Stop Christian Enlistment in IDF, Arab Lawmaker Urges Pope

Sunday, February 23, 2014 |  Israel Today Staff

Israeli Arab Member of Knesset Basel Ghattas (pictured) has issued an appeal to Pope Francis to personally intervene against the enlistment of Arabic-speaking Christians in the Israeli army.

Ha'aretz reports that Ghattas' letter was delivered to the Vatican's representative in Jerusalem, Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto, in hopes that Pope Francis would address the issue when he visits the Holy Land in May.

Like most other minorities, local Arabic-speaking Christians are not required to serve in the Israeli army, but a growing number are choosing to do so, many at the encouragement of the Nazareth-based Israeli Christian Recruitment Forum.

Ghattas and other Arab MKs have grown increasingly hostile toward the activities of the forum. Recently, Ghattas' colleague MK Hanin Zoabi called the forum's spokesman Shadi Haloul a "coward" and threatened that he would be dealt with on the streets of Nazareth.

In related news, the Knesset's Labor, Health, and Welfare Committee last Wednesday passed the second and third readings of a new bill that will differentiate between Arab Muslims and Christians.

The practical implication of the bill is that Christians will be recognized as an independent minority on local councils and labor committees. For Haloul and others, it means so much more. It means that they can finally step out from under the shadow of an imposed Arab identity.

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