Sociologist: Status of Israel’s Minorities to Worsen


The end of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the growing globalization of the Israeli economy will actually worsen the economic and social status of Israel’s non-ruling minority groups.

This gloomy assessment came from Prof. Sammy Smooha of the Dept. of Sociology and Anthropology, who also charged the Israeli government with not deploying for the negative consequences of these events.

On the contrary, he said, “The establishment does not recognize the negative influences of these forces and only sees their positive effects.”

Smooha also listed mass immigration from the Soviet Union as a third “force” with adverse impact on Israel’s weaker populations. The non-ruling groups that will suffer, he said, are Druzes, Arabs, Sephardim, and Haredim. The sociologist was addressing a conference on the “Social Situation of the Druzes toward the Third Millennium,” sponsored by the University’s Jewish-Arab Center.

The end of the peace process, he explained, will lead Israel into greater involvement in the Western world, separating it more and more from its Arab neighbors and the Middle East and hastening globalization trends. Globalization, in turn, will increase inequality with these groups, which are already at the bottom of Israel’s socio-economic ladder.

Continuing mass immigration, he went on, will make it more difficult for the “outs” to gain middle-class status. Russians come with more higher education, which is becoming more and more of a requirement for integration into the higher levels of society.

The Israeli government, Smooha said, can have a positive influence on these developments if it recognizes the negative consequences of the three forces that in his opinion are changing Israeli society.

Another dismal assessment of the Druze situation came from Dr. Kais Firo, chairman of the Middle East History Dept. who heads the Druze section of the Jewish-Arab Center and is the first Druze at the University to attain professorial status.

“The Druzes cannot maintain their particularism for many years,” he states, not wanting to believe his own assessment. “They are going to lose their traditional culture.”

The historian blames “uncontrolled, almost deterministic historical processes” for this situation, elements of which he finds in other countries where Druzes live, not just Israel. The main causal factor is their loss of self-sufficiency, brought about, he explained, by a growing, almost total dependence on outside elements, notably the state, for their culture as well for their economy.

He pointed to the fact that when Israel became a state, almost three quarters of the Druze population of the country was engaged in agriculture. Today, the figure is two percent. It is a change that impacts on the social life of the Druze community, he comments.

The Druzes, he went on, find themselves in a period of transition. They cannot revive their old traditions, but they also cannot adopt everything in the modern era. They must, Firo advised, “fit the new with the old.”

The Druze historian sees the establishment of key relevant institutions, such as clubs, talk series, and other cultural activities, as important if the Druzes in Israel are to preserve at least some elements of their tradition. Firo likens the culture of his co-religionists to wild grain, which cultivates itself. “Now,” he sums up, “this culture needs fertilizer to be a ‘garden’ or domesticated culture in order to thrive.”



Back to Table of Contents