The state is planning to lay a gas pipeline, Route 6 and a railway track on Druze lands in the Jezreel Valley.
By Rafik Halabi

The expropriation of Druze lands in the Jezreel Valley keeps coming up. The state is planning to lay a gas pipeline, Route 6 and a railway track on these lands. All the lands will be expropriated in effect because whatever remains is not fit for use. The expropriation worsens the Druze community’s distress, which is apparent in every town and village – Peki’in, Yarka, Beit Jann, the Carmel and the Tefen area.

In the landowners’ demonstrations people threatened a “Druze intifada,” but I don’t believe this could happen. Much of the income in the Druze community is based on serving in the defense establishment. Their sense of complete identity with the state has not faded, and many of them, too many, still believe in negotiations and persuasion, despite the disappointments they have suffered in recent years.

Despite this, everything could explode. This is not a threat. It’s an expression of pain and insult. It is not a threat that we want to separate, but an argument over “the partnership.”

In the 1950s the Druze lands in the Yokne’am region were expropriated for public and defense purposes, and military camps were set up on them. Two years ago the camps were dismantled, but the lands have not been returned to the Druze. High-tech plants have been built on them, plants that pay taxes to Yokne’am. Nobody gave a thought to the terrible grievance done here.

It was on these very lands that the first Jewish settlers came from Yagur to Isfiya and began the relationship between the Jews and the Druze. The Druze leaders came down from the Muhraka mountain on sand paths to Ramat Yohanan to persuade the commanders of the Druze brigade, which came from Syria to fight the Jews, to disarm. These lands have been robbed from the Druze – a demonstration of the sovereign’s degrading treatment of its subjects.

The prime minister and his ministers are excited and dazzled by the expressions of sympathy, the cheerleaders’ cries and the groveling every time they visit a Druze community. They are filled with self-satisfaction to hear the speeches of “mediators” and public figures who do not represent the community’s real sentiments.

We do not doubt the importance of the national projects and abiding by the law, but we want to address the way we are treated and the way promises and agreements are kept. This is a difficult time for relations between the Druze and the state’s representatives, affecting the individual’s trust in his government and even in his state.

The Israel Lands Administration officials and the Prime Minister’s Office director-general treat the Druze with scorn and arrogance, trying to “subdue” or “educate” them. I am certain the “mediators” maintain that a handful of Druze outlaws or “rogue elements” are causing the trouble, but the opposite is true. The feeling is that my state is giving up on me. It is a terrible feeling and it is prevalent in the Druze community.

The master plans and the process of legitimizing illegal construction are stuck, no industrial areas have been built, and no affirmative action is being taken. The ILA isn’t willing even to allocate a plot for a Druze cemetery in the Carmel, or to rezone private lands for setting up a sports center. The long list of shortcomings tells a tale of neglect and a lack of desire to improve the situation. It will be disastrous if the state gives up on its Druze citizens because of its erroneous policy.

We don’t need perks, promises or slogans like “blood pact” and “brothers in arms.” Yitzhak Rabin told thousands of Druze in Daliat al-Carmel: “You don’t have to prove loyalty, you’ve done your share … now it’s our turn to repay you, to do and give; we owe you.” The ministers repeat these empty slogans and get excited by their polite hosts’ applause.

Failing to solve the lands issue in a way that respects our citizenship and rights may create a situation that no one wants.

The writer is a journalist who lives in Daliat al-Carmel.