Concern as Israel tries to split Arabs

2014-05-21 08:55

(Shutterstock)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

kalahari.com

Jerusalem - In a region marked by sectarian division, Israel is trying to bring its Christian Arab population on side in a move aimed at splitting them from their Muslim compatriots, experts say.

This Israeli charm offensive has recently led to the army calling for the first time on Arab Christians to sign up for military service, and in a newly-passed law which formalises a distinction between Christian Arabs and Muslims.

"We and the Christians have a lot in common," MP Yariv Levin said at the time.

"They're our natural allies, a counterweight to the Muslims who want to destroy the country from within," said Levin, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party which sponsored the bill.

It is a discourse in keeping with the neo-conservative world view of a "clash of civilisations" between the Judeo-Christian West and Islam which has been embraced by Netanyahu - a close ally of both the US Republican right and the Zionist evangelicals.

It is not the first time Israel has tried to align itself with its "natural allies" in the predominantly Muslim Middle East. It did so in Lebanon in the 1980s by backing the Christian Phalangist militia and its ally the South Lebanon Army against their Muslim opponents.

"There is indeed a significant decline in the condition of the Christians in the Middle East," said professor Gabriel Ben-Dor, head of national security studies at Haifa University.

"In Israel, this is perceived as the moment to improve the standing of the Christian minority in Israel," he explained, saying it would also "significantly improve" Israel's international standing.

But ahead of a key visit to the Holy Land by Pope Francis which begins on Saturday, this apparent strategy of divide and rule has Israel's Arab community worried.

'They are Palestinians'

Israel's Arab population - descendents of some 160 000 Palestinians who remained after the Jewish state was established in 1948 - today numbers 1.4 million, 130 000 of whom are Christians.

Military service is not compulsory for Israel's Arabs, except for the tiny Druze community, and only around 100 Christians volunteer for service each year, army figures show.

But last month, Israel said it would start sending enlistment papers to all Christian Arabs of military service age, angering Arab MPs who accused the government of seeking to divide Christians from Muslims.

The reaction of the Christian Churches was not slow in coming.

In Nazareth, the largest Arab city in Israel, the Greek Orthodox Church sacked one of its priests after he publicly encouraged young Arab Christians to join the army to understand "the importance of serving and getting involved in the country in which they live and which protects them".

The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, which represents the Roman Catholic Church, protested against the army's decision to seek a tenfold increase in the number of Christian recruits annually.

"The issue is that these Christians are Palestinian," said Michel Sabbah, patriarch between 1988-2008 and the first Palestinian to hold the post for centuries.

"If you accept yourself as Palestinian, you must be logical with yourself - you don't go into an army which maintains occupation on Palestinians, or kills Palestinians.

"You have to be a good citizen inside the state of Israel, but being a good citizen does not imply that you are ordered to kill your brothers who are Palestinians," he said.

Playing the sectarian card

Opponents accuse nationalist right-wing elements within Netanyahu's coalition of playing the "sectarianism" card and seeking to create a divide between Christians and Muslims.

"I don't think that Israel is serious about integrating Arab Christians in Israeli society on the basis of full, equal-rights citizens. This is a clear attempt to split the Arab-Palestinian minority in Israel," said political analyst Wadie Abu Nasser.

"If Israel is serious, why does discrimination continue vis-a-vis the Druze who serve in the army? And why it doesn't allow Palestinian refugees of Christian background to come back?" said Abu Nasser, a former spokesman for the Latin Patriarchate.

If the strategy succeeds, it will only be "in a very limited way", he said.

"Israel's strategic mistake is not to reply to regional instability in positive ways.

"Making peace with the Palestinians and offering full equality to all of its citizens are the best guarantees for Israel's future in the region."

Read more on:    benjamin netanyahu  |  israel  |  palestine  |  middle east peace
NEXT ON NEWS24X

SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
5 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Thursday Cape Town - 14:01 PM
    Road name: Wet Weather
    RAIN across the greater Cape Town area - drive with care and use headlights
  • Thursday Kuils River - 09:13 AM
    Road name: Polkadraai Road Eastbound
    ROADWORKS between the R102 Van Riebeeck Road and the R310 Baden Powell Drive exit - DELAYS
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

2 TV Series for R250

Get 2 TV Series box sets for R250 and save up to R148! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Pre-order the Xbox One

Get this all-in-one entertainment system with live TV, movies, social networking and gaming. Pre-order now!

Up to 50% off hair care products!

Save up to 50% on professional hair care products at kalahari.com. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

30% off academic books

Score a mind blowing 30% off academic books! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Mind blowing deals on electronics!

Save up to 35% on electronics. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

DSTV Mobile iDrifta

The iDrifta is a plug and play mobile DVB-H receiver...

From R99.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Your heart is big and you are sensitive to the needs of those around you. Your humanitarian side is emphasized today and you may...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.