Guardian misleads on Israeli Druze, part 1: False claims

Phoebe Greenwood’s May 31 report in the Guardian, ‘Golan Heights braces for war as tensions rise between Syria and Israel‘, contained two false claims regarding Israeli Druze in the Golan Heights town of Majdal Shams. (An additional post will fisk the broader misleading narrative advanced in Greenwood’s report.)

A brief summary of Majdal Shams and the Druze population in Israel

  • Majdal Shams is one of the four Druze communities in the Golan Heights, with a population of about 9,000.  The town sits high on the slopes of Mount Hermon.  
  • Golan, captured by Israel during the Six Day War in 1967, was effectively annexed when the state extended Israeli law to the territory in 1981.  Israel offered all the Druze people living there citizenship—an offer most turned down. However, they all carry Israeli ID cards.
  • Most Druze in Majdal Shams have family on the Syrian side of the border.
  • There are roughly 1 million Druze in the world, mostly in Israel, Syria and Lebanon.

Factual errors in Greenwood’s report:

False population statistics

Greenwood makes the following claim:

The Golan Heights is home to more than 80,000 Druze…

This is not accurate.  There are only 41,800 people living in Golan in total, of which 20,300 are Druze according to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics.

Mischaracterization of the Druze religion

Greenwood makes the following claim: 

[Druze represents] an esoteric Islamic sect whose insular, self-governing communities are accommodated by governments across the Middle East.

Greenwood’s claim that Druze is an “Islamic sect” is also flatly untrue. Druze is a unique monotheistic faith which emerged during the 11th century from Islam and consider their faith to be a new interpretation of the three monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  In addition, Druze incorporates several elements of Gnosticism, Greek Philosophies and other ideologies. The Druze community in Israel is officially recognized as a separate religious entity with its own courts (with jurisdiction in civil matters), and spiritual leadership. The Druze religion is secret and closed to converts.

Whilst the second post we’ll publish on Greenwood’s report will detail the misleading narrative regarding the political views of the Druze of Majdal Shams, these last two specific claims noted above are unambiguously false and not open to interpretation. 

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