Regional Druze Leaders Urge Conscientious Objection to Military Service in Israel
In an international meeting of Druze leaders in Amman on Sunday, Lebanese politician Walid Jumblatt urged Druze living in Israel to refuse to serve in the Israeli army as a show of solidarity with the Palestinians, said reports.
Jumblatt launched the appeal at the beginning of a four-day meeting in the Jordanian capital of more than 100 Druze from Lebanon, Syria and Israel.
"We must find a scheme to confront the compulsory military service of Druze in Israel in a bid to support our brothers in Palestine," Jumblatt was quoted as telling the meeting in a Amman hotel.
He said that a "working team" had been set up between Lebanese and Israeli Druze to chart a strategy, as well as to pursue contacts with other Arab parties to gain support for the campaign.
Jumblatt also called for a "national Arab conference" to underscore the Arab identity of the Druze people who live in Lebanon, Israel and Syria, including the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
The Lebanese leader said he planned on meeting soon with Syrian President Bashar Al Assad "to discuss many issues including the compulsory military service" of the Druze in Israel.
The head of the Druze delegation from Israel, lawyer Saeed Naffaa, echoed Jumblatt's concern and appealed to all Druze to close ranks and unite against compulsory military service in the Israeli armed forces.
Al Jazeera satellite channel interviewed a Druze young man who had rejected the compulsory service. The Druze said that he would not serve in an army that was killing his Palestinian brothers.
According to Jumblatt's Progressive Socialist Party (PSP), three Druze have refused to serve in the army and have been sentenced to prison since the Amman statement, said the agency.
Jumblatt visited south Lebanon last week and delivered a speech in which he called for Arab-Israeli Druze to stand by the Palestinians by refusing to serve in the army, or at least in units operating in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Jumblatt made the appeal August 12 at a rally in Bayyada, Lebanon, the main holy site for the Druze community.
However, he said, “I am not asking you to rebel, but it is your right to be conscientious objectors in a state that says it is democratic."
The Druze and the Bedouins of Beer Sheba are the only groups, among more than one million Arab Israelis, required to do military service in the occupation army.
The Druze of the Golan, which was annexed to Israel in 1981, have stood against Israeli attempts to nationalize them.
Jumblatt and leading Israeli Druze signed a joint statement in Amman in May in which they called on members of that community to ignore the draft.
The Druze, whose faith is an offshoot of Shiite Islam, counts 80,000 Arab followers in Israel and another 20,000 in the occupied Golan Heights.
The Druze community in Lebanon numbers around 225,000, with a further 150,000 in Syria.
Meanwhile, according to Haaretz, Israel's first Druze minister, Salah Tarif, accused MK Azmi Bishara (Balad), one of sponsors of the conference, of "a cynical and deliberate attempt... to cause friction between Druze in [the rest of] the Middle East and Druze in Israel." – Albawaba.com
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