A campaign of incitement spearheaded by an imam against an esteemed Druze educator who won a tender to become headmaster of a Muslim high school in northern Israel has forced him to relinquish his position, despite support he garnered from the village council’s head.
"They consider me an enemy who may influence students to join the IDF," said Dr. Eyal Isami from Daliyat al-Karmel, who was set to begin teaching at Kafr Qara school.
The village's imam Alaa Madlaj—a member of the Islamic Movement who has previously been arrested on suspicion of supporting ISIS—vehemently opposed Dr. Isami's ascent to the top spot of the school.
"There will be no appointment of a Druze headmaster who isn't familiar with Muslim religion or our culture," Madlaj stated in a video uploaded to social media. "It's unthinkable that such a man will be in charge of teaching our children. A Druze will not be appointed headmaster in Kafr Qara. It's very dangerous."
Isami expressed his immense disappointment at the objection, considering he had won the tender fairly. "The imam's video was circulated in all of the mosques, which then incited against me as well simply because I'm a Druze," he said. "I served in the IDF, and—among other things—taught in the air force's technical school."
He added that the animosity shown toward him after the imam's had gone on the offensive was made abundantly clear and would inhibit him from carrying out the tasks expected of him as a school principal.
"When I saw the amount of hatred directed at me at a local community center, with 400 people in attendance, I knew I couldn't function. They threatened that if my appointment went through, the school would be shut down," he added.
Out of a desire to not further harm the head of the local council who supported him for the role, Isami stepped down. "I'm a man of peace and a firm believer in coexistence, but am both disappointed and angry," he admitted. "I never thought Muslims would treat me so degradingly in Israel because of my ethnicity."
Druze leaders lent their voice to supporting the beleaguered headmaster, with Sheikh Hosni Kozali, the imam of Isfiya, claiming Kafr Qara's imam does not speak for "sane, warm and good Muslims."
"If the imam indeed incited, insulted the Druze and belittled the headmaster, that's lamentable and the appropriate measures should be taken to punish him," said Ali Salalhe, himself a headmaster from Beit Jann.
Minister of Communications Ayoob Kara was outraged at what he described as racial discrimination. "If the imam receives a salary from the state, I'll demand he be brought before the Civil Service Commission and summarily removed."
Moreover, a source in the Kafr Qara local council said he regretted this "shameful incident. The committee chose Eyal and we respect its decision. Most of the residents of Kafr Qara reject the cleric's contemptible words."