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Israeli Druze send NIS 10m to arm embattled Syrian brethren

Donations transferred through Jordan; Israeli Druze lawmaker invokes Holocaust in explaining why world must help minority

Israelis Druze wave flags during a demonstration of some two thousand people in the northern Israeli Druze town of Daliyat al-Carmel, calling for the Israeli government to support and help their relatives in embattled Syria, June 14, 2015. (AFP/MENAHEM KAHANA)
Israelis Druze wave flags during a demonstration of some two thousand people in the northern Israeli Druze town of Daliyat al-Carmel, calling for the Israeli government to support and help their relatives in embattled Syria, June 14, 2015. (AFP/MENAHEM KAHANA)

Druze communities in Israel have collected more than NIS 10 million ($2.6 million) for the Druze community in Syria to buy weapons and other necessities, Likud MK Ayoub Kara said on Monday.

The chaos of Syria’s civil war has precipitously downgraded living conditions for the 800,000 members of the Druze community in Syria over the past two months, Kara said.

Previously, the Druze mostly supported the regime of Bashar Assad, but in the past two months Assad’s forces have been unable to protect the Druze community in southern Syria from jihadist groups.

Last Wednesday, members of the al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Nusra Front massacred 20 Druze in the Idlib region, north of Lebanon. The situation has deteriorated so significantly that Druze in Syria are looking to buy weapons for self-protection, said Kara, who himself is a member of the Israeli Druze community.

During US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey’s visit to the region last week, top Israeli officials raised the issue of protecting the Druze community in Syria, including possibly creating a humanitarian buffer zone near the border.

“Israel is not a part of this fighting and doesn’t want to be, because if we say we’re going to be part of the fighting it makes it worse for our people in Syria,” Kara said. “But me, as a Druze guy, I’m going to do what I can to support my nation. I’m very loyal to my nation.”

He also called on the international community to provide humanitarian support.

Likud MK Ayoub Kara (Likud) arrives at a party meeting in the Knesset, May 18, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Likud MK Ayoub Kara (Likud) arrives at a party meeting in the Knesset, May 18, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The money raised by Israel’s Druze community will be allocated by the leaders of the Syrian Druze community, Kara said, though it will most likely go toward purchasing weapons. “This is not enough to make a military, but it’s a start,” he said.

The money was transferred through Jordan since it is not legal to have money transfers directly from Israel to Syria.

Mada Hasbani, the head of the local council in the Druze village of Yanuh Jat in the upper Galilee region of Israel, said the money was collected in public places in Druze villages across the country.

Donations also came from Jews, Muslims, and Circassians who want to help the Druze stop the spread of the Islamic State and al-Nusra, the branch of al-Qaeda in Syria.

“We’re calling on the international community to take into consideration the dangerous position of minorities in Syria,” said Hasbani. “Israel should be aware, as we learned from the Jews during the Holocaust. History should not repeat itself, we must help minorities that are under the threat of genocide. The international community needs to provide all types of help and support so the Druze can protect themselves.”

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