Druze Arabs in the occupied Golan Heights discuss borders, identity, colonialism and war

Middle East
on 42 Comments

Borderlands materialize from the spoils of war, which may be why they are sumps for the purest expressions of state power: Economic exploitation, racial caste, militarism. I saw these things growing up in the Rio Grande Valley along the Texas-Mexican border, and I recently saw a different version of them in the Golan Heights, the contested area that Israel has occupied since seizing it from Syria in 1967. Both the Valley and the five Syrian towns in the Israeli-claimed Golan are contradictions of abundance and immiseration: Although they’re among the poorest regions in their respective countries, both areas produce incredibly fertile soil that bears all sorts of foods, citrus and watermelon and onions and nuts and more, that feed millions of people but only enrich a few hundred, if that. Such pillaging has been a core feature of life in both places since they were seized, and the fault line between agricultural winners and losers is also divided by race and cultural heritage: American and Anglo versus Mexican and Latino; Israeli and Jew versus Syrian and Arab.

People in both the Valley and the Golan carry the psychological markings of unfinished war. Although they happened about a century apart, the conquests that claimed both Valley and Syrian Golan  had the same  racializing effects that hardened pre-existing hierarchies. To this day,  tensions regularly turn brutal, exposing the fiction of borders as a means of containing  colonial violence that cascades across time and space. In the Golan, this violence has appeared in recent years as bombings and espionage committed against the Israel Defense Forces along the border by Arabs sympathetic to various factions in the Syrian war; in the Valley, it has come in the form of sporadic killings and kidnappings related to Mexico’s total assault against drug cartels, a conflict in which, of course, the US is implicated from a dozen different angles. Barring some genocidal final solution, life in both places will continue to periodically erupt, because the colonial projects generating tensions will never be completed.

Curious to learn about the border experiences of conquered people elsewhere in the world, I traveled to Majdal Shams, the Druze Arab town high up in the Golan mountains that abuts the ceasefire line between Syria and Israel (a line that Israel considers a national border). Here, just a few  kilometers from fighting between rebels and the Syrian regime (what is believed to be ISIS versus Hezbollah forces backing Bashar al-Assad), the cultural deformities caused by Israel’s occupation are compounded by the ongoing war across the way, which has upended relationships in Majdal Shams as locals pledged support or opposition to Assad.

On a cool night over a plate of saj bread smothered in labani, I spoke to two men, an artist and a human rights attorney, about borders, identity, colonialism and war. Wael Tarabieh led an arts and cultural center that became a core of support in Majdal Shams for the Syrian revolution in 2011 before collapsing in despair and confusion amid endless bloodletting. Kamara Abu Saleh, who works at the local anti-occupation human rights group Al-Marsad and whose sister is married to Tarabieh, is the grandson of a local anti-colonialist fighter memorialized with an iron statue in the town square. They are two of the approximately 25,000 Syrians who still live in the occupied Golan, down from over 140,000 before the 1967 Arab-Israel war.

This transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity.

A fence marks what Israel considers the border between Israel and Syria. (Photo: Aaron Cantú)

A fence marks what Israel considers the border between Israel and Syria. (Photo: Aaron Cantú)

Aaron Cantú: Can you describe how people in Majdal Shams identify themselves – do they seem themselves primarily as Arabs, Druze, Syrians? And how has the Israeli occupation affected this?

Wael Tarabieh: The matter of identity in Golan Heights took its shape because of the big strike in 1982, after Israel annexed the Golan and we refused their citizenship. For Arabs here, the Israeli side always tries to engineer your identity, and to redefine your identity not as you wish and you think but as what serves their interests. And for their interests, it’s better for [us] to be Druze people than to be Syrians. Regardless of that, Druze is a smaller identity than to be Syrian. Syrian is a very rich identity. So, people of Golan Heights decided in 1982 that first we are Arab, then Syrians, and then we are Druze.

AC: What does that connection to Syria look like?

WT: Our belonging to Syria is something emotional, something spiritual. For example, now I am almost 49 years old, and I had never been in Syria. I was born one year after the occupation began, and my connection to Syria is always related to my opposition to the occupation, so you know, it’s something in the negative.

AC: This is similar to my experience because I’ve never travelled through Mexico. I don’t think I feel a spiritual connection to it, but I understand the longing for something you cannot identify.

WT: You asked what the connection to Syria looks like now. Because of what’s happened in 2011, it took things into flesh and blood, so it is no longer just something spiritual. After [the Syrian revolution] began, some of us in Majdal Shams, artists and others, wrote a manifesto that supported, very obviously and very directly, the demonstrators and revolutionaries in Syria, the peaceful people who were demanding freedom and dignity and so on. And we were also very obviously against the regime of Bashar Assad. So this was the moment of how a big gap developed in Majdal Shams between people here supportive of the revolution and people who supported the regime.

AC: Did some people here see loyalty to Assad as part of their opposition to the Israeli occupation?

WT: Some. [Supporters of the regime in Majdal Shams] took photographs of Assad and brought it in our faces, saying, “This is our god whether you want it or not, and he will be forever,” and so on. And the supporters of the regime succeeded in gathering more people than our side. They’re the same people who gather at the border twice a year and shout [to counterparts in Syria], “You are the best!” “No, you are the best,” and so on, this comedy took place for 20 years, every year, people lying to each other. And this was also one aspect that made young people feel that political life was disgusting. But for two or three years after 2011, things became very directly said and expressed, and even people here stopped speaking to each other and greeting each other.

AC: What happened as the war went on?

WT: When things in Syria went in other ways and the fundamentalists took the scene, things started to calm down [here]. The amount of blood and killing people see every day made people feel something… it meant there was something wrong in their original thinking, it’s not just one narrative. And people thought the regime will, you know, support the Druze, but Assad has killed the Druze, too. But the other part of it is, as Syria continues to be in chaos, there is less opposition to Israel’s occupation here.

Karama Abu Saleh sits in front of Majdal Shams. (Photo: Aaron Cantú)

Karama Abu Saleh sits in front of Majdal Shams. (Photo: Aaron Cantú)

Kamara Abu Saleh: People here in [the] Golan Heights identify with the state of Israel now more than before. In Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, everywhere, there is big chaos, war, revolution, killing, no safety at all. So that’s why in these days and these times, it’s very easy to use a narrative of making people identify with Israel and stay here. Israel says, “Your life is in danger, if you protest being in Israel, what [are] your choices? Go back to Syria? You want to be under Russian bombs and killed by ISIS and other groups?” So maybe it’s debilitating, this kind of feeling, because this kind of feeling is based on fear. It isn’t based on logical thinking.

WT: This is the gift that Bashar Assad gave to Israel. Because before that, Israel was an evil. But now, when Assad has given us his ugliest face…

AC: Do you think in the future this feeling will change?

KAS: I don’t know what will happen in the future. I know what’s going on now, and now people are afraid. If you’re asking me, right now, would you like to go back to Syria and be free from the Israeli occupation? I would say no.

WT: Maybe not today. Let’s wait.

AC: A few years, maybe. (we all laugh)

WT: Nobody will accept to be thrown to their death. It’s a normal thing.

KAS: But because I say, “Please, let me be under occupation these days,” that doesn’t mean I want to stay here. It doesn’t mean that I accept [for] myself to be class B or class C citizen. It doesn’t mean I accept the discrimination against me in the planning and construction, everything, even in jobs in the public sector.

AC: How are you discriminated against?

KAS: If I apply for a job in the public sector, and I’m not serving in the Israeli army, my application will be like last place. In other cases, we’re discriminated by the natural resources. For example, water. If I have an orchard field, I cannot be a farmer because I still have the problem of acquiring water. At the same time, Jewish settlers in the Golan do not have this problem. Or they have it much less, much much much much less. It’s a big difference.

Karama's travel documents list his nationality as "UNDEFINED." (Photo: Aaron Cantú)

Karama’s travel documents list his nationality as “UNDEFINED.” (Photo: Aaron Cantú)

WT: The prices, one farmer told me, is one to seven for the price of water, between Jewish settlers and Arabs in the Golan.

KAS: And look here at Majdal Shams. It’s very crowded and it’s in the middle of nowhere, there are no jobs, we cannot expand, we just build on top of each other. And yet the settlers in the Golan are given $12,000 from the government if they live here for more than four years. This kind of discrimination is a bit hidden.

WT: Another thing is the loans from the banks. The highest interest rates on loans in all of Israel is at our bank in Majdal Shams. Even if people have iPhones and cars, the whole scene is not reflecting the actual economic limit of people here.

AC: The global economy almost went down in 2008 because the banks gave bad home loans mostly to poor black and brown people in the US.

WT: Same strategy as here.

KAS: If you are not Jewish, you are not fully accepted. It’s not that people don’t want to be in good relations with Israel. No, we really want it, everybody wants it, but it cannot be. You can be good colleague, good friend, but you’re still stuck in your culture, and is [seen as] primitive. You can be educated and smart but you are not accepted. But if you work in construction, you are more acceptable. [The Israelis] think, we want you like that. Don’t try to be different. Don’t try to get to be better than we want you to be. You know what I mean?

AC: This reminds me of the idea of respectability politics in the US. It’s this idea of, if we dress well and we cut our hair and act like the professional white class, they will accept us. But it’s like you’re saying, they will never accept you fully. And since Black Lives Matter has become popular, there’s this idea of, we don’t want to do respectability politics anymore, because no matter how respectable we try to be, we won’t be accepted. So now there’s an idea among people who are not white of, we will not be respectable, we’re going to be who we are, and if you don’t accept us then fuck you.

WT: Many young [Arab Druze] who go to Haifa or Tel Aviv and try to be involved with the community as Israeli youth are rejected. One example: A friend of mine has a girl, his daughter, she is very talented, speaks Hebrew perfectly. She was chosen to continue her high school in Jerusalem for the talented young people in Israel and lived for five or six years with young Israelis. But recently I’m talking with my friend, and I asked what [his daughter] decided to study in college. And he said because of her experience there, she decided to study Arabic and culture, because she eventually concluded that her identity is Arab. So she worked on herself, she took the first prize of a very serious study program in Arabic culture. So this is an example of why I have hope in the new generation. They are clever, but they also had to live there and experience their own narrative, not mine.

AC: In the Rio Grande Valley 100 years ago, Mexicans in South Texas inspired by the Mexican revolution tried to overthrow the government and white supremacy. After they lost, a group of bourgeoisie Texas Mexicans started an organization [LULAC] to try and integrate into wealthy white American society. It hasn’t really worked out.

WT: Israel is succeeding in this cultural battle here right now. You see the Israeli flag everywhere [here] and it’s becoming part of things that you see every day. They use the Druze identity to say: you are not Arab, so you can be separated from Arabs and Syrians, and the Muslims are your enemies. This entire narrative is designed in order to separate these people from their roots, their real roots.

AC: Do you think a cultural movement like the one happening in the US right now, with Black Lives Matter, could happen in the Golan?

WT: I don’t think so, because we as a community are not mature enough for that yet. It needs time to arrive at that.

AC: For us it took decades, a hundred years to get to this point.

WT: Right now we are in the phase where many people [in the Golan] are believing that they can be engaged in Israeli life and succeed. You notice their happiness [at] being here, thinking it’s a place in a strong country and so on. It would be a long time, I think. But I think the culture is the only thing that cannot be controlled by the strong side. I have big hope for the new generation.

About Aaron Cantú

Aaron Cantú is a journalist based in New York City and a contributor to the book Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? Police Violence and Resistance in the United States (Haymarket, 2016).

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42 Responses

  1. Walker
    August 18, 2016, 7:48 pm

    Very interesting, like your conversation with Druse in Israel.

    I wonder what the tens of thousands of 1967 Golan refugees think of this.

  2. Annie Robbins
    August 18, 2016, 9:33 pm

    yes, very interesting. thanks Aaron.

    • Naftush
      August 22, 2016, 8:49 am

      Especially interesting are Aaron’s tireless attempts to create intersectionality and Abu Saleh’s calm but useless attempts to get back on topic. Did Abu Saleh know he was being manipulated?

      • amcantu
        August 22, 2016, 12:22 pm

        The actual conversation was much longer, and there was more exchange of personal experiences. Perhaps I should have kept more of that in.

  3. zaid
    August 18, 2016, 10:45 pm

    Druze are a Religious group of multiple backgrounds, mostly of Turkish/ Kurdish descent, some are Arabs (Tanukhi Tribe) and maybe few are local to the Levant.

    They are a secretive and closed religion that branched of Islam by the heretic Muhammad ad-Darazi ( Persian), from which they took their name.

    In Lebanon and Syria they are staunch Arab Nationalists and in Israel they are the biggest enemies of the Arabs, and unlike the Christian Palestinians , they actually serve in the IDF in massive numbers, they are one of the least educated and poorest people in the middle east .

    They are an opportunist cult , though there is a growing movement among them that rejects serving in the military and stresses their Arab/Palestinian Identity (The educated).

    https://www.facebook.com/irefuse.info/about/?entry_point=page_nav_about_item

    • Misterioso
      August 19, 2016, 3:06 pm

      Zaid
      Very interesting.

      According to a late dear Jaffa born (1922) Palestinian Christian friend who held a key position in the resistance against the Zionists (e.g., defending Jaffa and the Galilee) during the Nakba, the Druze are a mysterious heterodox Islamic sect that came into being during the eleventh century. While most inhabited the mountainous regions of Lebanon and Syria, a significant number also lived in Palestine. The Druze have been able to survive as a small minority for nearly one millennia because they do not permit conversion (to or from their religion) or intermarriage and their faith includes the practice of taqiyah (caution) which allows them to appear to accept the mores of the dominant group in which they find themselves if it is in their interest to do so.

      My late friend also told me that many Druze stood shoulder to shoulder with Palestinian Christians and Muslims during the Nakba and although it was desperately short of weaponry and manpower, also joined the ALA, the Arab Liberation Army.

      It seems that following the Zionists’ victory in 1948, the Druze resorted to taqiyah, but as you note, the educated young are now assuming their “Arab/Palestinian Identity.”

      • zaid
        August 22, 2016, 12:23 am

        True Misterioso,

        They are the only religion in this planet that doesnot allow people to join them!

        And no one really knows what they really believe or who they are and they refuse to tell you when you ask them and feel very uncomfortable as happened with me several times.

      • Mikhael
        August 26, 2016, 8:31 am

        Misterioso August 19, 2016, 3:06 pm
        My late friend also told me that many Druze stood shoulder to shoulder with Palestinian Christians and Muslims during the Nakba and although it was desperately short of weaponry and manpower, also joined the ALA, the Arab Liberation Army

        Some, but not many, Druze initially fought against Jewish forces in the civil war period after Novermber 29 1947 and joined Qawuqji’s ALA, but by late May 1948 most had defected to the IDF. Druze are essentially first and foremost loyal to the Druze and to their own interests. In 1948, the wise Druze communal leadership realized that it was in the interest of the Druze community to not seek the destruction of the State of Israel. Since, as a community, the Druze didn’t show hostile intent and didn’t threaten the newly born state, none of their members suffered the negative consequences of losing a war.

        That said, in earlier periods, Druze-Jewish relations were not always so good. Druze brigands sacked and looted the Jewish community of Safed in the 1660s and again in 1838, for example. (My family left Safed for Jerusalem around this period.) This was not due to any special Druze animus against Jews, however, in the pre-modern political Zionist era, the Jews in the Land of Israel were then weak and thus were an easy target for Druze malefactors. When the Druze realized that Jews were no longer constituted a victim class, they realized it was to their benefit to ally themselves with the Zionist movement.

      • Mikhael
        August 26, 2016, 8:37 am

        zaid August 22, 2016, 12:23 am
        True Misterioso,

        They are the only religion in this planet that doesnot allow people to join them!

        Not so. The Parsees in India (an offshoot of Zoroastrianism) also do not permit conversion. I am not sure about other Zoroastrians. I don’t think thee Mandaeans or the Yazidis permit outsiders to join them either. There are probably other religions and cults that severely restrict or ban conversions.

      • Mooser
        August 26, 2016, 2:43 pm

        “There are probably other religions and cults that severely restrict or ban conversions.”

        And those “religions and cults” don’t have half as much to offer their devotees! “Mikhael” has hit upon an essential point! If there was open conversion, there would be too many Jews. And the pay-outs, annual bonuses, and generous stock options and spiritual benefits would have to be reduced. Nobody wants that.
        By keeping membership low, we keep individual benefits high. In fact, the last living Jew is going to be one incredibly rich, powerful person!

        And the difficulty of conversion, along with the complete absence of out-marriage and 100% retention is serving us very well.

      • Mikhael
        August 28, 2016, 11:58 am

        Mooser August 26, 2016, 2:43 pm

        “There are probably other religions and cults that severely restrict or ban conversions.”

        And those “religions and cults” don’t have half as much to offer their devotees! “Mikhael” has hit upon an essential point! If there was open conversion, there would be too many Jews.

        Of course, unlike with the Druze or the Mandaeans or Parsees, anyone of non-Jewish ancestral heritage can become Jewish, so there already is in theory open conversion to Judaism. But even non-believing agnostic Jews like me can see the value in making it difficult to become Jewish. It’s obvious that Judaism is not and should not be a proselytising religion.

        And the difficulty of conversion, along with the complete absence of out-marriage and 100% retention is serving us very well.

        It’s not all that difficult to convert to Judaism in the non-Orthodox branches, especially Reform, from what I can tell. Of course, Orthodox Jews won’t and can’t ever accept the validity of such conversions. The rigours demanded of a potential convert by an Orthodox beit din make sense as usually the people who are willing to through this process (including years of study and circumsision, if male) show a lot of dedication to being Jewish and don’t enter into it lightly. I’d never recommend to any of the goyyim I know that they should be Jewish, however.

      • Mooser
        August 28, 2016, 12:11 pm

        “Of course, Orthodox Jews won’t and can’t ever accept the validity of such conversions.”

        Oh, the Orthodox! Glad you mentioned them. It reminds me, I’ve been meaning to tell you “Mikhael”, if Jewish history is any guide, the Orthodox will end up being the scapegoats for Zionism. They are begging for the role, and somebody ought to warn them about it.
        And since they comprise such a small, isolated section of the Jewish community, well, they might want to shift a bit before they take it in the shorts. Failed messiahs usually have it rough. Especially apostate messiahs.

        ” I’d never recommend to any of the goyyim I know that they should be Jewish, however.”

        Of course you would. Every new Jew means a smaller share of the benefits and goodies go to you. Why, there’s hardly enough to go around as it is!

        (BTW, didn’t you mention that Judaism turned you into an atheist and religious hypocrite? That’s what you said upthread. That doesn’t seem very rewarding, but I can’t tell from here) “I was fortunate enough to free myself from the yoke of Jewish religious practices and belief as a young adult” – See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/profile/mikhael/?keyword=practice#sthash.KncuSBbB.dpuf

      • Raphael
        August 28, 2016, 12:44 pm

        It’s not all that difficult to convert to Judaism

        I did not convert when I became a Israeli American. As a Mischling (mixed-blood) Jew, I’m already a alien to the tribe.

        If I converted I would be in Hebrew a convert called a Geir (legal alien) which would only be reinforcing my alienation from the club. And, it is only the Orthodox that would love for me to convert; so I would still be alienated; from the rest of the Jewish community that is not Orthodox.

        When I was living in Israel, it was only the Orthodox Jews that took me under their wing; as if I was one of their own. I think because I look Jewish.

      • Mooser
        August 28, 2016, 1:35 pm

        “When I was living in Israel, it was only the Orthodox Jews that took me under their wing; as if I was one of their own. I think because I look Jewish.”

        It was that easy, “Raphael”? They just said “Funny, you look Jewish!” and you were in like Flynn?

        Gee, that’s not what “Mikhael” says. Maybe all it really takes is a Dad who’s rich, and a Ma that’s good-lookin’.
        So hush, little baby, do-on’t you cry.

      • catalan
        August 28, 2016, 2:33 pm

        In my opinion both ethnicity and nationality are abstract designations without much relevance to the human psychology. We have evolved to think in terms of small groups maybe up to 200-300 people, extended families, herds basically. Anything beyond that is manufactured identity.
        Example. Mooser and myself are both Jewish. However, we have zero sympathy or affinity for each other. Indeed our common manufactured identity probably makes our antipathy stronger.
        Another example. Annie Robbins and myself are both American nationals. This, however, in no way means that we have anything in common, or any shared interests, or any willingness to sacrifice for each other.
        I think this is biological, the higher the intellect, the smaller the group that can be bound in common pursuits, e.g. Wolf packs consist of 10-20 wolves, where an ant hill has millions of members.
        Modern nationality is a means of control and therefore has to be artificially reinforced with propaganda, otherwise we all slip towards our basic tribe. Since the tribe is now gone the individual is left in a weird, unnatural and lonely state.

      • Mooser
        August 28, 2016, 7:33 pm

        ” Mooser and myself are both Jewish. However, we have zero sympathy or affinity for each other. Indeed our common manufactured identity probably makes our antipathy stronger”

        August 12, 2016
        I am just so happy to talk to mooser again. He is just incredibly funny and that is interesting, he has somehow gotten funnier in the last year, which I did not think was possible.” “catalan” http://mondoweiss.net/profile/catalan/?keyword=Mooser#sthash.p8uL9hPa.dpuf

        Or maybe “catalan” is just a bullshitter.

      • catalan
        August 28, 2016, 10:13 pm

        Mooser,
        I think that you are funny. I think that you are super smart. But I assume you don’t like me very much and that leaves me in no position to like you back.
        I wish you could see one simple thing – not all Jews were lucky to be born in the US.
        I wish that you would apply your exceptional intelligence for something more productive than BDS…

      • oldgeezer
        August 28, 2016, 11:26 pm

        @Mooser

        Catalan a fake and bs artist? Ya think?

        Pretty sure he established that within 24 hours of his first spell here. Unlike fine wine, he does not improve wirh age.

        Speaking of fine whine… we have hophmi

    • DaBakr
      August 20, 2016, 8:15 pm

      @z
      not a very racist or bigoted comment , is it. talk about ignorance. how many druze do you actually know? “secretive”. “heretic” “biggest enemy of arabs” “least educated” “opportunist” you basically did everything but call the druze the ‘n’ word.

      ironic since the purpose of this little ‘interview’ was to link black lives matter to foreign nationalistic movements like the palestinians and now-it would seem-the druze.

      and why is it the author-like many other latinos from mexico-are always jumping to balme the US for its colonialism while ignoring the far stronger influence of the brutal spanish conquest and colonization a few centuries earlier?

      • Talkback
        August 21, 2016, 4:59 am

        As long as Zionists are not involved DaBakr seems to be against discrimination and settler colonialism. LOL

      • DaBakr
        August 21, 2016, 11:26 pm

        @tb

        hypocrisy is bitch ain’t it, tb .

      • Talkback
        August 22, 2016, 10:32 am

        How should I know, DaBakr? I’m not a Zionist. But I trust your expertise when it comes to hypocrisy since you seem to be a natural.

    • Mikhael
      August 28, 2016, 8:34 pm

      Mooser August 28, 2016, 12:11 pm

      “Of course, Orthodox Jews won’t and can’t ever accept the validity of such conversions.”

      Oh, the Orthodox! Glad you mentioned them. It reminds me, I’ve been meaning to tell you “Mikhael”, if Jewish history is any guide, the Orthodox will end up being the scapegoats for Zionism.

      Scapegoat for Zionism? What does that mean? Zionism is the national movement that empowered Jews and and gave them back national sovereignty in their own homeland. We use words like “scapegoat” for negative phenomena and Zionism is a good thing. During most of the 2,000-year Diaspora , the religion that we now call “Judaism” (with the exception perhaps of Karaite Judaism and and Samaritan Judaism) was synonymous with what is is now known as “Orthodox Judaism” (the term “Orthodox” in reference to Judaism only started being used after the emergence of Reform Judaism in 19th century Germany, iniitally as an epithet by the Reformers, but eventually embraced by the Orthodox themselves). Of course, although in the 19th/20th century many Orthodox rabbis opposed political Zionism, which is a secular poliitcal movement, the central idea of Zionism is embedded and inseparable from the tenets of Orthodox Judaism.

      And since they comprise such a small, isolated section of the Jewish community, well, they might want to shift a bit before they take it in the shorts.

      You’ve got it backwards again. Orthodox Jews will be the main part of the Jewish community in the Diaspora (at least in North America) for the simple reason that the non-Orthodox are assimilating and intermarrying themselves out of existence. Most of the children of intermarriage don’t identify as Jews (even if they have a Jewish mother and thus are halakhically Jewish per the Orthodox definition) and among non-Orthodox Jews in the US the intermarriage rate exceeds 50%. and is climbing, whereas in the Orthodox world the population is burgeoning and the attrition rate is low. While some haredim (notably Satmar) have an officially anti-Zionist stance, most are neutral and many are effectively pro-Zionist. Non-haredi (Modern Orthodox) Jews are nearly all staunchly Zionist. The Orthodox Jews in their various streams are the future of American Jewry, are certainly not “isolated” (especially Modern Orthodox Jews in the US, who are one of the highest-earning and best-educated groups) and the majority of them will maintain close ties to Israel.

      ” I’d never recommend to any of the goyyim I know that they should be Jewish, however.”

      Of course you would. Every new Jew means a smaller share of the benefits and goodies go to you. Why, there’s hardly enough to go around as it is!

      I’m not sure what benefits and goodies you think I have. What I inherited from my father has been split between me my siblings, the IRS, and the Reshut ha Missim (Israel tax Authority) and then went to child support. When I move back to Israel in a few years and start working there again, as a dual U.S/.Israeli citizen (I have the dual citizenship due to the accident of being born in the US to Israelis citizens who then resided in the US), I will be legally required to file double income tax again.

      (BTW, didn’t you mention that Judaism turned you into an atheist and religious hypocrite? That’s what you said upthread. That doesn’t seem very rewarding, but I can’t tell from here) “I was fortunate enough to free myself from the yoke of Jewish

      Nope, I never said that “Judaism turned me into an atheist”. I also never said I was an atheist, but stated that I was an atheist-leaning secular Jewish agnostic. Most likely if I had been raised in another faith tradition, I would have also eventually discovered agnosticism. And of course, since being Jewish never merely meant observing or believing in a religion, there’s no hypocrisy at all in declaring one’s non-belief in religious Judaism and affirming one’s national and cultural Jewish identity. And why would I recommend to non-Jews that they get circumcised and keep Shabbat and avoid some yummy foods like shrimps when these practices were never part of their cultural identity and heritage?

      • Mooser
        August 28, 2016, 9:24 pm

        “Scapegoat for Zionism? “

        Yes, and a couple other things, too. Look, if you’re really determined to take the role, a brocha on you for it, bro. It couldn’t happen to a nicer denomination.

    • Mikhael
      August 28, 2016, 9:11 pm

      Raphael August 28, 2016, 12:44 pm

      It’s not all that difficult to convert to Judaism

      It’s not that easy. If you want an Orthodox conversion, you have to spend a significant time studying Judaism and you should be able to show knowledge of the dogma and rituallow and demonstrtae that you intend to keep the commandments to the satisfaction of a beit din before being allowed to undergo berith mila and immersion in a mikveh. Of course, some people sail through the process faster than other people from what I understand. A lot of it is dependent on who is the rabbi guiding the potential convert through the process and the impression the convert makes on the rabbi and the beit din. And yes, in Israel there have also been a few documented cases of graft and bribery — some Orthodox rabbis have approved people who wanted to convert (often female immigrants from the former USSR with paternal Jewish ancestry who wanted a Jewish marriage in Israel and wanted their offspring universally acknowledged as Jewish), although this is uncommon. If Israel sanctioned civil marriages within the country this would happen a lot less.

      I did not convert when I became a Israeli American. As a Mischling (mixed-blood) Jew, I’m already a alien to the tribe.

      You should try to avoid using the term “Mischling” as it’s a word the Nazis invented to describe people of mixed Jewish and “Aryan” heritage (whether or not they identified as or practiced Judaism or whether or not they were Jewish per halakha, Jewish law). The word “Mischling” means nothing in Judaism. As far as Orthodox Jews are concerned if your mother was Jewish, even if your father was a Martian and you don’t believe in or follow any oof the tenets or practoces pof Judaism, you’re still Jewish. Reform Judaism would consider you a Jew despite the fact that your mother isn’t Jewish. Conservative Judaism does not. The State of Israel allows people who are not Jewish per the definition of Orthodox Jewish law, but are of at least 1/4 jewish ancestry, to make aliyah, as you know from personal experience.

      If I converted I would be in Hebrew a convert called a Geir (legal alien) which would only be reinforcing my alienation from the club. And, it is only the Orthodox that would love for me to convert; so I would still be alienated; from the rest of the Jewish community that is not Orthodox.

      The Orthodox always say it’s a mitzvah to love the convert but in reality many of them can be rude and supicious of a convert’s motives. Then again, many aren’t. And many secular Jews (and secular Israelis) have no problem accepting a convert as a fellow Jew either but there can often be morbid fascination and if they are resolutely non-religious Israeli Jews, if the convert becomes a devout and fervently practicing Orthodox Jew, some militantly secular Israelis will hold them in the same contempt they have for all Orthodox Jews. Then other secular Jews (people like me) will shrug and think things like “You gotta be crazy to want to be a Jew but whatever floats their boat”.

      When I was living in Israel, it was only the Orthodox Jews that took me under their wing; as if I was one of their own. I think because I look Jewish.

      Although for centuries Jews were extremely hesitant to proselytise, some Orthodox Jews in Israel and elsewhere are now making outreach efforts, especially in the cases of people with Jewish heritage like you. Rabbi Haim Amsalem, ,a Sephardic Orthodox rabbi, wrote a book a few years ago that was somewhat controversial in Orthodox circles wherein he specifically advocated easing the process (for example, doing away with the tradtional three-time refusal when the convert asks to convert) for people with Jewish roots but without maternal Jewish ancestry and thus non-Jews), but still demand that the prospective convert commit to adopting an Orthodox Jewish lifestyle. Of course it’s much easier not to convert, so I don’t recoomend it.

      http://www.jewishideasdaily.com/808/features/the-seed-of-israel/en

      here’s some fun Q&A with Israelis and their opinions on converts:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zpLPgVzRGgY

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vU13zeysiUY

      Of course, “zaid” initially asserted that the Druze were the only religion on the planet that didn’t accept converts, and I replied that that didn’t sound right tpo me.
      I did some Googling and this was what I found about Yazidis and Mandaeans

      https://www.quora.com/Can-someone-convert-to-Yazidi

      http://www.mandaeanunion.com/history-english/item/488-mandaean-faith

      • Raphael
        August 29, 2016, 2:05 am

        I had a wonderful experience in Israel… the orthodox Jews that took me under their wing; did not at all try to proselytize me, when I was living in Israel.

        Around the time I moved to Israel three rabbis would have written that I was Jewish. In fact, one rabbi, that I met briefly, stated that I was Jewish in a letter, because, I was born from a father that was born Jewish. After I read it, I then asked him to revise it to state that my father was Jewish… and not me.

        One rabbi that would have written a letter saying I was Jewish was a former Orthodox rabbi; and I did not even ask him to state that I was Jewish. But, I had asked him to say that my father is Jewish.

        There was even another rabbi I spoke to years ago over the phone; that knew my grandparents… I asked him to say that they were Jewish; but he insisted that I was definitely Jewish, and that was what he wanted to say in a letter. He repeated it around four times that I was Jewish; even though I told him my mother was not Jewish.

        I’m a Catholic Jew though; so I could only say that to them. But, in the general Israeli world; I felt like I had no civil rights as a Catholic Jew; so I moved back to the US.

  4. Rusty Pipes
    August 19, 2016, 12:13 am

    Perhaps if Cantu had managed to find some other “Arabs” from the Golan Heights to interview, maybe from among those residents whom his interviewees admit to being in the majority, we might have gotten a more rounded picture of what it is like to be Syrian Druze in the occupied Golan Heights. Druze in different communities (Lebanon, Syria, occupied Golan and Israel 48) have divergent opinions on Bashar Assad, the Syrian Government and the Israeli government:

    WT: You asked what the connection to Syria looks like now. Because of what’s happened in 2011, it took things into flesh and blood, so it is no longer just something spiritual. After [the Syrian revolution] began, some of us in Majdal Shams, artists and others, wrote a manifesto that supported, very obviously and very directly, the demonstrators and revolutionaries in Syria, the peaceful people who were demanding freedom and dignity and so on. And we were also very obviously against the regime of Bashar Assad. So this was the moment of how a big gap developed in Majdal Shams between people here supportive of the revolution and people who supported the regime.

    AC: Did some people here see loyalty to Assad as part of their opposition to the Israeli occupation?

    WT: Some. [Supporters of the regime in Majdal Shams] took photographs of Assad and brought it in our faces, saying, “This is our god whether you want it or not, and he will be forever,” and so on. And the supporters of the regime succeeded in gathering more people than our side. They’re the same people who gather at the border twice a year and shout [to counterparts in Syria], “You are the best!” “No, you are the best,” and so on, this comedy took place for 20 years, every year, people lying to each other. And this was also one aspect that made young people feel that political life was disgusting. But for two or three years after 2011, things became very directly said and expressed, and even people here stopped speaking to each other and greeting each other.

    AC: What happened as the war went on?

    WT: When things in Syria went in other ways and the fundamentalists took the scene, things started to calm down [here]. The amount of blood and killing people see every day made people feel something… it meant there was something wrong in their original thinking, it’s not just one narrative. And people thought the regime will, you know, support the Druze, but Assad has killed the Druze, too. But the other part of it is, as Syria continues to be in chaos, there is less opposition to Israel’s occupation here.

  5. Elizabeth Block
    August 19, 2016, 9:42 am

    An Israeli soldier I spoke to in Jerusalem in March – American, from New Jersey, I think – said “The Druze love us.” Really?

    As for eternal ethnic clashes, well, look at Canada. French and English will always, I think, rub each other the wrong way from time to time. But we don’t try to kill each other any more. We treat each other with respect. It took time, and more than that it took political will, from the top down and from the bottom up.
    As for settlers and natives, we’re just starting to deal with that.

    I saw a t-shirt from Amnesty International that said “Love is a human right.” I don’t know about love, but how about respect?

    • Raphael
      August 20, 2016, 11:38 am

      An Israeli soldier I spoke to in Jerusalem in March – American, from New Jersey, I think – said “The Druze love us.” Really?

      One of the reasons why I decide to leave Israel, after, I became a citizen; is I was imagining scenario of myself hiking in some border area like the Jesus Trail, not on a official tour; and sensing danger, then getting bogus advise about a Arab by a Israeli soldier, or even a civilian that used to be a soldier.

    • Mikhael
      August 26, 2016, 8:54 am

      Elizabeth Block August 19, 2016, 9:42 am
      An Israeli soldier I spoke to in Jerusalem in March – American, from New Jersey, I think – said “The Druze love us.” Really?

      Depends which Druze (with the caveat that as a group they do what they deem to be in their community’s best interest). The people interviewed here are Golan Druze. As opposed to other Druze who became Israeli citizens after Israeli independence in 1948, Golan Druze were part of Syria and only have lived under Israeli rule since 1967. Like the Arabs of East Jerusalem and unlike the Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza, they became permanent residents of Israel with an option to apply for Israeli citizenship. Initially, most Golan Druze rejected this offer and kept their Syrian citizenship, as they couldn’t be sure that the Golan wouldn’t revert to Syrian control and they would be deemed traitors. They had a unique status of permanent residents of Israel who swore loyalty to Syria and even sent their kids off to uni in Damascus, Golan Druze orchard owners could even send their apple crops into Syria. Increasingly, as the chaos in Syria mounts, more Golan Druze have come to the realization that their future is in Israel.

      http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.711073

      http://www.timesofisrael.com/as-syria-crumbles-golan-druze-seek-israeli-citizenship/

  6. Misterioso
    August 19, 2016, 3:10 pm

    For the record:

    On 17 December 1981, the UNSC unanimously passed Resolution 497, which declared Israel’s 14 December 1981 annexation of Syria’s Golan Heights “null and void.”

    • Citizen
      August 19, 2016, 10:25 pm

      Yep. The issue doesn’t seem to come up much–lots about Gaza, West Bank, E Jerusalem, but little on occupied Golan. Why is that? Mr. Cantu’s article here is the first thing I’ve read that at least gives some sense of what life is like in this Golan area.

      • inbound39
        August 20, 2016, 9:49 am

        I think you will find behind all the confusion and once the dust settles that Israel largely destabilised Syria because it would not back down against Israel nor would it kneel before Israel. Yearly Assad would demand the Golan back and in order to keep it Israel had one option really. Silence Assad. Hence it is coming out now how Israel supports Al Nusra and other militia. I suspect it is but the tip of the iceberg of their meddling in Syria. Most certainly you can count on Zionists having pulled strings in Washington to manipulate Government officials there to involve the US militarily in Syria and the downfall of Assad because it suits Israel.

      • DaBakr
        August 20, 2016, 9:27 pm

        @inb

        Assad and his father have had more then 40yrs to ‘take back the golan’ but have done absolutely nothing. what they do use is jacked up speeches to his people about ‘death to israel’ and how he’ll fight till his last breath’ and how the zionist entity iOS the cause of all the troubles of syria, that ideal is part of what syria was promised in ‘greater syria’ and more and more nationalistic crap made to mollify syrians that were dumb enough to believe either of the king-pins of the assad tyranny.

        and those “majority” of people that brought pictures of assad and shoved them in the face of the druze that opposed assad sound like a bunch of idiots anyway. i’d rather be with the poets and artists. who would admire any group of people that considers assad their ‘god’?

      • Talkback
        August 21, 2016, 5:07 am

        The settler state has started a war in 67, admitted that it was without necessety, illegaly annexed and illegaly settled the Golan Hights, but DaBakr blames Syria. LOL

      • talknic
        August 21, 2016, 5:17 am

        @ Talkback August 21, 2016, 5:07 am

        “The settler state has started a war in 67”

        1966 to be precise https://unispal.un.org/DPA/DPR/unispal.nsf/0/1A03C7BFB8D6C049852560C3004A4AAF

  7. talknic
    August 20, 2016, 11:22 pm

    @ DaBakr August 20, 2016, 9:27 pm

    “Assad and his father have had more then 40yrs to ‘take back the golan’ but have done absolutely nothing.”

    Odd. They’ve followed the correct channels ( legal ). It’s Israel who is in breach of the laws of occupation ( illegal )

    Like all stupid Ziopropagandists, you’re barking at the wrong people

    • inbound39
      August 21, 2016, 9:26 pm

      I have yet to see DaBakr make a post on Israel that is honest and truthful. Fact is Israel knows that legally it is in the wrong and was wrong from day one and inevitably it will come to a screeching halt because the World is rapidly getting tired of Israel and its pedantics and semantics and all the other Ziocaine behaviours.

      • DaBakr
        August 21, 2016, 11:30 pm

        @ib
        if i had a nickel for every anti-israel zionist hating true-believing mediocre minded dreamer who ‘warned’ about the impending “halt” israel will be coming to i’d be employing sheldon adelson as my gardner.

      • inbound39
        August 22, 2016, 5:33 am

        The time has never been riper to clip Israel’s wings than the time we currently live in and if you cannot see what is building then I guess you won’t believe your eyes or ears.when Sheldon tells you to stick your job because you are a zionist. Sheldon is a survivor enough to adapt…..you seem to me to be happy to go down with the ship.

      • Mooser
        August 22, 2016, 1:30 pm

        “if i had a nickel for every anti-israel zionist”

        No, “Dabakr”, nobody gets a “nickel”. What Mondo gets is a “hit”, “UPV” or “session”.

        And you get a blank box in which to expose your character and mentality. You do realize, “Dabakr” that you are getting the short end of the deal, right?

      • talknic
        August 27, 2016, 1:09 am

        @ DaBakr

        “if i had a nickel for every anti-israel zionist hating true-believing mediocre minded dreamer who ‘warned’ about the impending “halt” israel will be coming to … “

        I’m sure Hitler felt the same invincibility

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