After More Than Half a Century of Reluctance, the Druze of the Golan Are Embracing Israel

March 16 2021

For decades, the Druze who live in the Golan Heights have overwhelmingly remained loyal to Syria—which held the territory until 1967—and declined to obtain Israeli citizenship. But when the Syrian civil war broke out ten years ago, their economic ties with their brethren across the border were severed, the possibility of Jerusalem relinquishing the Golan became ever more distant, and Syrian rule seemed to offer little defense against Islamic State, al-Qaeda, and Hizballah and exposure to the depredations of Bashar al-Assad. Attitudes towards the Jewish state are experiencing a sea-change as a result, writes Jonathan Shamir:

[W]hile Druze in the Galilee region to the south have been a loyal minority who serve in the Israel Defense Forces and are part-and-parcel of Israeli society, the Druze on the Golan historically looked eastward. In the past, free tuition and monthly stipends from the Syrian government lured thousands of Druze to study in Syria. However, after the war began, enrolment ground to a halt. Hundreds or even thousands of Golan Druze had graduated from Syrian universities, but those who were studying at Damascus University when the war broke out transferred to universities in Tel Aviv and Haifa.

In the immediate years following the start of the war, the numbers of students from the Golan Heights studying in Israeli universities spiked and many then opted to work in Israel. . . . The government, meanwhile, increased investment in the area, with a multimillion-shekel plan between 2014 and 2017 for the development of Druze regional councils, which [Roaa Khater, the director of education in a Druze village], believes pulled the community toward Israel.

The local community used to know everyone who took Israeli citizenship, and these people would be ostracized, [another Druze] recounts. When they [met people at] weddings, funerals, or in the streets, they would be shunned.

The situation is different today, however; . . . 20.6 percent of the Syrian [Druze] in the Golan Heights held an Israeli passport in March 2018, [and] the rate of applications for citizenship has spiked since the onset of the war. The younger generation, in particular, knows Syria only from stories but Israel from experience. Given all of this, the social stigma is slowly dissipating.

Read more at Haaretz

More about: Druze, Golan Heights, Israeli society, Syrian civil war

Iran’s Four-Decade Strategy to Envelope Israel in Terror

Yesterday, the head of the Shin Bet—Israel’s internal security service—was in Washington meeting with officials from the State Department, CIA, and the White House itself. Among the topics no doubt discussed are rising tensions with Iran and the possibility that the latter, in order to defend its nuclear program, will instruct its network of proxies in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, and even Iraq and Yemen to attack the Jewish state. Oved Lobel explores the history of this network, which, he argues, predates Iran’s Islamic Revolution—when Shiite radicals in Lebanon coordinated with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s movement in Iran:

An inextricably linked Iran-Syria-Palestinian axis has actually been in existence since the early 1970s, with Lebanon the geographical fulcrum of the relationship and Damascus serving as the primary operational headquarters. Lebanon, from the 1980s until 2005, was under the direct military control of Syria, which itself slowly transformed from an ally to a client of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The nexus among Damascus, Beirut, and the Palestinian territories should therefore always have been viewed as one front, both geographically and operationally. It’s clear that the multifront-war strategy was already in operation during the first intifada years, from 1987 to 1993.

[An] Iranian-organized conference in 1991, the first of many, . . . established the “Damascus 10”—an alliance of ten Palestinian factions that rejected any peace process with Israel. According to the former Hamas spokesperson and senior official Ibrahim Ghosheh, he spoke to then-Hizballah Secretary-General Abbas al-Musawi at the conference and coordinated Hizballah attacks from Lebanon in support of the intifada. Further important meetings between Hamas and the Iranian regime were held in 1999 and 2000, while the IRGC constantly met with its agents in Damascus to encourage coordinated attacks on Israel.

For some reason, Hizballah’s guerilla war against Israel in Lebanon in the 1980s and 1990s was, and often still is, viewed as a separate phenomenon from the first intifada, when they were in fact two fronts in the same battle.

Israel opted for a perilous unconditional withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000, which Hamas’s Ghosheh asserts was a “direct factor” in precipitating the start of the second intifada later that same year.

Read more at Australia/Israel Review

More about: First intifada, Hizballah, Iran, Palestinian terror, Second Intifada