I have had the opportunity to write several stories recently about the Syrian Civil War and the war with ISIS. The subjects of those articles have revolved around Druze, Alawites, Christians, Yazidis, Iraqi Kurds and Syrian Kurds. The reason those were worthy topics is simple: they are only getting token attention in the mainstream media.
Israel has a very nuanced and pragmatic policy when it comes to groups in Syria. Israel’s primary interest has been to protect the border, which to some extent has meant communicating to the Syrian government and Syrian rebels at various times. Israel has attacked both sides of the conflict with air strikes, helicopter attacks and artillery. The focus has been to keep the fighting far off, which has meant interference at different points.
The intercession on the part of the Druze came about because of domestic demands. Druze might be known to be loyal to their state first, but some people make the error to think that means they don’t care about their coreligionists in other countries – coreligionists who tend to be connected also through tight-knit but extended families.
It is worth it for Israel to keep investing in protecting minorities in Syria (for all I know, which is very little, they already are). This is an example of something that was done because of the right connections being made between Israeli Druze and concerned members of the Israeli government.
There is not a lot of power to be harnessed in the Syrian Druze community, at least not right now. But as far as gestures of good will go, this makes a massive difference in how Syrians generally perceive Israel. At this point in history there will always be people who dismiss Israeli efforts as disingenuous or ‘unwanted.’
Too bad for them.
It is a moral, humanitarian gesture to interfere on behalf of people caught between the forces of Bashar al-Assad, ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra. It also fits with Israel’s reason to exist here on Independence Day: that minorities who are unjustly discriminated against should be given their self-determination. Perhaps it would be wise to form a no-fly zone in certain border areas of Syria with heavy concentrations of minority groups who are closer to neutral in this civil war. On that, the Turkish government might have a point (albeit they advocate that position for a different reason than I suggest it for Israel and other countries).
Attacks by ISIS on Christians, Yazidis and Kurds – which have involved the Holocaustic conditions of mass murder, slavery and rape – are an affront to Israel’s founding philosophy and its mantra of ‘Never Again.’ Despite solid reasons to avoid involvement, greater efforts to funnel arms to the Kurdish Peshmerga and training the various minority defense units throughout the Syrian-Iraqi war theater would be a projection of Israeli strength, an expression of solidarity and an expression of Jewish independence. Israel has funneled arms to groups in the past, including the anti-Soviet resistance in Afghanistan in the 1980s (watch the movie Charlie Wilson’s War).
This is a strong example of Israel making a difference in the hellish Middle East for groups that otherwise have no natural patron. Even if Israel does not want to take total and direct responsibility for these groups, signalling the wrath of Israel awaits any jihadist who dares attack a minority would send a power, muscle-flexing message to the genocidal Islamist terrorists of the Middle East.