I had the privilege of serving as the spokesperson of the first Druze Major General, Yousef Mishleb. I once tried to convince him to do an interview in Arabic on Al Jazeera because I thought it would send a positive message to the Arabic speaking world.
“Peter,” the General told me when I asked him to do the interview. “I speak Druze Arabic. Do you know what that is?”
I told him I did not.
General Mishleb answered with a smile: “It’s one word in Arabic, followed by two words in Hebrew.”
During our time together, I would repeatedly ask him to do interviews, to speak to and highlight his success as the first Druze to reach the rank. His answers was always the same.
“Peter,” he would tell me. “I am Israeli.”
I thought of General Mishleb on Saturday night when, at the age of forty-four, I participated in my first protest: against the Nation State law.
I went for my friends and brothers in arms. But I went not only for the Druze. I went for all of Israel’s minorities.
Along with thousands of others, I shouted “Shivayon!” — equality, for all citizens of the state of Israel.
The Nation State Law doesn’t erase that equality, as so many of my social media followers pointed out, questioning the international outrage against the Nation State bill. But the passage of the bill did something that is arguably worse: It humiliated Israel’s civilian minorities by omission.
That is the sentiment of all of my Druze friends who I spoke to over the last few days. They know their rights have not been interfered with. But they feel humiliated. Israel, the country they’ve tied their destiny with, humiliated them.
The Druze are brave and courageous patriots. There are 1,000 Druze recruited every year to the IDF. They fill senior positions across the IDF and throughout society.
The Druze are the embodiment of minority inclusion into the Jewish State. Contrary to other minorities, they have no issue with the Jewish definition of Israel, the Law of Return for Jews, of any of the symbols like the National Anthem, the menora, or the Jewish Sabbath as the national day of rest.
All they want is to be included and appreciated.
They should be.
Looking around me last at the protest, I saw young men before their military service. I saw retired generals.
And I saw General Mishleb.
As we walked through the masses of over 100,000 people, I saw a yearning for a Nation State that knows how to balance the needs of all of its civilians.
Unfortunately, the current law highlights our differences; worse, it doesn’t even acknowledge our similarities, the most important one being that we are all Israeli.
The way forward must not only solidify the Jewishness of Israel but also empower our non-Jewish minorities, so that the national question of the state becomes for all minorities an actuality that everybody accepts and understands.
After all, Israel gains from our collective existence; Israel is nothing short of the manifestation of the whole that is indeed greater than its parts.
And its fundamental laws should reflect that.
And what of the Palestinians who aren’t citizens of Israel? They need to decide what kind of neighbor they want to be. We don’t want to rule their lives, but we don’t want to sacrifice our Nation State as their leaders incite, propagate and inspire more generations of hate and terrorism.
But when it comes to Israeli Arab citizens of Israel, we are proud of their contribution to our nation state, a state that includes them and must strive for more inclusion.
We are proud that our country offers equality not only to minorities who serve alongside us in the IDF like the Druze or Bedouins, but to all of our minorities.
And this bill has shamed those minorities who bring us such pride.
The government has suggested that this law is necessary not only for our generation but for the coming generations. But we must also think of this generation and the generations to come of minorities.
Lieutenant Colonel (R) Peter Lerner is a Communications and Strategy Consultant, Israel Advocate, and a former IDF Spokesperson.