Tens of Thousands Attend Druze Rally Against Nation-state Law من الهآررتس: عشرات من الآلاف شاركوا في المظاهرات الدرزية في إسرائيل احتجاجاً على قانون يهودية الدولة العبرية
Bar Peleg, Noa Shpigel, Chaim Levinson, Oded Yaron and Noa Landau/Haaretz/August 04/18
‘We serve in the army… and in the end we are second-class citizens,’ protester tells Haaretz ■ Right-wing activists spread fake correspondence announcing deal between Druze leaders and Labor party
Tens of thousands of people gathered in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square for a major protest led by the Druze community against the contentious nation-state law, which has stood at the center of dispute between the Israeli government and the Druze.
The Druze community’s spiritual leader, Sheikh Mowafaq Tarif, together with Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, will be among the key speakers at the rally.
A fake correspondence between right-wing activists in Israel’s Labor Party regarding a deal in the works between the Druze community and party members circulated on social media on Saturday ahead of the protest.
Two young men from the northern Druze town of Peki’in, Russel and Hussein, came to the protest waving the Druze flag. “The entire village is coming today,” Russel said. “We serve in the army, we do everything – and in the end we are [labeled as] second-class citizens.”
Addressing the alternative legislation offered by the premier, Hussein said: “We don’t need money, we need equality. He ought to cancel the law.”
Protest organizers called on all Israelis to join the rally in order to “express our protest and stand by our Druze brothers in order to preserve the balance in the country’s character as a Jewish and democratic state.”
“This is a protest for any citizen who views the [nation-state] law as a complete distortion of the Declaration of Independence and wants to demonstrate against the erasure of the value of equality from the definition of the country’s identity,” the statement read.
“All Israelis are equal,” protest organizers said in their statement. They also announced that among the people expected to attend the rally are former Mossad chief Tamir Pardo, ex-Shin Bet heads Yuval Diskin and Ami Ayalon and former IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi.
The demonstration is being held against the backdrop of the ongoing protest of the Druze community against the law as well as the separate legislation Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered Druze representatives in an attempt to appease the community.
The alternative legislation sought to enshrine the status of Israeli Druze after the latter claimed that the law discriminated against them. But many Druze claimed Netanyahu’s offer was insufficient and called for an amendment to be introduced to the nation-state law.
The fictitious deal spread by right-wing activists garnered the interest of many Israelis browsing their social media outlets after a meeting between Netanyahu and leaders of the Druze community was cut short Thursday night.
Screenshots of fake conversations between members of a WhatsApp group titled ”The Labor Party- Core Headquarters” were posted to the Facebook pages of two Labor activists with a large social media following, and the made-up chats were shared by at least 1,000 people.
The main activist announcing the deal in the fake WhatsApp conversation was a man named Avi Yaron. However, Haaretz has learned that there is no Labor activist with that name.
In the feigned correspondence, activist Yaron claims to have met with Brig. Gen. (res.) Amal Assad, a former senior Israel Defense Forces officer who wrote a Facebook post in which he said that the nation-state law would turn Israel into an apartheid state.
The activist said in the fake chat that an understanding was reached with Assad that the latter would receive a spot in the Labor party’s Knesset faction: “The subject was sealed with Avi (i.e. Avi Gabbay, the chair of the party),” Yaron was quoted as saying in the chat.
The non-existent activist was also quoted as saying that many Druze, “including the conservative right,” will come to the protest against the nation-state law.
Assad was one of the key participants in Thursday’s meeting between the prime minister and representatives of the Druze community. He told Netanyahu that he was not willing to accept his proposal for a separate legislation that would enshrine the status of Israel’s Druze, saying that instead an amendment to the nation-state law should be passed.
Assad also told Netanyahu that he stood behind his sharply-worded statement against the nation-state law. Netanyahu then said he wouldn’t accept such an “insult to the dignity of the prime minister of Israel and the dignity of the state.” The meeting was subsequently cut short.
The Labor party filed a police complaint against the two right-wing activists who posted the fake correspondence on their Facebook pages.
The party also released a statement saying that “in recent hours, an employee of the party has been spreading a fake WhatsApp correspondence attributed to Labor activists. This correspondence is entirely fake, 100% fake, every name, letter and message here are simply not real.
These are the sorts of things that the hate machine in Balfour [a reference to the Prime Minister’s Office, which is located in Balfour Street in Jerusalem] churns out to damage this evening’s protest.”
“We will act in accordance with authorities in order to investigate those who spread the fake correspondence,” the statement read.
The Labor Party’s chair, Avi Gabbay, also released a statement in which he said that “the scared Balfour spirit is blowing all over the fake WhatsApp correspondence that the Likud has been spreading since this morning. It’s a devilish, dangerous spirit that is disintegrating our society and tearing it to shreds. Everything is permissible in [Netanyahu’s] path to the ballot box and away from the investigations.”
Brig. Gen. (res.) Assad also responded to the fake correspondence, saying that he is “embarrassed to respond to this nonsense. I can’t believe that they would descend to this level. I can’t understand if this was done on the prime minister’s behalf or not. I don’t recognize any of the things that were written there.”
Fears in Israel from Repercussions of Netanyahu’s Disagreement with Druze
Gaza – Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 4 August, 2018
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed on Thursday to reach an agreement with Druze leaders over the controversial “Nation State Law”, which has been recently passed by the Knesset. The law has been described as “racist” by many parties in Israel. The Israeli army has held a series of meetings and talks with recruits from the Druze community amid Israeli fears of unrest that could seep into the army following a wave of rising protest against the law. Netanyahu held his latest meeting with Druze community leaders in his office in Jerusalem. The meeting, which was attended by Druze Minister Ayoub Kara and Minister Yariv Levin, aimed to discuss a document of principles proposed by parties and mediators to resolve the crisis stemming from the nation-state law.
The document provides for the establishment of the legal status of the Druze community because of its contribution to defend Israel, and it provides support for the Druze institutions and population. Netanyahu abruptly ended his meeting with Druze leaders after one of them accused him of leading Israel to an “apartheid state.”
The meeting’s rapporteur denied that the word “apartheid” was used.
He accused Netanyahu of making a “miserable and unsuccessful attempt” to sow discord among the Druze in order to hinder the preparations for the large demonstration that will take place on Saturday night in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square.
Netanyahu asked to meet Druze spiritual leader Sheikh Muwafak Tarif and heads of local Druze authorities only, without the Druze officers who initiated the sit-in protest, headed by Amal Asaad, but they refused and left the room heading to Rabin Square, according to the rapporteur. Head of the local council of the Druze village of Yarka in northern Israel Wahib Hobeish, who participated in the meeting with Netanyahu, revealed that just two minutes into the meeting the PM called it off after realizing that the Druze were determined to amend the law.
“We will ensure that the law is amended and our children live proudly in the democratic State of Israel, which maintains equality among all its citizens,” Hobeish said.