National Law Hysteria: An Opportunity We Dare Not Miss
While the histrionics of Arab parliamentarians in the Knesset did not move me, I was taken aback by the fierce emotional outcry by members of the Israeli Druze community to the passing of the National Law. Their response confused me. I had read the law and saw nothing in it that I understood as knocking them down to second-class citizenship status in Israel. You can read it here.
Now I feel differently about what happened. I think we have a fantastic opportunity if we know how to embrace it. Let me show you how I got to this point and where we can go from here.
* * * * *
An article written by Shadi Khalloul, which I translated into English, expressed what I consider to be a balanced response: Khalloul supports the National Law because he feels a strong Jewish Israel keeps him and his Maronite Christian community safe and free. He also wrote about his distress at the Israeli government not honouring their commitment to return his community to their land in Kfar Baram. In other words, being a proud Israeli does not diminish his anger at injustice nor vice versa.
Why could the Druze not be like that, I wondered to myself? I certainly understand that there have been many unfulfilled promises to the Druze and other Israeli minority communities on the part of our governments — all of them, left and right — since 1948. But why could they not keep the two separate issues apart as Khalloul (and a number of others) did? (Wait a sec! Don’t chop my head off yet.)
What is the problem, really?
And then I suddenly thought of couples who had come to me over the years for marital therapy. Maybe some of you will recognize this situation: One spouse, let us say it is the wife, has been unhappy in her marriage for a long long time. She tries to tell her husband what is wrong, but he is not really listening. He continues in his merry way, thinking that her complaints are just minor issues and do not merit much attention. Wife’s anger has been growing, but she is afraid to alienate her spouse so she keeps it under wraps. She knows he does not cope very well with conflict and she does not want to burden him with feelings he can likely not handle, especially since he has a slew of difficulties at work and with his siblings. (This story could just as easily be told switching husband-wife roles, or for any gender-combination couples that are out there.)
Finally, she can bear it no longer. She blows up at her husband, shouting that he left all the dishes in the sink when she asked him to clear up because she was not feeling well. As the words came spewing out of her mouth, she knew it was totally out of proportion to the actual situation. Her husband was shocked and had no idea what just hit him. On the one hand, he felt like yelling back at her; on the other hand, he felt like running away to play a game of tennis with friends.
They were so upset by the intensity of that evening that they made an appointment for professional consultation. To make a long story short, it turns out that the sink issue (as I am sure you already guessed by now) was only the last straw. The wife had been holding in a growing sense of being taken for granted, of not having her husband’s respect. For some reason, her husband had not registered the seriousness of the issues she had tried to raise with him and so had not made sufficient effort to listen to her, really listen to her.
I have the feeling that is what is going on with the Druze who are so opposed to the National Law. They have legitimate complaints involving distribution of resources (or, rather, lack of fair distribution) and more, but this is also only part of the story. I think the central issue is expressed so movingly by Riad Alee, journalist for Israel’s public TV channel. I think he had tears in his eyes when he talked about how this new law smashed his dream of one day being an Israeli like all other Israelis. He put this sentiment into a Facebook post:
Oh land of my birth
I have but one dream / A small dream
To wake up one morning / As an ordinary citizen
Is that asking too much?
Here we are talking not about land and money, but about respect. The comment some Druze made about feeling like mercenaries in the IDF is one hint of this. I believe it is not about equality before the law because there already is a Basic Law addressing that issue. (Basic Laws, listed and translated here, are a growing collection of special laws that will one day comprise Israel’s constitution.) But that is only my sense of things.
I cannot talk for Riad. I have to listen to Riad.
And with all that I try to discern, I must admit I am still not getting it. I read other posts on his Facebook page and I am still not getting it. I want to understand.
As a family and marital therapist, it has been my experience that conflict — or rather, the working through of conflict — deepens emotional connections and cements relationships. Without conflict, there is a very superficial relationship. It may feel okay to skip along the surface of the waters, not delving into emotional depths; in fact, there are couples that prefer to live that way. Riad and others who cry out now are saying to all of us — to their own communities, perhaps, and to the Jews for sure — this is not good enough! Something is missing in our relationship. And we need to work on it!
Who is willing to sit with me in real life (not on social media) and help me get it through my thick noggin what the problem is with the National Law? I want to get beyond my own cognitive and emotional roadblocks and really listen. Not to slogans. To real talk. And I am seeking someone from within the Druze community and not a Druzesplainer. Do I have any takers?