Earlier this week, on the Golan Heights, an enraged mob assaulted an ambulance and attacked two wounded men inside with rocks, clubs, and chains, killing one and seriously wounding another
The ambulance was Israeli. The wounded men were Arab fighters from Syria. The assailants were also Arabs, though they were Druze rather than Muslims.
Several readers have emailed and asked me to explain this, so I assume others are also scratching their heads. I don’t have all the answers. What kind of person attacks anambulance? I can easily imagine it’s someone who is steeped in some real political craziness, is emotionally unstable, and has some kind of personality disorder. But a mob mentality sometimes sets in with people who are otherwise psychologically normal. I can’t psychoanalyze these people.
I can, however, explain some of the background that might shine some light on what happened and why.
The Druze are a small and secretive religious minority that lives in Lebanon, Syria, and Israel. They make up but a fraction of the population in each country and are too small to form their own state.
The Middle East is a rough part of the world, and the Druze are surrounded by potential hostiles, so they made a collective decision long ago to be loyal to and curry favor with whoever is in charge in the place where they live. It’s the only way they can guarantee their own safety.
The Druze in Israel, then, are committed Zionists. The Druze in Syria are wholly on side with Bashar al-Assad. The Lebanese Druze are constantly shifting with Lebanon’s kaleidoscopic political landscape.
The Druze on the Golan Heights—a chunk of Syria captured by the Israelis in the 1967 war and occupied ever since—divide their loyalty between Jerusalem and Damascus. If Israel were to formally annex the Golan Heights, and if Syria were to accept that annexation, they would, in all likelihood, become committed Zionists like the rest of the Druze in Israel proper. But the Golan Heights may one day be given back to Syria, so the Druze who live there retain some of their Syrian identity and don’t wish to be seen as enemies of the Assad regime. That would endanger them. The Israelis have offered these people citizenship, and some have gladly accepted it, but others think it’s neither safe nor desirable.
Druze in each country are keenly concerned with the well-being of Druze in the other countries, politics be damned.
That’s the background, the context.
So when an Israeli ambulance drove down the street carrying wounded fighters from the Free Syrian Army, some of the local Druze fingered those people as enemies. They are a potential threat to the continued existence of their Druze brethren on the other side of the border since a victory by the Free Syrian Army would lead to the downfall of Assad and the possible enthronement of Al Qaeda or ISIS, whom the Druze couldn’t curry favor with even if they wanted to without abandoning their religion and converted to Islam at gunpoint.
So some of them decided to attack the ambulance and take a perceived enemy or two off the board even as the Israelis were trying to save them.
It’s a shame in so many ways. Attacking an ambulance and killing the wounded—even if ISIS fighters were inside—can only be described as a lynching. If the act were carried out by a conventional army, it would be war crime.
That ambulance was carrying Syrians to a hospital in northern Israel where Arab and Jewish doctors and nurses work alongside each other to save wounded and sick Arabs and Jews. If the entire Middle East were like those northern Israeli hospitals, the entire Middle East would be a radically different place.
Those hospitals, unfortunately, are exceptional. Violence against “the other,” sadly, is not.
The Druze are generally good people. As minorities, they live somewhat precariously and trend toward moderation. Don’t hold this ugly incident against all of them.