In Israel, Druze are overrepresented in the Israeli Defense Forces and the Knesset relative to their population. In Lebanon, Druze had their own militia during the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990) and have their own political party today. In Syria, Druze rebels were instrumental in fighting the French during Syria’s 1925 uprising.
The basic idea is that they are loyal. Druze are stereotyped to be extremely loyal to whatever government they live under, hence the large amount of Druze in Israeli combat units and presence of Druze politicians in ultra-nationalist parties as extreme as Yisrael Beitenu. But this is just a stereotype. Druze are not monolithic, and in any case support for one’s country could mean supporting the government for one person while replacing it with something better for another.
Deputy Galilee and Negev Development Minister Ayoub Kara, himself a Druze and a member of Likud, threatened Assad that Israel might intervene if the Druze of Syria are attacked. But what likelihood any one community could face Assad’s wrath would probably be nill – Assad does not want to give anyone an excuse to make a scenario like Kara’s a reality.
What appeal the protests have for the Syrian Druze though is ambiguous. Israeli media seems to be one of the key gateways to gauging Druze opinion. In the Golan Heights, what Syrians that have stayed there since the area was conquered by Israel in the Six Day War are virtually, 100% Druze. So far Druze in the Golan Heights seem to be confident that 1) Assad will survive these riots and 2) Druze will support him. It’s apparently true: the major Facebook group supporting the revolt is asking Druze to join the uprising (since they seem not to have done so already).
Ayoub Kara: Member of the Knesset and apparently ready to rock
What Ayoub Kara seems to be hinting at is an alliance: Israel with the Druze. It is an interesting idea, especially coming from a Druze himself: Israel being a patron to people in another country. I would guess he wants Israel to expand its influence in Syria, and supporting a community with no allies would be the natural place to start. But I cannot help thinking this is a fantasy with Druze being as loyal to their countries as they are.
But it is also worth saying since Israel has no other natural ally – there is no second Jewish state to form a natural alliance with – supporting other long-oppressed minorities in the Middle East against Sunni or Shiite rivals would make strategic sense. But is there a need for the Druze of Syria? That’s a question for Ayoub Kara. I don’t have an answer.