2 Druze Israeli army officers resign over nation-state law
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2 Druze Israeli army officers resign over nation-state law

Israeli soldiers training in Tzeelim, in southern Israel, July 3, 2018. (Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)
Israeli soldiers training in Tzeelim, in southern Israel, July 3, 2018. (Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Two Druze military officers have resigned from the Israeli army over the nation-state law.

One of the officers, a captain, resigned Sunday in an open letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu posted on Facebook.

The second, a deputy commander in a combat unit, took to Facebook on Monday night to say he would resign.

“I’m a citizen like everyone and gave my all to the state,” Shady Zaidan, 23, wrote in a post Monday. “And in the end, I wind up a second-class citizen. I’m not prepared to be a part of this. I’m also joining the struggle; I’ve decided to stop serving this country.

Zaidan also wrote: “Until today I stood in front of the state flag proudly and saluted it. Until today I sang the Hatikvah national anthem because I was certain this was my country and that I’m equal to everyone. But today, today I refused for the first time in my service to salute the flag, I refused for the first time to sing the national anthem.”

In a Facebook post on Sunday, Capt. Amir Jmall wrote: “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 called Israel a country with a government that “takes but does not give back,” and called for an end to military conscription for members of the Druze community.

The Israel Defense Forces’ chief of staff, Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, responded Tuesday in a statement.

“As a peoples’ army whose mandate is to protect the security of the people of Israel and winning in war, we are committed to preserving human dignity, regardless of ethnicity, religion and gender. So it has been and so it shall always be,” he said.

“We have pledged that the joint responsibility and brotherhood of the warriors, with our Druze brothers, Bedouin and the rest of the minorities serving in the IDF, will continue to lead our way.”

Eisenkot later on Tuesday met with Druze spiritual leader Sheikh Muafak Tarif who after the meeting in a statement to Druze soldiers wrote: “Trust us, we will fight for you. We have no bone to pick with the army – you are soldiers and loyal commanders, and I trust you to leave yourselves and the IDF out of the public debate.”

The IDF later announced that Jmall would be suspended for 14 days over his post.  “His commanders made it clear to him that he was expected to refrain from publishing the post, which identified himself as an officer in the IDF. There is no place in the IDF for political discourse of any kind,” the IDF said in a statement.

The controversial law with quasi-constitutional status enshrines Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. The law identifies Arabic as a language with “special status.”

In the wake of backlash from the Druze community, Netanyahu has met with Druze political, community and religious leaders. Following a meeting Sunday with the heads of Druze municipal councils, the prime minister announced the establishment of a team to submit recommendations “for actions that will strengthen the important ties between us.”

On Saturday night, an Arab-Israeli lawmaker from the Labor Party resigned in protest over the law.

Meanwhile, about 1,000 people took part Monday night in a mass Arabic-language lesson in Habima Square in Tel Aviv. The event billed as the “largest Arabic lesson in the world,” protested the downgrading of the Arabic language in the new law.  It was organized by a consortium of Israeli civil rights organizations.

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