Israel’s recent “nation state bill” provoked harsh criticism within and outside the Zionist state because of its racist character. Members of the Druze community in Israel repeatedly took to the streets to protest the bill, which technically discriminates against them as well. But, unlike Palestinian citizens of Israel who see Zionism as the problem, many members of the Druze community used the protest to reaffirm their staunch, historically continuous commitment to Zionism.
The bill, which was passed on July 19, declares Israel to be the “national home of the Jewish people” and states that the “right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.” It downgrades the Arabic language from an official state language to one with “special status,” and encourages Jewish settlement building, in contravention of international law. In these ways, the bill gives legal force to the goals of Zionism, which were declared decades before the creation of the Israeli state and have long been reflected in the facts on the ground in Israel/Palestine.
Since its passage, the bill has been met by various protests, including from Palestinians citizens of Israel, who gathered to demonstrate against the law on August 11. The Druze demonstration itself drew over 50,000 protesters to Tel Aviv’s streets. The Druze protests were not, however, directed against the bill as a whole, nor were they critical of the Zionist ideology behind it. They were, instead, the complaint of a privileged minority group that is now excluded, as a matter of law, from the top of Israel’s ethnocracy.
Since the founding of Israel, its Druze citizens have largely submitted to Zionism. In fact, the close bond between the Israeli Jewish and Druze communities has been known as a “blood covenant.” Although of Arab ethnicity, the Israeli Druze were defined as a distinct ethnic group in 1957, at their leaders’ request. Numbering only about 130,000, they make up 1.5 percent of the population, but hold a whooping 5% of all Knesset seats. The percentage of Druze who enlist in the IDF is also higher than that of Jewish citizens.
Some members of the Druze community have actually expressed their wholehearted support for the nation-state bill. The Druze Ayoub Kara, Netanyahu’s communications minister, voted in favor of the legislation. On August 5, Atta Farhat, head of the Druze Zionist Council, endorsed the law and gave his support to the notion that only Jews should have national rights. Instead of protesting, he called upon the Druze to show their loyalty to Israel. At the protest itself, Israeli and Druze flags flew side-by-side. Protesters, including Israeli Jewish and Druze officials, showed pictures of fallen Druze Israeli soldiers. At a rally on August 4, the Druze spiritual leader, Sheik Mowafaq Tarif, demanded equality and said the Druze were proud of Israel and had never protested its Jewish character. “We are Israelis, we are brothers,” he added, as the Jerusalem Post reported.
Reacting to the Palestinian protests on August 11, the organizer of the Druze protest, Amir Hanifas condemned Palestinians as “enemies” of Israel, as reported by the Jerusalem Post. “Any attempt to harm the Jewish and democratic image of the country is invalid,” Hanifas added.
The Druze protests were not meant to challenge Israel’s racial supremacy, but to beg for inclusion in it. This widespread acceptance of Israeli ethnocracy amongst the country’s Druze community has existed for decades, and will likely continue for the foreseeable future.