New pro-Israel Arab party has Jewish support

Bishara Shlayan, an Israeli Christian Arab from Nazareth tells 'Post' the Arabs need to "do something for the state."

A CHURCH in the Arab village of Sakhnin. 370 (photo credit: Seth J. Frantzman)
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.
“A 78-year-old 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 week.
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.”
“I want 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 and Israelis.
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 elections.
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 New Testament.
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 Balad’s ideas.
“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.