The Druze Initiative Committee supports Druze citizens of Israel who refuse to serve in the Israeli military. The Arab Druze minority lived in historic Palestine on the current territory of Israel before Zionist immigration began. By the 1930s, the Jewish leaders in Palestine were making efforts to distance the Druze community from the rest of the Palestinian community through presenting the Druze faith as unique and distinct from Islam and exerting influence over the Druze leadership. After the creation of the state of Israel, this “divide and conquer” policy continued and the Druze were singled out for greater financial and political support than other Palestinians. They were registered as a separate ethno-religious group in Israeli, identified in official identification documents as “Druze”, not “Arab,” and a separate education system was created for them. In 1956, military conscription was mandated for Druze men.
The Druze community showed considerable resistance to conscription, and within 2 years the first Druze youth organization supporting refusal of military service was established. This stemmed the Druze Initiative Committee, which is still active today. The Druze Initiative Committee currently supports Druze conscientious objectors, and is also involved in other political and social work such as opposing the confiscation of Druze land for the expansion of Jewish towns.
Over the years, Druze refusers suffered harsh treatment from the military system. They were given double or greater prison terms than those of other refusers. Between 1958 and 2006, the young men of the town of Peki’in alone (5,500 inhabitants, including 3,800 of whom are Druze) spent a total of 540 years in military prison. The Druze Initiative Committee works not only to support refusers, but also to challenge the militarization of Druze education. Samer Swaid, Secretary of the Druze Initiative Committee, remembers that during his own school years the only career advice offered was from four military recruiters and the only work experience visits he made was to Israeli military camps and bases.
AFSC has a long history of supporting conscientious objectors, and we are happy to give organizational support to raising up the voices of young Druze conscientious objectors.