Can Israel Save the Middle East’s Minorities?

Arab Christians, the Druze, and other minorities all over the Middle East suffer from ethnic cleansing and oppression. Can Israel help them?

Yazidi refugees
Yazidi Refugees

Islamic State (IS or Da-esh) is only the latest in a long line of terror groups and governments in the Middle East who have sought to persecute minorities. Small groups, including the Yazidi, Chaldeans, the Mandaeists, the Copts, the Druze, the Ismailis, and Arab Christians in general, have faced persecution and murder for decades. Jews are no stranger to this phenomenon as we were among these persecuted groups until we were cast out. Israel is our refuge, can it be as such for others? Already the Bahai have been able to take refuge in Israel, with their beautiful gardens on the hillside overlooking Haifa. The Druze have already been accepted by Israel in large numbers. Druze have served as Members of the Knesset (MKs) and have achieved some prosperity in Israel. Why not other groups?

Hizbullah is trying to paint itself as the protector of Lebanese Christians, Allawites, and the Druze against Sunni extremists like Islamic State. Hizbollah is a Shiite group that serves as a satellite of Iran. Their record on the treatment of minorities is as abysmal as any other group in the region. At the moment, however, they are trying to spin themselves as defenders because of their efforts against IS. So if you are a member of a Middle Eastern minority your choice is death at the hands of Sunnis or subjugation to the tyrannical agenda of Iran. These groups desperately need an alternative.

The Kurds fighting in Iraq and Syria have aspirations of their own state, the fruition of which goal is long overdue. The establishment of an independent Kurdistan may annoy the Turks, but it will ensure freedom and prosperity for the Kurds and all who live among them. What of those who cannot live under the umbrella of Kurdish protection?

There has been an effort among anti-semites and Israel’s enemies to cast Israel as an apartheid state for the security measures it takes against terrorism. The strategy has the benefit to its proponents of harming Israel’s reputation without cause, and placing Israel in the position of either continuing its security policies, and thus inviting further criticism, or of relaxing those policies in an effort to satisfy supposedly neutral onlookers and placing its citizens at certain risk of death. No democratic state can reasonably take the latter path.

Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas has made repeated statements that Jews would not be welcome in a future Palestinian State. Thus, a future Palestinian State is to be an apartheid state. Where is the criticism against the PA?

There is a way Israel can both improve its security and economy and expose Abbas and the PA for what they really are: announce a refuge for Middle Eastern minorities within the West Bank. New semi-autonomous communities of Yazidis, Arab Christians, Druze, and others can be established quickly just beyond the Green Line. This would preserve and protect these peoples who can find security and prosperity under Israeli protection.

In any future Palestinian State these peoples, being largely Arab and many of them Muslim, should certainly be welcome citizens, right? Abbas and the PA will object (and certainly Hamas), as they represent a radical Islamist agenda. Like IS, they think it is right that Muslims should persecute and kill these minorities, placing them in an uneasy position of exposing themselves as the enemies of civilization that we all know them to be.

The international media has made the settlements a source of controversy. Even the word “settlement” is political: these are communities of people who sleep, eat, and play in and around their homes. What differentiates these communities from any others? First of all, they are populated by Jews, the first crime, living in historically Jewish lands. They are also beyond a line on a map: the Green Line. This is an armistice line created where the IDF, then the Haganah (Defense) halted the advance of the Jordanian Army almost 70 years ago. The Jordanian Army launched an unprovoked invasion of Israel shortly after the British departed and the State of Israel was declared. Jordan occupied the lands beyond the Green Line until 1967 when Israeli paratroops breeched their lines in Jerusalem. Facing encirclement, the Jordanian Army retreated beyond the River Jordan.

Many lines were drawn on maps in that era, like those that distinguished East Berlin and East Germany. The lines in Germany have been erased, but the so-called Green Line still exists, especially in the minds of those eager to restrain the Jewish State. What if a new set of people were to move into these settlements? Refugees, persecuted and murdered throughout the Middle East but free and secure in Israel? That would certainly change the perception of settlement construction.

Arab Christians are generally bright people who value education, morality, family, and who will be good citizens. They will find themselves in good company in an Israel burgeoning with technology, industry, and energy production. Their contribution to the growing Israeli economy will be of significant benefit once they have settled in. If a Palestinian State is created they will naturally be a boon to that state as well, and a political force for peace and justice therein.

In any possible single state, Israel would find these groups welcome members of a democratic society led by the Jewish majority. They are welcome allies in the struggle against Islamic fascism. Perhaps Israel should consider plans to help these groups relocate…

About the Author
Isaac Kight earned his MBA at Bar-Ilan University in 2010. He served as a volunteer for the Knesset State Control Committee from 2009 to 2010. Isaac has a broad experience of Jewish community and religion in the US and Israel.