Sunday, October 25, 2015

New leader of Druze dignity movement announced

Likewise rumors have been circulating for a while but it was officially announced earlier this week: Sheikh Rafat al-Bal'us (Abu Yusuf) is the successor of his assassinated brother Wahid as leader of the autonomous minded Syrian Druze dignity movement. Sheikh Rafat, who was wounded at the bomb attack in September, is obviously still not in best shape. However, the movement is alive despite the elimination of most of its leadership. Even the formation of a new unit, bayraq al-maqdad, was announced. On the same occasion Fahad, the oldest son of Wahid al-Bal'us, also gave a speech in full combat dress, indicating that he might play a leading role in the future.

Rafat al-Bal'us speech

bayraq al-maqdad insignia 

Druze figure takes up assassinated brother’s mantle, Now

BEIRUT – Rafaat Balaous has taken over the leadership of Suweida’s Druze Sheikhs of Dignity movement, issuing a fiery statement blaming the Bashar al-Assad regime for the assassination of his brother Waheed.
“This cowardly operation that targeted one of the symbols of the homeland was carried out with intelligence agency planning at the highest of levels,” Rafaat Balaous said in reference to the September 4 car bombing that killed Waheed. (...)
Despite the accusations he leveled against the Syrian regime, Rafaat Balaous stressed that the Sheikhs of Dignity movement is independent and not on the side of the opposition.
“We are not [regime] supporters or opposition. We are Arab nationalist patriots. Or rather, we are humanitarians,” the preamble of his statement said.

“We forbid transgressions by us and we forbid transgressions against us. This was the plan of our pious ancestors,” he added.

Balaous also stressed that his movement was “not a secessionist project.”

The Druze figure, who is younger than his slain brother, also touched on the issue of young men from Suweida joining the Syrian army.  
“Signing up with the army is a voluntary action and is not mandatory because the fighting in Syria is between the Syrians themselves,” he said. (...)
Edit: In the meanwhile Aymenn al-Tamimi published a very good analysis at Syria Comment (I'm briefly cited as well). Aymenn clears up some points and additionally translated the statement by Rafat al-Bal'us.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

New chapter in Kurdish-Israel relations

A new chapter in the (not so) clandestine relationship between Iraqi Kurdistan and Israel. Keep in mind, that there are tens of thousand Kurdish Jews living in Israel today, who might still feel attached to their Kurdish heritage.

A Land With No Jews Names Jewish Affairs Rep
by Judit Neurin, Haaretz

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Some comments regarding an article about Israeli Druze in the Huffington Post

An article titled "The Druze of Israel: Hope for Arab-Jewish Collaboration" by Jonathan Adelman appeared in the Huffungton Post on October 8. Adelman, a professor for International Studies at the University of Denver and frequent contributor to the Huff Post, argues that the Druze should serve as a role model for coexistence with the Jewish state. To some who are familiar with the actual situation of the Druze in Israel this might be a controversial point of view, but everyone is entitled to his/her opinion and it is a valid approach. The article is not problematic because of its line of argumentation or a certain bias, the problem is the accumulation of errors.

The Druze of Israel: Hope for Arab-Jewish Collaboration
by Jonathan Adelman, Huffington Post
In the war-torn Middle East, it is rare to find two groups with different religions, nationalities and histories working together and developing a flourishing relationship. Yet, in Israel the strong relationship between Arab Druze and Israeli Jews shows hope for the future of the Middle East.
It's remarkable even that the 130,000 Israeli Druze, neither Muslims nor Christians, have survived in the Middle East, avoiding the often gruesome fate of other minorities like Christians, Yazidis and Shiites
The Arabic and Hebrew-speaking Druze of Israel have a strong community with their own schools and religious courts. A study showed that 94 percent of Druze youth identified themselves as "Druze-Israelis" loyal to Israel. They live predominantly in northern Israel in mountainous villages with some villages mixed with other Arabs.
Somehow the Druze are not mentioned in the Ynet article linked above...
When a small element of Syrian Druze attacked Israel recently on the Golan Heights, they were condemned by Israeli Druze. In turn,  the Israelis warned the Islamists to stay away from Syrian Druze villages. The 17,000 Druze living on the Golan Heights have been loyal to the Syrian regime but now are increasingly resigned, and probably even relieved, that they are in Israel rather than war-torn Syria.
A small element of Syrian Druze attacked Israel? This is far from reality. On June 23 2015 an Israeli ambulance carrying Syrians, alleged rebel fighters, was attacked on the Golan Heights by residents of nearby Majdal Shams (who are mostly not Israeli citizens). The attack was clearly aimed at the alleged rebels, of whom one was lynched and one nearly beaten to death. However, the paramedics have not been harmed, so this was hardly an attack aimed at the state of Israel. Also the number given of the Druze on the Golan Heights is wrong - according to Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics over 20,400 in 2009 (1).
  A secret religious group  founded in the 11th century, the Druzes are unique in a number of ways. They revere Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, as their chief prophet and the Tomb of Jethro is located in Israel near Tiberias. Their prophets are Moses, Jesus and Mohammed. They haven't proselytized since the middle of the 11th century. The Druze function as a separate monotheistic religion with a belief in reincarnation. They believe in the unity of G-d and reject iconography. They have no set of rituals and ceremonies.
Only a qualified elite (less than 10 percent of the population) have access to sacred scriptures and read Druze religious literature. There is no clergy and they do not smoke, eat pork or drink alcohol. The women who are widowed or divorced are not allowed to remarry. Unlike Arab women, the majority of Druze women work outside the home.
In fact Israel's Druze community is generally speaking a very conservative society, where most women stay at home. In the words of Ruth Halperin-Kaddari from Bar-Ilan University "(Druze) Woman are generally expected to remain at home, not to study or work outside, and religious leaders have repeatedly ruled that women should not be allowed to drive."(2) Of course nuances do exist and times are changing - also among the Druze. The employment rate of female Druze was estimenated at 22 per cent in 2002 (3), which is higher than in the Muslim community but pretty far from a majority.
Their often mountainous villages provide some protection for the Druze. Having fought the Israelis in the 1948 War of Independence, they switched sides and since 1956 have accepted compulsory military service. They were influenced by persecution before 1948 by Arab nationalists who tried to seize their most sacred tomb, that of Jethro on the sea of Galilee. (...)
To put it short and simple: overall the local Druze did not fight Israel in 1948. On the contrary, a Druze dominated unit of the IDF was sworn in the same year. It is safe to say, that some Druze have actively collaborated with the IDF in 1948, while the majority remained neutral and only individual cases of resistance against the IDF are documented (with the exception of the village of Yanuh). This is almost a  consensus among historians, which can be read in the works of Kais Firro (4) and Leila Parsons (5) - who are merely influenced of the so called "New Historians" - or "classic" Israeli historian Yoav Gelber (6). While they might disagree on many topics, none of them portrays the Druze as "Having fought the Israelis in the 1948 War" - this is simply too far-fetched.

(1) The smallest Golan Druze village, 'Ain Qiniya
, is not mentioned in this table. I used the 1,700 cited in an older CBS-statistic from 2003 - the actual number might therefore be higher.
(2) Halperin-Kaddari, Ruth (2003): Women in Israel: A State of Their Own,  Philadelphia: University Of Pennsylvania Press, p. 284.
(3) See Khattab, Nabil (2002): Ethnicity and Female Labour Market Participation: a New Look at the Palestinian Enclave in Israel, p. 100, in: Work Employment & Society Vol 16, No. 1 (March 2002) pp. 91-110.
(4) See Firro, Kais M. (1999): The Druzes in the Jewish State: A Brief History, Leiden: Brill, p. 36-70.
(5) See Parsons, Laila (2000): The Druze Between Palestine and Israel, 1947-49, Basingstoke: Macmillan.
(6) See Gelber, Yoav (1995): Druze and Jews in the War of 1948, in: Middle Eastern Studies Vol. 31, No. 2 (April 1995), pp. 229-252 .