This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Christian Persecution ... Not In Israel

"My name is Gabriel Naddaf, and I have the privilege of being a Greek Orthodox priest from Nazareth in the Galilee. My people have mistakenly been called 'Christian Arabs', but the reality is that we are Arameans—descendants of people who lived here in Israel since biblical times."
"In the past three years, I have become a controversial figure in Israel for the simple reason that I embrace Zionism, Jewish sovereignty in Israel, and the tolerance, respect, and opportunity that has grown out of that sovereignty for all. I believe that our youths—Christian youths—should fully integrate into Israeli society. Part and parcel of that integration includes serving in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) or undertaking some other form of national service that Israel routinely provides for teenagers."
"I believe Israel's Christian community should integrate more into mainstream Israeli society. Why do the Druze serve? Why do the Bedouin serve? But not the Christians? It's because they're scared. This has to change. It's time to say in a loud and clear voice: Enough."
Father Gabriel Naddaf of Nazareth 
Father Naddaf of Nazareth with Christian Israeli IDF soldiers at a Christmas party on December 21, 2
Father Naddaf of Nazareth with Christian Israeli IDF soldiers at a Christmas party on December 21, 2015. (photo credit:ISRAELI CHRISTIAN RECRUITMENT FORUM)
Father Naddaf, along with Christian IDF officers founded the Israeli Christians Recruitment Forum (ICRF). In response to their concentrated efforts to instill pride in Christians who have Israeli citizenship there has been a notable increase in the numbers of Arab and Aramean Christians who have taken up the challenge to become members of the Israel Defense Forces. Their decision has not been without controversy, though they find a robust welcome in the IDF.

What their decision occasions is contempt, derision and often threats from the wider Israeli Arab population who number 20 percent of the Israeli population. To be seen in public wearing an IDF uniform is to invite the kind of unwanted attention that could end in murder. But many young Arab and Aramean Christians are responding to the call to commit themselves to their country of citizenship by becoming part of the protective units represented by the IDF.

The welcome they receive within the IDF with others embracing them as brothers-in-arms in defense of their country, hardly compensates for the humiliation and rage that comes their way from those in the Christian and Muslim Arab community who have rejected any notion of supporting their country's defense establishment, though their own safety and security is assured by that very military contingent that they despise.

Leaders in the Israeli Arab community, including members of the elected Knesset representing Arab Israelis, have spurned any reasonable grounds to offer their services in the military, even while they secure all the benefits accruing with their Israeli citizenship, inclusive of electing members to the Knesset. Those who decide they will after all, include themselves in defense of the country are attacked of persecuting Palestinians, attempting to divide Arab society in their 'national struggle' against Israel.

Irrespective of whether the Arab leaders are established within Israel as citizens of the country, or from outside -- including as well members of the Israeli legislature, accusations of "collaborating with occupying forces" assail those who believe that as citizens there are obligations they must respond to to do full honour to their citizenship and all it entails. They do not feel they are "helping the enemy of the Palestinian people", a venomous trope that ensures rage and fear among Palestinians leave no room for compromise.

Father Naddof wrote of having been contacted by Arab MK Hanin Zoabi, writing on official Israeli parliamentary letterhead, accusing him of "helping the enemy of the Palestinian people" in his role of having established the Israeli Christians Recruitment Forum, and agitating for cooperation with the State of Israel, as faithful citizens.

A blacklist of priests and Christian leaders supportive of integration with the state exists. Photos of those leaders along with youths who choose to ally themselves with the IDF are published in the Arab press with a view to identifying them and potentially encouraging violence, endangering their lives. Of the millions of Palestinian Arabs living in and with citizenship in Israel, 165,000 are Christian.

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