Druze army commander quits over Israel's nation state law

Druze army commander quits over Israel's nation state law
3 min read
30 July, 2018
Members of Israel's 130,000-strong Druze community - who serve in the police and military - have been among those strongly denouncing the nation state law.
Members of Israel's 130,000-strong Druze community have been among those strongly denouncing the legislation. [Getty]

An Israeli Druze army commander on Sunday declared he would stop serving in the military in protest of Israel's controversial nation state bill, a deeply controversial law declaring Israel the nation state of the Jewish people.

Opponents have called the law "racist" as it makes no mention of equality and Israel's democratic character, implying the country's Jewish nature takes precedence.

Members of Israel's 130,000-strong Druze community - who serve in the police and military - have been among those strongly denouncing the legislation.

Community leaders have filed a court challenge to the law, while two key ministers have called for changes to the law in response to concerns from the Druze.

Read also: Who are Israel's Druze community?

Capt. Amir Jmall posted an open letter to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on his Facebook page announcing his decision to leave the army, calling on the Druze community to work for an end to compulsory conscription in the IDF.

"This morning, when I woke up to drive to the [army] base, I asked myself, why? Why do I have to serve the State of Israel, a state that my two brothers, my father and I have served with dedication, a sense of mission and a love of the homeland, and, in the end, what do we get? To be second-class citizens," Jmall wrote.

"Continue serving the country? I do not want to continue and I am sure that hundreds more people will stop serving and will be discharged from the army following your decision, Netanyahu, that of you and your government," he continued.

"I ask everyone who is against the nation-state law to share my proposal to community leaders to stop the conscription law for members of the Druze community," he concluded.

Last week, Israeli PM, Netanyahu held talks with lawmakers from the minority Druze community in a bid to ease their concerns.

The controversy over the new law is set to continue in the coming days, with Druze leaders planning a demonstration against the law in central Tel Aviv on 4 August.

The Druze are an offshoot of Shia Islam. Officials say there are 110,000 of them in northern Israel and another 20,000 in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

The legislation makes Hebrew the country's national language and defines the establishment of Jewish communities as being in the national interest.

Arabic, previously considered an official language, was granted only special status.

Palestinian citizens of Israel have also denounced the law, saying it encourages discrimination and racism.

They make up some 17.5 percent of Israel's more than eight million population, descendants of those who managed to avoid expulsion in 1948 during the creation of the Israeli state.

The Palestinian leadership has lashed out at the passage of the law.

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