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Israeli-Arab Christians form new political party

Move blasted by Arab MKs and PA

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11 Jul 2013 (All day)
Israeli-Arab Christians form new political party

In a sign of an emerging sea change in the attitudes of Israel’s Christian-Arab population, a group of community leaders have announced the formation of a new political party called “B’nei Brit Hahadasha” or “Sons of the New Testament” which has as part of its platform encouraging Arab-Israeli Christian youth to volunteer for the IDF or National Service. The platform of the party also calls for Israel’s Arab-Christian community to be fully integrated into the State in all areas, peace with a democratic Palestinian state and all of Israel’s neighbors, increased tourism and trade, and the return of Israelis who have left the country.

Analysts have assessed that the new party and the attitude among Arab-Israeli Christians it reflects is in part a reaction to the so-called “Arab Spring” which has seen the rise to power of Islamist movements in the region. Many Arab-Israeli Christians want to demonstrate a distinct identity from the region’s Moslem majority as well as support the State of Israel as a bulwark against the kind of anti-Christian persecution which has become common in many of its neighbors.

“If I was in America, I wouldn’t be American?” Bishara Shilyan, a 58-year-old sea captain from the mixed Christian-Muslim city of Nazareth who founded the movement, told Israel Hayom. “At least in Israel, everyone who stayed was given the right to become a citizen and integrate into society. But the first demand of Israel, and I’m for it — you need to understand it — is that it is the land of the Jewish people.”

“People see what’s happening now in Lebanon, Egypt, and Syria,” said Shilyan. “They understand where we’re living.”

The effort has already born fruit, as the number of Arab-Israeli Christian high school graduates entering the IDF has more than tripled in the last two years, despite fierce opposition from leaders of Israel’s Moslem population, including Balad MKs Hanin Zoabi and Bassel Ghattas, as well as the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah.

 

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