On 25 April each year, the Druze celebrate the visit of the Prophet Shuaib to Hittin, marking one of their most important religious events. This year, the visit was overshadowed by a charged political atmosphere caused by the distortion of one of our important symbols, the Druze flag, by adding of the Star of David to it as part of a new rapprochement by the religious leadership to the Netanyahu government.
This disfigurement of the Druze flag was has been widely condemned by the Druze in Syria, Lebanon and Palestine but the non-religious youth in the Golan were as much as indifferent shedding serious doubt on the religious figures credibility and leadership.
There is growing schism between the Golan youth and our Druze identity (with all its components, ethnic and religious) which has prompted me to write this in order to present the two main reasons we are distancing ourselves from our Druze identity:
The complicity of the Druze spiritual leadership in Palestine with Israel
Since the Nakba in 1948, the spiritual leadership of the Druze in Palestine has aligned itself with the Zionist colonizer, and has worked intensively to include the Druze in the institutions of the Zionist state. The mandatory army recruitment of the Druze youth in the Israeli army is one manifestation of this policy, despite wide rejection of the principle of serving in the Israeli Army, (One of the most recent anti recruitment slogans is "Refuse, your people will protect you). This position continued even after the setback of June 1967, and despite Israel's occupation of the Syrian Golan and its Druze population, the geographical proximity did not affect the sectarian relationship or help the Druze of the Golan to befriend the Druze of Galilee and Mount Carmel causing a rift between the religious leaderships, leading the youth of the Golan to distance themselves from their Druze identity to avoid having to take sides in the battle between their identities.
The Golan cannot be separated from its political context. The non-religious Golan youth, who for many years have sensed the political dimension of the alliance with Israel by a spiritual leadership that is the closest to us geographically, has made it difficult to engage in religious events and the majority preferred to align with their Arab and Syrian identity instead. Despite the great advantages of our Druze identity, we are disappointed by the actions the spiritual leadership of the Druze in Palestine and its proximity to Israel forcing us to leave behind an identity that we cherish for fear of how it would affect our Syrian identity. The muted reaction by the Druze youth to the defacing of our flag by adding a Star of David is indicative of the schism between religious leadership and the people who were not shocked by such leadership.
Israel fails to impose its custody on the Druze and their lives as it did on the Jews, for Druze nationalism has aborted Israel’s repeated attempts to create circles of Friends around the Arab world.
It is not possible to remove the Golan from its political reality, we understood too well Israel’s attempt to normalise relations with us, so we now distance ourselves from our religious leadership.
Israel’s attempts to establish itself as the "protector of the Druze" in the events of the Syrian revolution
In November 2017, the Nusrah Front launched a large-scale attack on the Druze village of Hadar in the eastern part of the ceasefire line, adjacent to the village of Majdal Shams, in which many were killed and wounded. This attack angered many residents of the occupied Golan and the Druze of Palestine, which exposed the inability of the "Druze minority" to protect itself in Syria. As always, Israel has used its alliance with the spiritual leadership of the Druze in Palestine to disseminate extensively in its media that it is prepared to defend the Druze in Syria and to provide them with assistance. This is an attempt to become guardians of the Druze community reminiscent of the colonial British and French Mandates. The residents of Hadar refused this assistance categorically as did the residents of the occupied Golan.
These allegations and events created a new dimension to the relationship between Israel and the Druze, crossing the current geographical boundaries The picture painted by Israel and the spiritual leadership of the Druze monotheists in Palestine, is the image of a helpless minority, which can easily be separated from the Syrian state in return for protection and aid. This dwarfing of the Syrian identity of the Golan did not have a warm reception and in turn has added to the distance between us and our Druze identity. Israel's use of our Druze identity as an excuse to intervene and impose its "guardianship" has been totally rejected, and the relationship between us and the spiritual leadership of the Druze monotheists in Palestine has been undermined.
This “Custodianship” which Israel has tried to extend to Jews in general, is now being applied to the Druze as well, perhaps in its continued quest to gain allies in the Arab world, but Israel failed in ignoring the Druze nationalistic allegiance.
Realpolitik and Our Moral Duty
Druze identity is not just religious teachings, it cannot be separated from the Arabic language, Arab culture, and the ethnicity of the Druze in the Middle East. It is disturbing how these elements of their identity is being wrested from them because of politicization by parties with their own agendas. The cultural and ethnic characteristics of our Druze identity, while preserving individual religious freedom are too important to abandon but I must point out what has driven us to this point: I believe that it is our basic moral duty to preserve our Druze identity and our Arab culture, to stand in the way of those who are trying to obliterate this affiliation and create a new reality, A parasite that seeks to deform our Druze identity. Adding the star of David to the Druze flag is unacceptable not only on religious grounds but also because it takes away from our Arab identity.
The boycotting of the spiritual leadership of the Druze in the Golan Heights is in the best interest of individual freedoms in the occupied Syrian Golan and for the prosperity of a free cultural and artistic landscape which is the result of our political landscape (which was created by Israel and its institutions, as if the Druze are merely farmers and cooks in a patriarchal society lacking national identity). For now, boycotting Druze religious and cultural functions seems natural, pouring oil on a simmering fire.