Arab Christians in Israel between Betrayal and Betrayal

The title of this article might be strange to some people, especially ‎considering the fact that Christians in Israel and Arabs in general live ‎luxuriously compared to citizens of neighbouring Arab countries like ‎Jordan, Egypt, Saudia Arabia and Lebanon. Of course, Syria is not eligible ‎for this comparison after its long battle that has continued for four years ‎against terrorists in their religious garments.

The persecution that ‎followed the Coptic Christians in Egypt, Assyrian Christians, Syrians and ‎Chaldeans and other Christians in Syria and Iraq by the Sunni Muslims in ‎recent years divided the Christians in Israel to two camps at least, so that ‎every camp would look at the other group as if it does not acknowledge ‎the dangers that surround the Christians and their historical existence in ‎the Holy Land; they might even consider this group as betrayers of the ‎Palestinian case, the case which they do not agree on its definition and ‎priorities.

The terrorist organisations contributed to the division of the ‎Arab Christians and the way they differ about defining their case and ‎priorities especially that the organisations defined by the world as ‎terrorist organisations and that go after Christians as well as target them in ‎all areas of conflict within the Middle East and North Africa, are by ‎majority organisations that follow the Sunni sect. It is the sect that most ‎Arab Muslim citizens in Israel follow. Some of these Sunni organisations ‎are: ISIS, Alqa’eda, Alnusra (Victory) Front, Bait Almaqdis (Jerusalem) ‎Group , Muslim Brotherhood, Boko Haram, Ansar AlSharia (Law ‎Supporters), Taliban, Immigration and infidelity, Sumali Youth Movement, ‎Al Sunna Supporters ,A rmy of Islam.

The beginning of the Islamic ‎movement in the Israeli North and its activity as an Islamic religious ‎movement in favour of the Islamic caliphate and its capital Jerusalem has ‎increased the challenges of the patriotic Christians and their acceptance ‎in the Christian community.‎

Patriotic Christians try to win the support of the Arab society in general ‎and the Christians in particular especially to make an impact on the ‎Palestinian Israeli conflict, they consider the Palestinian authority and its ‎Arab people at the priorities of their issues, they demand truth and justice ‎for the Palestinian people subdued in Israel and Palestine, Christians and ‎Muslims as well as the return of Palestinians to their lands they left in ‎‎1948. Although they are citizens and have the rights of citizens and hold ‎Israeli passports they insist on calling themselves Palestinians, not out of ‎their nationality because they are Israeli by nationality and considered ‎Israeli in their travels abroad, but they are not in the column of religion ‎because they are Christians, and not in the column of belonging, because ‎their belonging is Arab, they are Palestinians according to the definition of ‎the national Palestinian pact.

The “National Palestinian Pact” was written ‎by the PLO in July 1968 in which they defined the Palestinian people in ‎the 5th article: “Palestinians are the Arab citizens who were residing in ‎Palestine till 1947, whether they left it or stayed, and whoever was born ‎from an Arab Palestinian father after this date whether inside or outside ‎Palestine is a Palestinian.”‎

On another hand, new trends amongst the Christian youth have emerged ‎especially in the villages of Galilee, its cities and the coast. They have been ‎demanding to be included within the Israeli society and be a part of its ‎rights and duties, asserting that Israel is the safest country for the ‎minorities in the Middle East whilst learning from what happened to the ‎the Oriental Christians in the Arab countries. They insist on the fact that ‎they are Israelis and hold Israeli passports; they do not acknowledge the ‎Palestinian National Pact and consider the Palestinian case a purely Islamic ‎case. They think that the destiny of the Christians that are not more than ‎‎1% of the population will not be different than the destiny of the ‎Christians in Iraq, Syria, especially that the Palestinian logo is represented ‎by Al Aqsa Mosque and that the Islamic speeches increase in their ‎aggressiveness towards Christians in their midst, and that the Palestinian ‎demonstrations carry this motto: “No God but Allah, Muhammad is the ‎messenger of Allah.”‎

Patriotic Christians consider the Christians who are demanding inclusion ‎within the Israeli culture as “Zionist Christians” (betrayers) who work on ‎isolating the Arab Christians from the Palestinian culture, whilst ‎Christians who are demanding inclusion consider patriotic Christians ‎oblivious to the worries of the Christians society and its challenges ‎‎(betrayers too) they come against the Israelis who attack the Palestinians ‎and ignore the attacks by the Muslims in Israel and Palestine towards the ‎Christians in Nazareth, Jerusalem, Gaza and the West bank.

The number of ‎Christian Aarab citizens in Israel was 129422 according to the statistics of ‎the end of 2014; so they comprise 1.56% from the population of Israel. ‎Their small number and division makes them fragile despite their high ‎academic credentials and their lack of unity weakens their existence before ‎other minorities and before the ruling Israeli government. “A cord of three ‎strands cannot be broken” Ecclesiastes: 4: 12‎‏ ‏

In addition to these two significant trends, there is another group that is ‎neutral; it prefers not to interfere or engage in political issues, so that they ‎would not be accused falsely as betrayers of the Palestinian issue or its ‎Christian society, or it might be that they only desire to get away from ‎politics so that they would have time for their family concerns only. There ‎is another group who are small in number who prefer waiting for a ‎heavenly nation and not getting involved in earthly fights, believing that ‎justice will not take place before the coming of Christ, not from the Jewish ‎nor the Muslims should they rule.

As a Christian, I can say that I have learnt from Christ to love all people, I ‎train myself to love the Muslims, the Jews, even the Christians my ‎relatives, I remember the words of Jesus “be shrewd as snakes and ‎innocent doves” (Matthew 10: 16) and his teachings in calculating the cost: ‎‎“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and ‎estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?” ‎‎(Luke14: 28).

Out of this approach, I ask, have the Christians in Israel ‎counted the cost? Have they thought about the negative factors that might ‎happen should they desire for what they are fighting for was fulfilled? ‎Have the patriotic Christians thought about the safety of the Christians in ‎the West Bank should Palestine gain its independence amongst an increase ‎of extremism within the Palestinian society? Or have those who have been ‎asking for inclusion thought about the social relations that could weaken ‎their relationships with their Muslim neighbours if the Christians serve in ‎the Israeli Army? 

Despite all this, is it not time to unite together in Christ who strengthens us ‎regardless of our different perspectives? Don’t we have to show love to ‎one another even if we disagree in our opinions? Or has my neighbour ‎become the person who believes in my case?!‎

And finally “But someone will say:” you have faith, I have deeds, show me ‎your faith without deeds and I will show you my faith by my deeds…” ‎‎(James 2: 18) “Now you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so ‎that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply from ‎the heart.” (1 Peter 1: 22)‎

This article was originally posted on Linga, August 22, 2015, and re-posted with permission.