By Danny Stoker
Late last month, an Israeli airstrike in the Syrian Golan Heights killed four pro-Assad militants laying an explosive device near the Israeli border. Further investigation revealed that two of the four men were Druze from the village of Majdal Shams in the Israel occupied Golan Heights. This is just the latest involvement of Israeli-Druze in the neighboring conflict.
In early April, an Israeli court indicted a Druze soldier on charges of espionage for passing sensitive information on to Assad’s forces on the activities of Israeli Defense Force (IDF) troops in the Golan. According to the indictment, Hilal al-Halbi shared classified information with Siddqui al-Maqt who then passed the information along to Syrian intelligence. Pro-Syrian sympathies have remained strong in the occupied Golan Heights since war began in 2011. Since the outbreak of the conflict in Syria, dozens of Israeli-Druze have left their homes to fight Syria.
Israel’s 130,000 Druze community has traditionally been close to the Jewish state, serving in the IDF including special forces units. However, the rise of Jewish nationalism in Israel and the conflict next door in Syria have complicated the relationship. Reports of discrimination and violence against the Druze are becoming more common as are reports of Druze refusing to serve in the IDF. The community has also long complained that the state has been slow to respond to the community’s needs. Many Druze living in Israel are also drawn to the conflict across the border by a sense of communal solidarity shared with the more than 700,000 Druze living in Syria.
The Israeli-Druze community will continue its loyalty to the state, but unless the rise of discrimination and violence is stopped instances like the ones mentioned above will become more and more common.
Eglash, Ruth, “Tensions rise on Israel-Syrian Border after infiltration attempt, airstrikes,” Washington Post, April 27, 2015
Khoury, Jack, “Druze Youth from the Golan flocking to join Assad Army,” Haaretz October 22, 2013
Zitun, Yoav, “IDF Soldier Indicted for Aiding Enemy,” Ynetnews, April 2, 2015