Monday, November 17, 2014

Safeguard the Druze's Integration - Dan Margalit

by Dan Margalit

The Muslim-Druze brawl in Abu Snan on Saturday was the worst in its history. In the 800 years since Sheikh Bazz founded the village, not once has this mixed town (which also has a handful of Christians) seen such a violent clash. The village name means "he with the teeth" -- because Bazz had a double-edge sword. But this name has always been just a name. Until Saturday. 

The religious strife in the village has been on the uptick in recent years, primarily because of shifting demographics. The Muslim population has grown steadily, threatening the delicate balance between the two predominant groups in the village. The troubled dynamics resulted in a contested municipal election. Nihad Mishleb, a Druze, ultimately prevailed as mayor, to the dismay of many Muslims. 

The last straw had a very emotional component to it, but not much else. Last week, Muslim students started wearing keffiyehs (traditional Muslim headdresses) in solidarity with the teen that was shot by police in Kafr Kanna‎. The Druze students protested, and demanded that the keffiyehs be taken off. 

Such tension would have been easily defused had it not been a microcosm of a much larger feud over the desired degree of integration in Israeli society. 

The Druze, who have justifiably taken the government to task over their share of unfulfilled promises, have taken an active role in Israel society and have risen to senior positions in its defense establishment. This includes Major General (ret.) Yusef Mishleb, who grew up in Abu Snan. 

Muslims want to sever the Druze-Israeli ties, to unravel the much-touted blood bond they view with scorn. 

Muslims have also harassed a Christian priest who has called on Arab Christians to enlist in the Israel Defense Forces and denounced Israel's decision to recognize Israeli-Aramean as a distinct ethnic group that dates back to the Bible and speaks its own unique language. 

The Israel Police must boost its presence in Abu Snan to make sure bloody sights on Saturday -- stabbings, hit-and-run attacks and grenade throwing -- do not recur. All Israeli citizens are entitled to a sense of security, regardless of their ethnicity, religious affiliation and gender. But Israel must make it clear that any group that seeks greater integration in Israeli society will be protected. 

We must address this situation lest things become much worse.

Dan Margalit


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