Welcome to Majdal Shams, the largest Druze town in the Israeli Golan Heights and the capital of conspiracy theories.
When I visited the town earlier this year, I noticed a change in the attitude of the residents toward Israel. The Druze I spoke with at the time were very afraid of the rise of the Islamic State in Syria and seemed finally to have reconciled themselves with the fact that they are part of Israel.
Majdal Shams became part of Israel during the Six-Day War in 1967, but the Druze residents always stayed loyal to the Assad regime in Syria. The bloody civil war seems to have poured cold water on the love affair between Assad and the Druze in Majdal Shams.
On Monday I was back in Majdal Shams for a series of interviews with local leaders and residents and for a report about a demonstration against the looming threat of an Islamic State assault on the Druze in the Jabal al-Druze area (Suwayda) in Syria.
Salman Fakhr Eddin, Director of the Al-Marsad Arab Human Rights Centre in Golan Heights, was the first Majdal Shams resident I spoke with. He had prepared several booklets for the interview that dealt with the human rights situation after the Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights.
I asked him if there wasn’t a greater human rights problem in Syria at the moment. Although he admitted that there was a problem in Syria, he preferred to talk about Israel and the “crimes Israel committed against the Druze.”
When I confronted him with the fact that Israeli Druze are loyal citizens and overwhelmingly choose to serve in the IDF, he excused himself and said that he had to make an important phone call. Needless to say, he didn’t return.
Samara Suleiman, a resident of Majdal Shams, told me that after the IDF thwarted a terrorist attack by a Hezbollah cell on the Syrian border near Majdal Shams in April, the mood in the town changed.
Two of the four Hezbollah terrorists killed by the IDF were Majdal Shams natives. “The brothers Tair and Nazih Mahmoud, both in their 20s, were born in the Druze village but later moved to the village of Hader in the Syrian Golan Heights,” Ynet reported at the time.
Suleiman said the Druze in Majdal Shams who still support Israel are “bought with money” and that Israel is “only interested in another occupation, this time of Damascus.”
He denied that Assad is on his way out. “To the contrary,” he said, ”he controls much of Syria and not Hezbollah or Iran – they only want to help Assad.”
Suleiman also knew “for sure” that Israel helps Jabhat al-Nusra and even the Islamic State. He told me without a blink of the eye that Israel delivers food, medicine, and weapons to al-Nusra and treats ISIS fighters in Israeli hospitals. When he noticed that I gazed at him somewhat flabbergasted, he asked where I got my information. “Everybody knows this is the truth,” he said.
It was almost 5:00 p.m. and the Druze leadership had organized a demonstration against the Islamic State at the central square in Majdal Shams. When I arrived I noticed huge Syrian flags on the buildings surrounding the square. In the center of the square a portrait of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was placed at the pedestal of a monument for Druze leader Sultan al-Atrash, who led the Druze uprising against the French Mandate for Syria and the Lebanon from 1923-1925.
The Druze were chanting slogans against the Islamic State and al-Nusra and praised the Syrian dictator.
Watch the video of the demonstration here:
He repeated Suleiman’s claim that Israel treated wounded ISIS and al-Nusra fighters in Israeli hospitals and that Israel supplies weapons to al-Nusra. He also claimed that Obama founded the Islamic State and al-Nusra and called the U.S. president a liar.
He then added that “it was obvious that Obama had founded Islamic State because they are not Muslim at all.”
The evidence? “They would decapitate people and then shout, ‘Allah hu akbar.’ Those are not Muslims or Arabs,” he said.
The Druze are ready to fight, he said, adding that “they have fighters from the age of nine to one hundred years.” He claimed that the Druze can form a standing army of 600,000 men. He also said that, if necessary, “the Druze would open the border themselves and supply the weapons to their brethren in Syria.”
You can watch the interview with Ibrahim Izz al-Din here:
Their behavior stands in sharp contrast to the Druze in Israel who have fully accepted the existence of the Jewish state and have adjusted to Israeli society.
Druze are known for their ability to adjust to the country they are living in, so why do the Druze in the Israeli Golan Heights have such different views from the Druze living in Israel within the “Green Line” (the 1949 armistice lines)?
The answer could be that the Druze community in Syria was torn apart by the Six-Day War in 1967. All Druze living on the Israeli side of the border still have family in Syria.
Until recently, they used to “meet” each other on two hills adjacent to Majdal Shams. There they could have direct contact and they used to shout to each other across the valley. The place was called “Shouting Hill,” but the exchanges have stopped because the area is now controlled by al-Nusra.
And if you wonder how they got brainwashed, they still watch the Assad-controlled Syrian state television.
This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth