Saturday, July 18, 2015


Syrian Druze:

A Druze Divided: Can Walid Jumblatt Hold the Group Together?
by Noam Raydan, Foreign Affairs

The Syrian Druze at a Crossroads
by Ibrahim al-Assil and Randa Slim, Middle East Institute


by Haid N. Haid & Bente Scheller,

Maj.-Gen. Muhammad Nassif 1937-2015:

Who Was Mohammad Nasif?
By Mohammad D., Syria Comment

Mohammad Nassif: The Shadow Man of the Syria-Iran Axis 
by Mohammad Ataie, Syria Comment

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Round Up: Tobias Lang on Syrian Druze & Israel

Last week I was cited by a couple of media about the current situation between Israel and the Syrian Druze (in English, French & German):

Syrian Druze plight tests Israel’s policy of avoiding involvement in civil war
Sean Savage, Jewish News Service
“The Druze in Idlib and in the Golan/Hermon-region are in a very precarious situation and such a possibility [of massacres] exists, especially in Idlib. Here the Druze are totally at the mercy of Nusra, even though they have already twice declared their conversion to Islam,” Tobias Lang, an Austria-based political analyst and author of the book “Die Drusen in Libanon und Israel” (“The Druze in Lebanon and Israel”), told 
“With the recent dynamic [of the] the massacre in Idlib, the growing Islamic State activity in eastern Sweida, the pushing of other rebels towards Sweida from the west, and the siege of the Druze town of Hader [in the Golan Heights], the Israeli Druze started to get involved on all fronts,” Lang said. “They are lobbying strongly with their own government, Jordan, and the U.S., collecting funds, and have staged impressive protests in all Druze villages in Israel.” (...)

“[The current situation] reminds me of the early 1980s, when Israeli Druze lobbied quite successful on behalf the Lebanese Druze,” Lang said, referring to the Israeli involvement in the Lebanese civil war of that decade. “Nevertheless, I am not fully convinced that the current leadership around [MK] Ayoub Kara and [Druze spiritual leader] Sheikh Muwaffaq Tarif has the capacity to act in the same independent and rigid manner towards the government of Israel as some Druze leaders did in the 80s.”  (...)

Josh Wood, The National
According to observers of the Druze in Syria, it is the group’s isolated communities in Idlib and the Golan Heights who face the greatest risk at present.
After the killings in Idlib, Jabhat Al Nusra publicly apologised for the incident, but fears remained that similar atrocities could be committed against the sect.
“They have no possible allies there, they are completely alone in a rebel-held area,” said Tobias Lang, an Austria-based political scientist who has written a book about the Druze in Lebanon and Israel. (...)
During Lebanon’s violent civil war, the Druze maintained their security and survival through shrewd diplomacy, timely deal-making and at times brutal military tactics to crush their enemies.
But Mr Jumblatt, the man responsible for maintaining that balance, believes that in today’s Syria fighting will only further endanger the Druze.
“They are totally surrounded by their neighbours, this is why they should reconcile,” he said. “It’s a totally different situation from Lebanon [during the war].” (...)
Stefan Binder,
Ihr Versuch, möglichst neutral zu bleiben, hat die Drusen in eine Situation manövriert, in der sie zwischen allen Stühlen sitzen. Viele Drusen im benachbarten Israel hoffen daher auf eine Intervention ihrer Regierung zugunsten der Glaubensbrüder in Syrien. Mehrere Entwicklungen, die nicht alle zusammenhängen, hätten dazu geführt, meint Lang: das Massaker in Idlib, die steigende IS-Aktivität in Suweida, wo die meisten Drusen leben, großer Druck durch verschiedene Rebellengruppen auf die Region und die prekäre Lage des von Rebellen eingeschlossenen Dorfes Hadhar, das in Sichtweite Israels liegt.
Weiter angeheizt wird die Situation dadurch, dass einige Drusen in Israel ihre Regierung verdächtigen, mit "Jabhat an-Nusra" zu kooperieren. Dafür, so Lang, habe er noch keine Beweise gesehen. "Dass Israel mit Rebellengruppen entlang der Waffenstillstandszone kooperiert, halte ich aber für erwiesen." Israel versorge syrische Rebellen medizinisch in einem Feldspital aber auch in normalen Krankenhäusern.(...)
Israël interviendra-t-il en faveur des druzes syriens ?
Samia Medawar, L'Orient-Le Jour 
Est-ce à dire que la pression de la communauté druze israélienne pour plus d'implication de l'État hébreu révèle un esprit communautaire prévalant sur le sentiment nationaliste ? Si, pour certains, comme Tobias Lang, politologue, blogueur et auteur, les actions des druzes israéliens ne sont « qu'un élan de pure solidarité (...) similaire à ce qui s'est passé au début des années 1980, lors de la guerre civile libanaise », d'autres vont plus loin. Une « politique identitaire » émergente est en train d'apparaître dans tous les pays de la région, constate M. Abou Zeid. Les différentes identités confessionnelles et sectaires sont en train d'écraser les sentiments nationalistes qui subsistent encore. En Syrie, comme en Irak, ce phénomène n'est pas seulement visible au sein de la communauté druze, mais dans toutes les communautés et leurs différentes branches : chrétienne, kurde, sunnite, chiite, etc. Cette tendance dépasse les frontières et tout ce qui importe demeure l'unité de la communauté. 
En attendant, la possibilité d'une implication israélienne pour soutenir la communauté druze à la frontière est de plus en plus évoquée par une frange de l'opinion publique israélienne et certains médias. « Une intervention israélienne très limitée pourrait, peut-être, avoir lieu dans les environs du village de Hadar, qui se trouve directement sur la ligne de démarcation », avance M. Lang, précisant qu'une telle éventualité ne se ferait que dans le respect de l'entente officieuse entre l'État hébreu et les rebelles syriens, dont certains sont soignés dans les hôpitaux israéliens depuis le début du conflit.(...)
Druze residents in Israel denounce its Syria policy
Nour Samaha, Al Jazeera English
Although Israel has always maintained that it does not interfere in the conflict in neighbouring Syria, many claim otherwise.

Until his arrest in February, Sidqi Maqt, a Druze living in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, spent three years documenting meetings between Israeli army personnel and Syrian opposition fighters, including Nusra Front.
In fact, Nusra's presence along the north is so prominent that, according to one report, Israeli soldiers half-jokingly call the Quneitra Crossing - one of the crossing points between the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and Syria - the "Nusra crossing". (...)
According to Tobias Lang, a researcher on religious minorities in the region, Israel has never had a strong interest in helping the Druze of Syria.
"The Israelis have worked out a clandestine or tacit relationship with the opposition groups in order to keep the northern front quiet," he told Al Jazeera. "But the Druze in Israel want the government to help their brethren in Syria, and the government doesn't want further unrest inside the country, especially since the media has sided with the Druze."
"They're only doing it now because of the immense public pressure and media campaign," Lang claimed. "The situation of the Druze in the Golan Heights has been bad for the last two years, especially Hadar, and the Israelis have been watching it unfold and did nothing."(...)