Minority Rights in the Jewish State?
“You cannot lynch me and keep me in ghettos without becoming something monstrous yourselves. And furthermore, you give me a terrifying advantage. You never had to look at me. I had to look at you. I know more about you than you know about me. Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced. History is not the past, it is the present. We carry our history with us. We are our history. If we pretend otherwise, we literally are criminals.”
James Baldwin, Remember this House, unfinished manuscript,
cited in the 2016 documentary “I am not your Negro” (dir. Raoul Peck)
The history of Druze actions in Israel and the region has always been one of providing support and love: on principle, we have shared our land, our resources, our lives and our language. As part of being good neighbours, we have always protected the minority that was hated, chased and destroyed by nations that claimed they were civilised and based on law. Now, the Druze are faced with the same threat: a so-called civilised nation is using its laws to discriminate against us and expel us.
Israel’s National Law, passed on 19 July 2018, aims to enshrine Jewish values and democratic values at the heart of the Jewish State and its institutions.1 Officially, Israel is now the Nation-State only of the Jewish People, in which the right to self-determination belongs only to the Jews. In other words, Israel does not belong to all Israeli citizens, more than 20 percent of whom are not Jewish. Instead, it is the state of the Jewish people, roughly half of whom are not even Israeli.
This shift from democracy to ethnocracy is based on the claim that Israel is the voice of all Jews around the world. Yet as we know from the history of the Jewish minority in Europe, creating two or more classes of citizens is the first step towards segregation and discrimination by law, which ends in demonization and elimination by law. Segregation, discrimination, land grabs and linguistic dominance are now perfectly congruent with Israeli state values. And if we follow the logic of the law, the responsibility for solving the existing problems of discrimination in Israel falls squarely in the laps of Jewish people.
If Israel wants to call itself a democracy, it should start acting like one. If Israelis and Jews actually want to make a difference in preserving Israeli democracy as a functioning democracy, a central part of this work is to ensure the full rights of minorities in Israel. The starting point for this is not politics, but recognition of the other in relations between people and the localities we share.
In line with the values of our organization, Druzia.org seeks to build initiatives and grassroots good neighbourly practices aimed at de-escalation in the Middle East, bringing together young academics in Germany and our allies in the region and around the world. The younger generation – including Israeli Druze – want nothing more than what Jewish people around the world take for granted: acceptance as fellow citizens. We have two basic, non-negotiable demands: full equal rights, and recognition that the Druze minority is a native inhabitant of the land.