JERUSALEM (Oct. 20)
Several hundred Israeli Druze demonstrated outside the Knesset and the Prime Minister’s Office yesterday demanding that Israel stop arming Christian Phalangists who are harassing their Druze brethren in Lebanon.
The demonstration was held despite assurances by Israeli officials Sunday that intervention by the Israel Defense Force had restored calm in the Druze villages in Lebanon. It indicated a split within Israel’s Druze community.
The spiritual leader of Israel’s 40,000 Druze, Sheikh Amin Tarif, met Sunday with Matityahu Shmeulevitz, director general of the Prime Minister’s Office, and received assurances that the IDF would do its utmost to stop the fighting between the Phalangists and the Druze in Lebanon.
Tarif was apparently satisfied and announced that there was no cause for demonstrations at this time. But yesterday’s demonstration was organized nevertheless by Zeidan Attche, a leader of the younger generation of Israel’s Druze community. Attche, a former Knesset member for the opposition Shinui party, said: “It should be clear if the Druze in Israel are expected to be brothers to the Jews in the IDF, the IDF cannot give arms to the Phalange forces to use it against us.”
CONSIDERING A GENERAL STRIKE
The demonstrators demanded that Israel remove the road blocks manned by Phalangist soldiers which, they charged, are used to harass Druze. One of the demonstrators told reporters, “It’s not that we are afraid of the Phalangists. Just remove the IDF from Lebanon and there will be no Phalangists within 24 hours.”
Leaders of the Israeli Druze planned to meet today at their holy place at Khader in Galilee to consider a request from Druze in Lebanon that they call a general strike in solidarity with them.
An army spokesman said, meanwhile, that the Lebanese army could take over positions in the Druze villages but it was essential that the Israeli forces do not withdraw before then in order to avoid further bloodshed.
Israeli forces occupy Matta and other Druze villages in the Lebanese mountains. They reportedly turned back a Lebanese army unit which tried to enter the village Sunday. The army spokesman said the unit was too small to separate the warring factions.