Coalition chairman Yariv Levin is working on a series of measures to legally
differentiate Christians and Muslim Arabs.
Levin’s proposals would
identify Christians as a minority group separate from Arabs, most of whom are
Muslim, and give them their own, unique representation.
ignorance, the government has been lumping all of the minorities – Druse,
Christians and others – under the category of ‘Arab’ since the establishment of
the state, even though there are big differences among them. Since there are
many more Muslims than members of other groups, the result is that only Muslim
concerns were met,” he explained on Thursday.
“This idea came from
Christians who asked me to do this following similar activity pertaining to the
It’s not surprising that Christians want to be separated
from Muslims. This is the only place in the Middle East where they have security
and freedom of worship. Many Christians don’t want to be known as Arabs, but as
Maronites or Aramites,” Levin said.
Levin (Likud Beytenu) seeks to
“accept those who see this country as their home with open arms,” meaning
Christians, as opposed to “those who take advantage of our democracy to destroy
Still, Levin denies that he wants Christians to receive preferential
treatment over Muslims, explaining that he only wants to recognize them as a
The coalition chairman asked the Interior Ministry to
allow Christians to have “Christian” written as their nationality on their
identity cards, as opposed to other Arabs, who have “Arab” written
Levin submitted a bill to have the 160,000 Christians in Israel be
represented separately from Muslims on the Advisory Committee for Equal
Opportunity in Employment Commission, which already passed a preliminary plenum
reading. He plans to propose similar legislation for Christian representation in
other government offices.
Additionally, Levin hopes to pass a bill
encouraging Christians to enlist in the IDF and receive all the benefits of
serving the country.
In his previous Knesset term, he asked the Education
Ministry to allow Christians to learn about their communities’
“I’m doing justice to this community by connecting them to the
country and preventing Islamist extremists from forcing an identity on them that
they don’t want,” he said.
Balad MK Basel Ghattas, a Christian Arab and
co-founder of Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights, told The
Jerusalem Post that Levin is engaged in “a provocative action” that “is part of
a divide and conquer policy that was used by the Zionist movement and by all
colonial states in the world.”
Asked if Arab Christians feel part of the
Arab nation, he said they do and that they have roots in Arab culture that are
very strong, and Levin cannot change this.
This move is an attempt to
“leverage the situation in the Middle East and the instability where Christians
are unsettled,” Ghattas said. He criticized Levin for “cheap propaganda” and
using “really marginal groups” within the Israeli Arab Christian community to
Ghattas wrote a strong letter to Levin over the matter,
saying that he will fight against the “cynical manipulation” that is fueled by a
Arab Christians are strong enough to face attempts to
divide them, he said.
Asked about Christian Arabs who may support Levin’s
proposal, he responded that they do not represent the community and that a
campaign against this “divide and conquer” strategy will take place in the
Bishara Shlayan, a Christian Arab from Nazareth, is
seeking funds to create a Christian Arab political party that supports Israel as
a Jewish state and national or army service for Arabs.
“Levin’s idea is
excellent,” because there “needs to be a separation,” said Shlayan, noting that
it would allow the Christians to become like the Druse community.
Druse and Beduin have already separated their identity from Arab Muslims, and
now there “remains the last separation” – that between Muslims and Christians,
Such a move would give Christians a chance to achieve
positions in the army, police and other governmental bodies, he
“I am Israeli and then Christian,” and the decision to not
identify as Arab should be up to the individual, he said.
the “Arab Muslim” identity should be changed to just “Muslim,” because the
moniker “Arab” has lost its meaning.
“Anyone who lives in the region is
an Arab,” he said, pointing out that Arabs “are fighting one another throughout
the Middle East.”
“Levin first should decide who is a Jew and then decide
who is an Arab,” Jafar Farah, director of the Mossawa Center – The Advocacy
Center for Arab Citizens in Israel, told the Post.
“Christians always saw
themselves as part of the Arab nation” and Levin is “not going to change things
now,” Farah said.
The Abraham Fund panned Levin’s proposals as an attempt
to “divide and conquer” Israeli Arabs and took issue with the idea of Christians
not being identified also as Arabs.
“These practices are being used in
order to weaken the minority’s collective identity,” an Abraham Fund spokeswoman
said. “This absurd proposal is yet another effort to discriminate against
Israel’s Muslim Arab citizens by fueling internal tensions within the Arab
The NGO said the proposals are an attempt to condition
benefits for citizens on their refraining from calling themselves Arabs.