A CHURCH in the Arab village of Sakhnin. 370.
(photo credit:Seth J. Frantzman)
Bishara Shlayan, an Israeli Christian Arab from Nazareth who is creating a new
Arab political party, says many citizens, including Jews, are contacting him to
express their support, and some of them want to donate.
Jew from Jerusalem contacted me and said, ‘You are making me happy – people like
you can make peace,’” he told The Jerusalem Post in an interview this
However, many Arabs who back him, including Muslims, fear to go
public with their support, he said.
The party supports Israel as a Jewish
state and national or army service for Arabs. According to Shlayan, Arabs need
to “do something for the state,” and “there need to be changes.”
every Jew in the world to have a place – a state to go back to – but I do not
want to lose this state, and that is why I am for separation – two states,” he
explained, adding that there needed to be an agreement between the Palestinians
It seems that the party is a “startup” at this point and
that if Shlayan is to succeed, he needs to recruit skilled members who can help
him transmit his message effectively and run a campaign before the next
He is not an experienced politician, describing himself
instead as an ordinary working man.
His party, he stressed, is not just
geared toward Christian Arabs, but is open to all Israelis. He explained that
its name had been changed from Bnei Brit Hahadasha (Allies of the New Covenant)
to just Bnei Brit (Allies) in order to get more Jewish support. Talk of a new
covenant disturbed some Jewish supporters, as the name in Hebrew also means the
Shlayan said Arabs were always acting against the
government, but that opposition to the government should be in the form of
democratic protest, not “violence or racist opposition.”
The waving of
Palestinian or other Arab state flags worries him.
“I want people to
raise the Israeli flag,” he said, adding that his first project would be to
change the educational curriculum in the Arab sector so that children were
taught “to be proud to raise the Israeli flag.”
He said he was planning
to go to Arab schools soon to start this initiative.
Another issue the
new party plans to address is the lack of Christian representation in Israel.
Until now, said Shlayan, Arab Christians voted for a gamut of parties, from Arab
party Balad to the Likud. In the past, they tended to vote for Balad, which has
a nationalist ideology and less of an emphasis on Islam compared to other Arab
parties in the country.
Asked about Christian Balad MK Basel Ghattas,
Shlayan said the MK did not truly represent Christians because he had adopted
“Because I am a Christian, I can understand Jews, and the
fact that I grew up in the Arab world means I can understand them as well,” said
Shlayan. “I love everybody and can unite them.”
Nonetheless, he said he
had been having difficulty publishing in the Israeli Arab media, because the
other Arab parties had been telling them not to publish stories about his party.
In addition, he said Israeli Arab publications expected to be paid for stories
covering political parties and politicians, and since he did not have his party
up and running yet, this was a hindrance.
Asked if he would enter a
coalition even though Arab parties usually refuse, he responded that Arab
parties were making a mistake by not entering coalitions.
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