web analytics
September 2, 2015 / 18 Elul, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Christian IDF Recruitment Affirms Israeli Democracy

This new mood among Christian Arabs has worried the communists and Arab nationalist.

Cohen-120613b

Over the summer the Israeli media highlighted a phenomenon that is both intriguing and encouraging: a movement among Israel’s Christian Arabs advocating that their community be drafted, along with the country’s Jewish and Druze citizens, into the Israel Defense Forces.

Historically, Israel’s Arab citizens have been exempted from mandatory conscription. There have been exceptions – many Bedouin, for example, have served in the IDF with distinction – but those who actually volunteer are a tiny minority. At the same time, many Arabs have complained, not without justification, that the exemption marginalizes them from fully participating in Israeli life.

That now appears to be changing, against the background of a broader reassessment of the conscription policy. Earlier this year, a Knesset committee headed by Science and Technology Minister Jacob Perry approved measures that would draft the majority of haredi men – another minority that has largely avoided military service – with criminal sanctions waiting in the wings in the case that draft quotas are not met.

But the indications are that draft dodging won’t be too much of a problem when it comes to Christian Arabs. Their community, at 130,000 strong, makes up just less than 10 percent of the total Arab population in Israel. In the weeks that followed the formation of a new political party, B’nei Brit HaChadasha (“Sons of the New Testament”), by a merchant seaman whose nephew serves as a major in the Israeli Army, several dozen Arab Christians enlisted in the IDF.

It seems like a tiny number, but it’s a threefold increase compared to 2010. And earlier this month nearly 250 Arab Christian youths attended a recruitment event organized by the IDF with the assistance of Father Gabriel Nadaf, an orthodox priest from Nazareth and a vocal supporter of Christian recruitment into the armed forces.

This new mood among Christian Arabs has worried the communists and Arab nationalists who have traditionally played a central role in the political leadership of Israel’s Arab citizens. You can imagine them tearing their hair out when they hear statements like this one, from Father Nadaf: “It’s only natural that the country which protects us deserves that we contribute to its defense.”

A predictable condemnation came in the form of a statement from Kairos, a radical Palestinian Christian organization that denies the right of Israel to exist and promotes anti-Semitic interpretations of Christian theology.

“Those who call for recruiting Christians to the occupation army do not represent us, do not represent our churches, and do not represent the Christians,” Kairos said. “We need to be united, we need to protect our national identity, only our Arab, Palestinian, identity will be able to protect us, and protect our interests.”

It’s true that this view was once common among Arab Christians. During the last century, Christians were an important presence among the theorists and political leaders of the Arab nationalist movement. Among the Palestinians, the late George Habash, founder of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, was a Christian, as was his rival Nayef Hawatmeh, founder of the breakaway Democratic Front, who was born into a Christian tribe in Jordan. And the Ba’ath Party, overthrown in Iraq during the 2003 war but still in power in Syria, was founded by another Christian, Michel Aflaq.

It’s widely believed that by the time Aflaq died in 1989, he’d converted to Islam, a faith he equated with revolutionary Arab nationalism. But for Arab Christians, Aflaq’s conversion was a harbinger of the present time, when Islam has superseded nationalism as the main channel for discontent in the Arab world, leaving Christians feeling increasingly marginalized.

For that reason, the image of Arab Christians wanting to join the IDF suggests a hitherto unprecedented fracturing of Arab national identity. The founder of the aforementioned B’nei Brit HaChadasha Party, Bishara Shilyan, neatly summarized how this has impacted his community: “Jews call us ‘Arabs.’ For Muslims, we’re ‘Christians,’ not Arabs. We’re Israeli Christians, nothing short of that.”

At a time when Christian communities across the Islamic world are facing vicious persecution in the form of arrests, mob violence and bombings of churches, it’s no coincidence that this assertive form of Christian identity has manifested in democratic Israel.

Increasingly, Christians in the Middle East understand that if their faith is to have a future in the region, the states in which they live need to be governed by the values of democracy and tolerance.

A state that is Jewish in terms of its identity but which gives the same rights and demands the same duties of all of its citizens is truly a revolutionary development for the Middle East – and a key reason why so many of its neighbors dream of its destruction.

About the Author: Ben Cohen, senior editor of TheTower.org & The Tower Magazine, writes a weekly column for JNS.org on Jewish affairs and Middle Eastern politics. His writings have been published in Commentary, the New York Post, Haaretz, The Wall Street Journal, and other publications. He is the author of “Some of My Best Friends: A Journey Through Twenty-First Century Antisemitism” (Edition Critic, 2014).


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

4 Responses to “Christian IDF Recruitment Affirms Israeli Democracy”

  1. You must be joking or on crack. Only delusional Israelis believe this crap.
    Israeli democracy. LOL

  2. Communists? Its 2013 now.

  3. Israel if united and God is watching them!

  4. Gail Steiger says:

    I think that Israel and the United States might be the only countries in the world that still have communist parties.

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Sen.Barbara Mikulski
Maryland’s Sen. Mikulski Gives Obama Magic Number for Iran Deal
Latest Indepth Stories

We urge readers to seek out upcoming rallies scheduled for times and places that work for them.

To be sure, the worst of what was directed at Mr. Nadler by some random hotheads with no real power or influence (calling him a “kapo,” for example) was over the top.

We can readily understand that it would be an embarrassment to the president were Congress to reject the deal he struck, even if that rejection would be vetoed and go nowhere.

As the First Zionist Congress was indisputably one of the seminal events in modern Jewish history, it is not surprising that it became the subject of some of the most beloved, beautiful, and rare Rosh Hashanah cards ever created.

Many in the media impart bias in place of truth; convey personal prejudice over objective facts.

Nahal Haredi is the ultimate solution, according to Branski, serving haredim from a wide variety of backgrounds – chassidish and yeshivish, Sephardi and Askenazi.

A recent study found that 54% of Jewish college students experienced/witnessed anti-Semitism in 2014

The purpose of an attack on Joseph’s Tomb is to murder Jews at prayer and destroy a Jewish holy site

A nuclear Khomenist Tehran will be a threat to Western democracies and to Jerusalem in particular

The MONSTERS of Nebi Saleh know well the damning, visceral impact of powerful, deceitful imagery.

Jewish Voice for Peace openly supports BDS movement against ALL of Israel & ending the Jewish State.

In recent years, there has been a big push to grow and develop American Football here in Israel.

Unlike Judaism & Christianity which honors “truth,” Islam pursues “Taqiyya,” strategic lying

Yashar Lachayal’s mission is to learn what IDF soldiers’ need and get it to them when they need it.

More Articles from Ben Cohen
Ben Cohen

Corbyn leading the Britain’s Labour Party polls, describes Hamas & Hizbullah as England’s “friends.”

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reviewing one of Iran's nuclear plants.

The Middle East has rapidly changed for the worse the past five years. The worst may be yet come.

UN Amb Prosor: Anti-Semitism “can even be found in the halls of UN disguised as umanitarian concern”

The Holocaust Educational Trust Ireland informed the host he could not say “Israel or Jewish state”

The coalition the US has assembled to fight ISIS is based on an immediate coincidence of interest.

A growing chorus of influential voices is arguing that Israel needs to finish the job in Gaza.

Should Jews in Europe take more responsibility in self-defense of community and property?

As of this moment, the Kurds have little reason to hold back from declaring independence.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/christian-idf-recruitment-affirms-israeli-democracy/2013/12/05/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: