NEW YORK, Jan. 22, 2018 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Sheikh Moafaq Tarif, the spiritual leader of the Druze community, delivered today an urgent plea for the safety of the Druze community in Syria. "The Druze in Idlib face possible genocide in the coming days," said Tarif.
The Islamist terror group Jabhat al-Nusr is forcing conversions of Druze in Idlib, and seizing property, while destroying a Druze holy site and cemetery there, he said.
The Sheikh said the situation for the Druze people is most difficult in Syria. Most of the estimated one million Druze live in Lebanon and Syria, and about 140,000 are in Israel.
Tarif, who lives in a Druze village of Julis in the Galilee region in northern Israel, spoke admirably of the historic relationship between the Druze and Jewish peoples, dating to the founding of the Druze faith more than 1,000 years ago. "Druze-Jewish relations in Israel are a model for minority-majority relations," said Tarif. Druze are the only minority group in Israel drafted into the IDF.
Still, the Sheikh challenged the perception that the Druze are in a better position than other Arab citizens in Israeli society. "The government is not giving full support for a loyal minority," said Tarif, noting, as one example, that Druze veterans who want to attend Israeli colleges and universities need better financial assistance.
Socioeconomic gaps between Druze and Jewish societies are not getting the level of attention that has been devoted recently to the majority of Arab citizens. "Without the support of the Israeli government and American Jewish organizations, we don't have a chance to improve our situation," said Tarif.
Tarif noted that the creation in 2007 of the Council of Religious Community Leaders in Israel, with the assistance of Rabbi David Rosen, AJC International Director of Interreligious Affairs, had significantly improved cooperation among the country's faith groups. The body has deepened understanding among Christians, Druze, Jews and Muslims in Israel, and was instrumental in calming Arab-Jewish tensions in Acco several years ago.
On Syria, Tarif said cooperation between the U.S. and Russia is essential to guarantee security for minorities in Syria. "The U.S. disappeared from Syria, a big mistake. It created the possibility for Iran and Hezbollah to enter."
SOURCE American Jewish Committee