The Israeli Zionist organization Im Tirtzu last week hosted the “Zionist Conference for Human Rights” in Tel Aviv. Among the invited speakers was Father Gabriel Nadaf, spiritual head of the Israeli Christians Recruitment Forum, a body that encourages young Arabic-speaking Israelis (they prefer to not be labeled as “Arabs”) to join the Israeli army and fully integrate with Israeli Jewish society.
In his address to the conference, Father Nadaf noted that “there are many regimes (in the region) that do not care about equal rights, they only care about catering to an elite that terrorizes the rest of the population, while brushing off the issue of human rights and dehumanizing others.”
But, the Greek Orthodox priest explained, “In Israel, we [non-Jewish minorities] do not experience this.”
Father Nadaf concluded by declaring how “proud” he is to live in Israel, and insisting that “Israel is a shining example of human rights in the Middle East.”
Predictably, the views of Father Nadaf and other members of the Israeli Christians Recruitment Forum have not been popular with the Muslim Arab community, nor with its representatives in the Israeli Knesset.
Earlier this month, Father Nadaf’s son was violently attacked on the streets of Nazareth by those opposed to local Arabic speakers identifying with the Jewish state. Nadaf and others said it was incitement from the likes of Arab Knesset Member Ahmad Tibi that resulted in the attack on his son and continued tension between Arabs and Jews in the land.
But Tibi, who last week wrote in an American publication about what he called Israel’s “Jim Crow” treatment of local Arabs, is coming under increasing fire for his hostile rhetoric and approach.
Deputy Knesset Speaker Hamad Amar, a member of Israel’s minority Arabic-speaking Druze community, responded to Tibi’s accusations with his own article accusing his Muslim colleague of representing “all that is wrong with parts of the Israeli Arab leadership.”
“In our whole region consisting of over 350 million Arabs, there are only 1,658,000 Arabs who have complete political and religious freedom and have the right to vote in full democratic elections. It is no coincidence that all of these Arabs live as full and equal citizens in the one Jewish State,” wrote Amar.
But rather than try to build a positive future together, “Tibi supports segregation, calling for the complete ostracism of any Israeli Arab who volunteers for national civilian service,” Amar continued.
The Druze politician argued that his own community is a perfect example of what can be achieved “if one chooses integration and contribution over ostracism and demonization.” Israel’s Druze serve in the IDF, are respected members of parliament and are largely integrated with and well received throughout Jewish society.