Recent Protests Show That Golani Druze Are Feeling More Israeli

September 6, 2023 | Yusri Hazran
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Since June, Druze residents of the Golan Heights have staged mass public demonstrations against the planned construction of wind turbines in the area. They were joined by their coreligionists elsewhere in Israel, who have for the most part followed a separate political trajectory. Yusri Hazran explains the significance of this and related developments:

This was a protest over a civic issue, devoid of the nationalistic overtones that used to characterize occasional bouts of pro-Syrian demonstrations by Golan Druze. Absent were any Syrian flags during the entire period of stormy demonstrations. Instead, what was visible was the five-colored flag of the Druze (red, yellow, green, blue, and white) representing the higher values of the faith. This civic aspect of the protest confirms a growing trend of “instrumental integration” of the Golan Druze into Israel.

For decades after the 1967 war, the Druze community in the Golan conducted a political struggle against Israeli sovereignty and adhered to their Syrian identity. They had practical reasons—expectations that Israel would return the Golan to Syria, families and sometimes marriages among the Druze across the border in Syria, and government benefits like free university education in Damascus. In exchange the Golan Druze declined Israeli citizenship—excommunicating those who did apply for it—refused to serve in the IDF, and banned the Hebrew language in their schools.

This preference, however, began to fall apart following the outbreak of the popular uprising in Syria in 2011. A new tendency emerged among the younger generation in the Golan, driven by pragmatic considerations. . . .

By now, the “turbine protest” has demonstrated once again the intense solidarity of Druze communities across the region, reacting to perceived threats to their existence or their space. Perhaps it is a sign of the community’s ultimate integration into the somewhat fractious political culture of Israel that this solidarity is manifested in quite loud political protests.

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