There are many examples of Israel’s “divide and conquer” policy regarding Palestinian Arab society in Israel and in the territories on one hand and the Druze sect on the other. Last month, this policy cost of the life of Tiran Ferro, who on November 22 was disconnected from life support and abducted from a West Bank hospital by merciless Palestinian gunmen. The body was returned two days later.
Before the abduction even became known in Israel, the Palestinian media had shaped the narrative that Tiran was an Israeli Druze soldier, and therefore fair pretty. This narrative became difficult to dispel. The result was a harsh reaction by the public, from videos of armed Israelis demanding the immediate return of the boy’s body to extreme acts such as an attempt to abduct several innocent Palestinians in Yarka. Meanwhile, the volume of hate-filled Facebook posts from all sides surged.
On November 28, the media reported that the Military Police was investigating three Druze soldiers after an improvised bomb – which did not explode – was thrown at a Palestinian home in the West Bank. A few hours later, the Israel Defense Forces announced new senior appointments, including that of Lt. Col. Ayoub Kayouf, who is Druze. Kayouf, a former commander of the 1st Golani Brigade, will be promoted to the rank of colonel and to commander of the Menashe Territorial Brigade. Its area of operations include the area of Jenin, from which Ferro was abducted. Moreover, the negotiations for the return of his body were presided over by Maj. Gen. Ghassan Alian, the coordinator of government activities in the territories.
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The assignment of Druze officers to these complex positions was no accident. Such appointments are meant to serve a certain well-known Israeli agenda. They weren’t appointed because they speak Arabic, thereby facilitating the occupation forces’ mission of controlling the Palestinian people (or at least not only because of this). Rather, the state uses these officers to separate the Druze minority from both the Palestinian people in the territories and the wider Israeli Arab community. Two birds with one stone!
You may be surprised to learn this, but quite a few Druze want the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Golan Heights to end. They are mainly poets, young social activists who resisted the compulsory draft and older people whose age has enabled them to understand the true big picture. These people are the only remaining glue binding the Druze community to Palestinian Arab society. Most of them identify as Druze Palestinian Arabs and are repulsed at being defined solely as Druze, as the state has tried to do for years.
It did this first through separate school curricula and special funding for the Druze, and subsequently for Muslim and Christian Arabs, and then by setting different calendars for vacation and holidays. And it culminates in the place where Arabs get the most painful reminder of their Arab identity – security checks at Ben-Gurion International Airport. There, Druze are treated like Jews while Muslim and Christian Arabs undergo humiliating inspections.
One can regret the fact that some Druze collaborate with this tendency on the part of the state, as reflected by the attempted retaliatory attacks against Palestinians from Jenin. But it’s also possible to see hopeful signs – for instance, the delegation of Palestinian dignitaries who paid a condolence call on Tiran Ferro’s family on November 25. They are the necessary counterreaction to the efforts to divide and conquer, and the proof that despite everything, we are not separate peoples.