The Arab Druze communities in the Golan Heights were paralyzed today as protests against Israel's annexation of the Syrian territory--one of the largest demonstrations of civil disobedience in the occupied territories--entered its second week.
Druze sources said about 30 of the approximately 3,000 Druze workers showed up for work at the Israeli settlements in the Golan Heights and in businesses in Kiryat Shemona and the rest of the upper Galilee, and that all of the Druze shops and schools remained closed for the eighth day.
A pro-Syrian Druze said that families were stockpiling large quantities of food for a lengthy general strike, adding, "Maybe the people can stay at home without work for one year."
Four members of the town council of the Druze village of Massada resigned last night in protest of the Dec. 14 annexation of the Golan Heights by Israel. The only remaining Massada official is Muksein Abu Saleh, head of the Druze Zionist movement, who charged that religious leaders had forced the resignations by threatening council members with religious banishment.
Pro-Syrian Druze leaders complained that Israeli authorities were pressuring the 12,500 Druze residents of the Golan Heights to accept Israeli civilian identity cards in place of the identity cards previously issued by the military occupation government. But fewer than a dozen have accepted the cards, the sources said.
Salman Fahadin, of the village of Majdal Shams, said the Israeli Interior Ministry has refused to register the births of Druze children whose parents do not have the new identity cards. Similar pressure has been applied on Druze seeking to obtain automobile registration and driver's licenses or who attempt to register property, he said. Moreover, he said, Druze workers in upper Galilee and Golan Heights settlements have been warned they will be fired unless they obtain identity cards and show up for work.
In a meeting yesterday with Druze representatives in Majdal Shams, officials of the Israeli Defense Ministry urged the residents to end the strike and accept Israeli identification documents. A defense official was quoted as telling the Druze, "We don't want to compel you to be Zionists or to identify with Zionist aspirations, but we expect you to be peaceful and law-abiding citizens."
Israeli officials said that the civil disobedience campaign has been encouraged by Syrian radio and telvision and that Druze religious leaders are being told by Damascus to order religious banishment for any residents who cooperate with Israeli officials.
The Druze, an offshoot sect of Islam with secret tenets, cooperated closely with Israel for most of the 14 years of occupation but began showing signs of nervousness about their status after Israel entered the final stages of its withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula. Some Druze have said they fear a political settlement in which the Golan Heights could be returned to Syria, but many others say that Israel's annexation of the heights intensified their feelings of identity with Syria.
The annexation "was a declaration of war against Syria. Our strike proves that national unity among the Druze is very strong," Fahadin said. He added, "Our patience is limited. The Israeli government's disrespect for us is part of their disrespect for all the Arabs of this region, including the Syrians."
The Golan pro-Syrian Druze also demanded the release of four leaders of the movement opposing the annexation who were arrested Feb. 13 on charges of inciting civil disobedience.
Meanwhile, disturbances continued in the West Bank today over the closing of Bir Zeit University in Ramallah.
Students in Ramallah raised the Palestinian flag and threw stones at Israeli cars, while students in Nablus smashed windows and broke furniture at several public schools and threw stones at an Israeli bus passing an Arab cemetery. In El Biera, female students set up roadblocks until dispersed by security forces, and at Bir Zeit an Israeli Army patrol was stoned.