ISRAEL/PALESTINE: New Israeli legislation favoring Christians seeks to divide Palestinian community


10 March 2014
Israeli legislation favoring Christians seeks to divide Palestinian community

by Naim Ateek

The Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek
(Photo: Tree of Life)

[The following Op-Ed was written by Canon Naim Ateek,
founder of CPT partner organization Sabeel Liberation Theology Center.  It has been edited for length.  The original can be read here.]

On Monday, February 23, 2014, the Israeli Knesset enacted a
new law that recognizes Muslim and Christian Arab communities as separate
identities, giving them their own representation in an employment commission.  The law passed by a margin of 31 to 6.

The new law
passed by the Knesset favoring Christians is, to say the least, a deceitful
political stunt by Likud-Beiteinu members aimed at sowing seeds of division
among Christians and between Christians and Muslims.

For the last sixty-five years, the government of Israel has
not shown favoritism or bias towards the Christian community of the land, so
why now?

During the Nakba of 1948, the Christians, like the Muslims,
were dispossessed by the Zionists and were forced out of their homeland.  Furthermore, during the military rule
imposed by Israel on all Palestinians who stayed inside the Israeli state
(1948-1966), Israel did not show favoritism to Christians over Muslims.  Both were discriminated against and both
were treated as unwanted aliens in their own land.  There is a plethora of documentation to substantiate the
history of that period.  The
problem for Israel in those days was not the Palestinians’ religious
affiliation but their Palestinian national identity.

I believe that
the new law reflects the moral bankruptcy of the government of Israel.  Indeed, it must be in trouble to allow
itself to stoop so low as to blatantly use this tactic to attempt to win the
support of some Christians abroad, and, at the same time, sow dissent among
Christians and Muslims.  It is the
old adage of “divide and rule.” 
This law is sinister in that it exploits the sensitive tensions among
the religious communities of the Middle East, especially in light of what has
been happening in Egypt and now is happening in Syria.…

 What has caused
this sudden infatuation with Palestinian Christians to merit new legislation?  Or is it just an ugly political
stunt?  What favors can the
right-wing Israeli government give the Palestinian Arab Christians who are
Israeli citizens? Will it restore their confiscated land to them?  Will it grant them equality with their
fellow Jewish citizens?  Or are we
witnessing another divisive Israeli ploy similar to when Israel set the Druze
community apart from its Arab base?…

Israel has been
very shrewd in concocting devious ways and means to impose its will on the
Palestinians and keep them weak and divided.  It continues to connive ways to limit and even deprive them
of their rights to the land so they will give up and leave.

I am certain that the Christian community in Israel will see
through this new Israeli legislation, will expose its sinister nature, and
reject it.  It is my hope also that
our people’s resilience and maturity will foil the Israeli government’s
insidious objectives.  This we can
do through our unity and solidarity, as well as through our determination to
continue to work for a just peace, inclusive democracy, and human dignity for
all the people of our land.


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