web analytics
March 28, 2015 / 8 Nisan, 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 is the Shillman Analyst for JNS.org and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Commentary, Haaretz, and other publications. His book “Some Of My Best Friends: A Journey Through Twenty-First Century Antisemitism” (Edition Critic, 2014), is available through Amazon.


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
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.
Iran Says ‘Don’t Believe the Headlines’ that Deal is Imminent
Latest Indepth Stories
Islamic Relief Worldwide Logo

In November 2014, Islamic Relief Worldwide was classified as a terrorist organization by the United Arab Emirates.

Safran-032715

Too rarely appreciated for its symbolic weight; it can represent freedom and independence.

Erica Pelman is a spiritually-driven woman. She is founder and director of “In Shifra’s Arms” (ISA), an organization that offers aid to pregnant Jewish women of all religious backgrounds practically, financially and emotionally. Its arms are open to any pregnant woman in need whether single, divorced, separated, or from a financially-strapped family. “Presently, we are […]

Gerstenfeld-032715

Many so-called “humanitarian NGOs” frequently abuse Israel by applying false moral equivalencies

Israeli history now has its version of “Dewey Defeats Truman” with headlines from 2 anti-Bibi papers

In God’s plan why was it necessary that Moses be raised by Pharaoh, away from his own family&people?

In their zechus may we all come to appreciate that life is a fleeting gift and resolve to spend every precious moment of it as if it were the last.

In any event, Mr. Netanyahu after the election sought to soften his statement on Palestinian statehood and apologized for what he conceded were remarks that “offended some Israeli citizens and offended members of the Israeli Arab community.”

A worthy idea any way you look at it.

There is something quite distinctive about the biblical approach to time.

The Waqf kept control of the Temple Mount due to Dayan’s “magnanimity in victory” after 6 Day war

The event promotes “1 state” solution (end of Israel as a Jewish State), BDS, lawfare against Israel

I rescued you?! You’re doing me a favor letting me help you!

“Tzedakah tatzil mi-mavet: Charity saves from death”; No death & a tax break? Where do I sign up?

More Articles from Ben Cohen
Cohen-020615

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

Cohen-122614

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.

While Jews are just one percent of the French population, 40 percent of French racist assaults target Jews.

Even if Egyptian pressure lead to the collapse of Hamas, Gaza’s problems are unlikely to be solved overnight.

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: