Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem.
(photo credit:REUTERS/Ammar Awad )
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
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.
essentially left to fight alone for his cause, though he receives much quiet
support from members of his community and from other
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
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
Orchestrating Nadaf’s ostracism are Balad MKs Haneen Zoabi and
Ghattas, along with Hadash MK Muhammad Barakei. They incite against Nadaf with
This ought to trouble every Israeli, foremost those among us
who cherish democratic liberties such as freedom of expression.
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
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
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
The spectacle of Israeli parliamentarians abusing Israeli
freedoms to undermine Israel will discourage potential friends within the
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
Radical Arabs are feared. Liberal Jews aren’t. Those young
Christians now eager to break the cycle should be encouraged, not
The impression that anti-Israel agitators can get away with
their antics inside Israel is a dangerous proposition.
breeds contempt for the rule of Israeli law.
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