

When populist MKs go up to the Temple Mount and provoke the Muslim world, they know who will pay the price: the weaker elements of society, many of whom are Druze

Salim Brake
Salim Brake
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Slain police officers Kamil Shanan (left) and Hael Sathawi.
Slain police officers Kamil Shanan (left) and Hael Sathawi. Credit: Israel Police
Salim Brake
Salim Brake

It’s hard to ignore that Border Policeman Hael Satawi and policeman Kamil Shanan, who were killed in Jerusalem on the Friday before last, were Druze. They aren’t the first to pay with their lives for the “blood alliance,” and they won’t be the last.

This alliance originated as a result of tensions between the Druze and their Muslim and Christian neighbors in Shfaram and on Mount Carmel, and developed with the dispatch of the Arab Liberation Army to Israel in 1948. After the establishment of the state, the Druze served in the Israel Defense Forces and in 1956 compulsory service was imposed on them. However, it was this special status and government support for the traditional institutions that administer Druze affairs that created a weak leadership, which fears for its status and avoids fighting the systematic discrimination in all areas of life.

In the army, the attitude towards the Druze for years was “respect him and suspect him.” Only during Yitzhak Rabin’s government was there relative acceptance, and Druze reached high ranks in the army. In the early 2000s a Druze reached the rank of major general, a Druze was appointed commander of the Border Police, and a year ago a Druze was appointed IDF chief medical officer. Nevertheless, most of the Druze still serve in the low and dangerous ranks in the security forces.

Thus it is not surprising that in the past two years, four Druze policemen were killed in Jerusalem and many were wounded. Numerous Border Police officers stationed in Jerusalem, especially on the Temple Mount, are Druze. There are also others, mostly from the Jewish lower classes, but the status of the Druze is particularly problematic, because whenever they opposed the government’s offensive policies, they were treated harshly, like the other Palestinians in Israel. This was seen, for example, in the flare-up in Peki’in a decade ago, which was violently suppressed and led to a Jewish boycott of businesses in the community. The cliched mantra “blood alliance” doesn’t compensate for that.

Ten years ago a Druze leader asked me to conduct a study of suicide among Druze in Israel. The study revealed that the suicide rate in the population is much higher than the national average. Most of those committing suicide were young men, and about a quarter of them were soldiers and policemen. The leadership shelved the findings in order to placate the defense establishment, which prevented any possibility of dealing with the matter.

The Druze communities are in the four lowest clusters on the socioeconomic scale, and some of the suicides were the result of serious economic distress. A genuine leadership would not have silenced the results of the study at the time, and would be protesting now that the percentage of Druze among the victims in Jerusalem is far greater than their percentage in the population.

When populist MKs go up to the Temple Mount and provoke the Muslim world, they know who will pay the price: the weaker elements of society, many of whom are Druze.

Click the alert icon to follow topics:



Automatic approval of subscriber comments.
From $1 for the first month

Already signed up? LOG IN


Charles Lindbergh addressing an America First Committee rally on October 3, 1941.

Ken Burns’ Brilliant ‘The U.S. and the Holocaust’ Has Only One Problem

The projected rise in sea level on a beach in Haifa over the next 30 years.

Facing Rapid Rise in Sea Levels, Israel Could Lose Large Parts of Its Coastline by 2050

Tal Dilian.

As Israel Reins in Its Cyberarms Industry, an Ex-intel Officer Is Building a New Empire

Queen Elizabeth II, King Charles III and a British synagogue.

How the Queen’s Death Changes British Jewry’s Most Distinctive Prayer

Newly appointed Israeli ambassador to Chile, Gil Artzyeli, poses for a group picture alongside Rabbi Yonatan Szewkis, Chilean deputy Helia Molina and Gerardo Gorodischer, during a religious ceremony in a synagogue in Vina del Mar, Chile last week.

Chile Community Leaders 'Horrified' by Treatment of Israeli Envoy

Queen Elizabeth attends a ceremony at Windsor Castle, in June 2021.

Over 120 Countries, but Never Israel: Queen Elizabeth II's Unofficial Boycott