The persecution of Greek Orthodox priest Father Gabriel Nadaf has escalated to a new crescendo, as the Jerusalem Patriarchate threatens to sack the Nazareth-resident and deprive him of his livelihood.

Nadaf’s sin is his open activism on behalf of integration by Arab Christians – or Arab-speaking Christian Israelis, as Nadaf prefers to call himself and his followers – into Israel’s mainstream.

He openly and bravely supports, though does not necessarily encourage, the growing number of young Christians who are interested in enlistment in the IDF. He also supports those interested in performing national service in their own communities. This sufficed to put him on the hit list of radical Arab MKs – including the only Greek Orthodox Arab MK, Basel Ghattas (Balad) – and to create inordinate pressure on the Jerusalem Patriarchate to dissociate itself from Nadaf and to punish him. The Palestinian Authority is also reportedly leaning on the patriarchate.

Nadaf is essentially left to fight alone for his cause, though he receives much quiet support from members of his community and from other priests.

Unfortunately, Jewish Israeli leaders pay scant if any attention to Nadaf’s tribulations or to those of the Christian IDF soldiers and national service volunteers to whom he provides spiritual and psychological support.

And so, while Israelis remain oblivious, Nadaf faces grisly death threats as a matter of routine. For many months, and in contravention of the law, he is barred from one of Christendom’s most sacred sites, Nazareth’s Basilica of the Annunciation. He has been shunned in his own city.

Orchestrating Nadaf’s ostracism are Balad MKs Haneen Zoabi and Ghattas, along with Hadash MK Muhammad Barakei. They incite against Nadaf with impunity.

This ought to trouble every Israeli, foremost those among us who cherish democratic liberties such as freedom of expression.

Last week, Christian Arab pro-Israel activists held a rally in Yafia, where Nadaf leads a congregation, and reported that this year 94 Christian Arabs signed up for military duty. In the whole of 2010, the comparable number was merely 30.

In their Facebook page the new recruits refer to themselves as “Arabic-speaking Israeli Christians.”

They say they live in a democratic Jewish state, see themselves as integrally part of it (Christians pre-date Muslims by centuries) and will not desist from saying so – especially in view of the bitter lot of their co-religionists in Syria, Iraq, the PA and Gaza. Their ambition, they stress, is status of the sort enjoyed by the Druse and Circassians.

But no sooner was the rally held, then the PA demanded Nadaf be fired. The threats against him were ramped up.

Nadaf calls this “blatant intimidation geared to frighten young Christians from identifying with Israel as fully fledged Israelis.”

But this is not exclusively about Nadaf the hounded individual, nor about expedient ecclesiastical capitulation to outright bullying – ironically from Muslims.

This is foremost about the Jewish state. It stood aloofly aside a decade ago when foundations were laid illegally for a gigantic mosque directly in front of Nazareth’s Basilica of the Annunciation, geared to dwarf the basilica, dominate the city’s skyline and tower over any crosses.

Given the illegal project’s location, it could be considered nothing but a provocation, unfortunately not a unique one. Israel reacted belatedly, feebly and halfheartedly.

Israel must not again be seen as abandoning allies. To do so would be to boost separatism, sedition and belligerence.

The spectacle of Israeli parliamentarians abusing Israeli freedoms to undermine Israel will discourage potential friends within the Christian-Arab population.

Trying to survive under the Muslim thumb inside Israel’s Arab sector, Christians have kept a low profile, striven to give no offense and toed even the most extremist line to evince loyalty and avoid risk.

Radical Arabs are feared. Liberal Jews aren’t. Those young Christians now eager to break the cycle should be encouraged, not discouraged.

The impression that anti-Israel agitators can get away with their antics inside Israel is a dangerous proposition.

Official inaction breeds contempt for the rule of Israeli law.

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