RAMALLAH, July 12 (JNews) - Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz has reported an increase in racism toward Druze soldiers serving in the Israeli army in the OPT.
The Druze are Arabs who belong to a tiny sect of Shi’a Islam. Many are Israeli citizens and have long served in the IDF as part of an agreement reached shortly after the establishment of the state.
Druze soldiers and Border Guards have complained for years about settler racism towards them including taunts such as “dirty Arab” or “go back to Gaza”.
According to Druze soldiers and officers interviewed by Israeli news outlets, hardline settlers in the Nablus district have recently increased these attacks, which have included the distribution of pamphlets in Israeli army bases in which Druze soldiers are accused of taking the side of Palestinians in confrontations between Palestinians and settlers.
“Jewish soldier”, reads one pamphlet, “my brother, my man, not far from here is a village called Hawwara. Some Jewish guys drive through the village and a group of Arabs jump on them and almost lynch them. The guys get down with guns at the ready, when suddenly a Border Guard jeep comes along and four Arab policemen get out. One of the guys asks the policeman: ‘Why don’t you arrest the Arabs?’ The policeman answers: ‘I’m here to protect the Palestinian people, get in the van…’ The Arab policeman is no sucker, he protects the Arabs. There is no reason why a Jewish soldier should be a sucker.”
A Druze senior officer active in the West Bank told Israeli army radio that he had once arrived at a confrontation between an IDF force and a group of settlers. “One of the settlers said to me: ‘Don’t worry, there will be space also for you lot in the train that will take the Arabs out of my state’”. “I looked at him”, said the officer, “and said in a whisper: ‘I guess you’re not Jewish, because if you were, you wouldn’t be talking about trains’”. “He left the place in shame,” said the officer.
The Druze community is recognized as a distinct religious group in Israel and about 100,000 of its members are Israeli citizens, living mainly in the north of the country. Druze men are drafted to compulsory military service in the IDF, as part of an agreement reached between Israeli authorities and Druze leaders shortly after the establishment of the state.
A relatively high proportion of Druze soldiers serve in reconnaissance, as interpreters in the military courts and in offices of the Israeli Civil Administration in the OPT, as well as in combat posts. Many Druze become Border Guards as an alternative to serving in the army, and become professional officers after their compulsory service is over.
The role of the Druze in the occupation is ambivalent. Jewish Israelis and Palestinians perceive them, variously, as cultural intermediaries between the Israeli establishment and the Palestinians, or as actual or potential traitors to their identity.