World View: Jihadist Attack on Druze Population Could Bring Israel into Syria War

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This morning’s key headlines from

  • Druze community split on Syria war after al-Nusra attack
  • History of the Druze religion
  • Jihadist Attack on Druze population could bring Israel into Syria war

Druze community split on Syria war after al-Nusra attack

Druze clerics in a meeting in Beirut on Friday (AP)
Druze clerics in a meeting in Beirut on Friday (AP)

The Druze community, with about one million living in Syria and Lebanon, and 104,000 living in Israel, have stayed out of the Syria war, although they are split in supporting or opposing Syria’s genocidal president Bashar al-Assad.

However, on Wednesday, militants from the al-Qaeda linked Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Nusra Front) attacked a Druze community in the village of Qalb Lawzah, in Idlib province in Syria, and killed at least 20 Druze men and women. This has evoked strong nationalism among the Druze in Lebanon.

One Lebanese Druze leader who supports al-Assad, Wiam Wahhab, made a televised speech, saying,

We will not accept to sell Druze blood!

[The Druze in Syria] are ready to defeat the terrorists, but what they lack is arms. Lebanon’s Druze are ready to help, we are ready to form an army of 200,000 fighters to defend the Druze!

However, the principal Lebanese Druze leader, Walid Jumblatt, who opposes al-Assad, said on Twitter:

Any inciting rhetoric will not be beneficial, and you should remember that Bashar Assad’s policies pushed Syria into this chaos.

An al-Nusra leader on Saturday apologized for the murder of the 20 Druze civilians, but it is unclear whether the Druze public will accept the apology in view of the 20 murders. Daily Star (Beirut) and Times of Israel

History of the Druze religion

The Druze came into existence as a secret society, and only announced itself to the world in the early 1000s (11th century). There was a brief period of proselytizing that ended in 1050. Since then it has been impossible to convert to Druze from any other religion.

The Druze creed arose from a branch of Shia Islam, but it incorporates concepts from Christianity and Judaism, as well from Greek philosophy and Hindu and Buddhist influences.

Like any other society, they have had their generational crisis wars, during some of which they were victims of genocide, and in others they were perpetrators of genocide, making them no different from anyone else. A particularly bloody generational crisis war occurred in 1860 with the Maronite Christians, which is considered a victory by the Druze, resulting in the deaths of 10,000 Christians. It is only been in recent years that the two groups have attempted to reconcile. Jewish Virtual Library

Jihadist Attack on Druze population could bring Israel into Syria war

Israel has been very careful to avoid getting involved in the Syria war, but a recent attack jihadist attack on the Druze ethnic community in Syria may force Israel’s hand. The Druze in Syria fear that they will be left on their own to fight al-Nusra and the Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh), especially with the Syrian army possibly near total collapse. The Druze consider this to be an existential threat to the entire Druze community.

Thousands of Druze protested in Israel on Saturday, calling on Israel to aid the Druze in Syria. Typical chants were “Stop the massacres,” and “We want the Druze among us.” According to one Druze Israeli official, “We do not plan to sit idly by while our brothers are being slaughtered in Syria.”

From Israel’s point of view, the danger is that if jihadist groups start attacking the Druze in Syria, then hundreds of thousands of Druze civilians will pour across the border into Israel, creating a major humanitarian crisis, and forcing Israel to enter the war.

Activists are asking Israel to send arms to the Syrian Druze. If Israel withholds support, it could be held responsible for whatever happens to the Syrian Druze community, including a mass slaughter by jihadists.

On the other hand, Israel may make the choice of sending arms to the Syrian Druze, allowing them to defend themselves. This would mean abandoning the consistent policy of abstaining from direct involvement in that war. It would moreover entail setting up new machinery for establishing, training and arming a Druze army of 20,000 to 30,000 fighting men.

There are also reports that Iran is offering to arm the Druze, something that would give them a great deal of control over the Druze community in Syria and Lebanon.

This is becoming a major political issue in Israel, and there are no easy choices. YNet (Israel) and Debka (Israel) and Fox News

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Druze, Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria/Sham/the Levant, IS, ISIS, ISIL, Daesh, Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Nusra Front, Bashar al-Assad, Wiam Wahhab, Walid Jumblatt, Maronite Christians, Iran
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