Could it be that the elusive needle in the haystack exists? Just what so many people have been looking for: Arabs who understand that people who don’t obey the rule of law are bad neighbors, bad classmates, and bad for business. Those bad guys are also more likely to kill other Arabs than law-abiding citizens who wish to create a strong, safe country that unifies people of all religions and races.
Bishara Shlayan is creating a new Arab Christian political party in Israel. The party was originally called “Allies of the New Covenant” (B’nai Brit Hahadasha), but recently changed its name to “Allies” so that more Jews will feel comfortable supporting it.
In a recent intervew, Shlayan makes several profoundly important statements: first, he strongly opposes the boycott not only of Israel, but also, specifically, of the territories: “The boycott is a big mistake – it is the livelihood for many, mainly Arabs in the West Bank,” he told The Jerusalem Post.
And when asked what he thinks about the release of Arab Palestinian prisoners as an inducement to getting the Palestinian Authority to sit down to talk with Israel, his response is indistinguishable from most Israelis: “Releasing murderers is not going to bring peace.”
On the other hand, perhaps as evidence of the enormous difficulty any Middle Eastern Arab is guaranteed to have if he is either critical of anti-Israel efforts or supportive of belonging to – or even co-existing with – the Jewish State, there are inconsistencies in some of the positions attributed to the Allies party, and even to Shlayan.
For example, according to a Messianic website the Allies party is “a revolutionary and courageous move,” because the Arabs involved realize “their future is with Israel and the Jews, and not with the Muslims who are trying to push the ancient Christian community out of Nazareth,” the birthplace of Jesus, which is now 65 percent Muslim and only 35 percent Christian.
But in an earlier Jerusalem Post interview from July, Shlayan sure sound as if he is endorsing the Two State concept, with his own home in Nazareth being part of the Muslim state: “I want every Jew in the world to have a place – a state to go back to – but I do not want to lose this state, and that is why I am for separation – two states.”
But perhaps what Shlayan is really hoping for is…three states! In last week’s Jerusalem Post article, Shlayan talks about his dream of having an “Arab Christian community, open to all, in the West Bank.” He even recognizes the appeal such a community should have from world funders because it would “promote peace since it would be open to anyone.” And although Shlayan wants his dream community to be open to all, his dream is for it to “have a statue of Jesus in Nazareth, similar to the ‘Christ the Redeemer’ statue in Rio de Janeiro.”
And just to confuse issues a little more, on Shlayan’s Facebook page, a page he has “liked” is one for “Palestinian Christians.” This group, unlike Shlayan’s vision, is for only one state. And although the page refers to the one state as a secular one, the symbol is a large cross instead of the Magen David.
On the other hand, perhaps the strongest evidence possible that Shlayan and his new party is firmly committed to the support of a strong Israel, is Shlayan’s own family.
Major Ihab Shlayan, Bishara’s uncle, is a career military man in the Israeli Defense Forces, and was recently made an adviser on Christian issues for the IDF. Major Shlayan is also a leader of the Christian IDF Enlistment Forum.
Bishara Shlayan first floated the concept of a new Judeo-Christian party in July. The original plan was to have members run in local elections, which are scheduled for October.
While there has been an outpouring of support from various Jewish and Christian communities around the world, the Allies have also received a lot of hate mail and messages from “Muslim and certain Christian communist groups.” Shlayan hopes to be able to maintain cordial relations with his Muslim neighbors, so he wants to take it slowly and the plan is now to register Allies as a political party next year.
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.
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