Leading Catholic clerics in Israel urge people to vote in coming election

Christian Yisrael Beytenu candidate says voting for Joint List of Arab parties like voting for Islamic State.

Jerusalem's Latin Patriarch, Fouad Twal, leads a Christmas mass in Gaza  (photo credit: screenshot)
Jerusalem's Latin Patriarch, Fouad Twal, leads a Christmas mass in Gaza
(photo credit: screenshot)
Shadi Halul, a Christian candidate for Yisrael Beytenu, told The Jerusalem Post that the influence of the Church over political issues in Israel is slight.
“For Christians here in Israel, the church has influence, but it is not great, because the Christians are largely secular, and more modern like secular Israelis,” said Halul who has also worked to promote Christian Israeli national service.
“The influence of religion and the heads of the churches on political issues is very low. With us, we always say that religious leaders should not intervene in politics. They need to deal with spiritual and religious matters.
For these reasons, people don’t listen to them, even if it is to simply say go and vote or don’t go and vote, as well as if they instruct people who to vote for, or whether or not they should do national service. No one will listen to them on these issues.”
Halul also claimed that more Christian voters in Israel vote for the Zionist parties than for the traditional Arab parties.
“Voting for the United Arab List is like voting for Islamic State. This party calls for preserving the current situation or making it worse, when it is already not good. This party creates calls for a clash with the Jewish population, for provocation and separatism, and this is not what we want as Christians.
Therefore anyone who votes for this party betrays Christians and betrays Christian needs.
“Christians see themselves as part of this state,” he said.
“They want to live here, and they want the people speaking in their name to improve their situation here. As Christians, we don’t have any other state.
All the Arab states discriminate and persecute the Christians and expel them, and we don’t want Arab control here. We want Jewish and democratic rule here,” he continued.
“Christian Israelis don’t want to vote for a party whose entire [purpose] is to work for a population that is outside of the borders of Israel,” Halul said in reference to the traditional Arab parties Balad, Hadash, Ta’al and United Arab List, and their support for a Palestinian state.
The four parties have untied together for the coming election so as to not waste votes by running on their usual separate lists, which may not pass the electoral threshold.
“I am saying vote for a party that can provide solutions to the problems of employment, and education, and help Christian towns develop. The conflict between Arabs and Jews is not relevant. There is a representative for these issues: His name is Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas].
“Christians don’t want their representatives to incite against the state all the time, to undermine the state, to curse the state that protects them. This is not appropriate for us. Until today, the Arab parties haven’t done anything for their people.
Their approach is one of separatism and aggressiveness and they don’t know how to conduct a dialogue. Their approach has failed for 66 years,” Halul continued.
“[MK Haneen] Zoabi has gone down the route of extremism and support for terrorist groups like Hamas. We are now saying ‘enough’; we will not be quiet any longer. We don’t want Zoabi to speak for us nor [MK Basel] Ghattas nor the extremists from the Islamic Movement who have united with Hadash and Balad,” Halul. His last reference was to the United Arab List, which is associated with the Islamic Movement and is part of the Joint List.
Halul said he believes Christians who would have voted for one of the individual Arab parties would now not vote for the Joint List.
“The only party which has free Christian representation that can deal with the tough problems and the needs of Christians in different fields is Yisrael Beytenu, because Shadi Halul is there and he has worked all his life for strengthening the cooperation with the State of Israel and the Jews. This is what I will do, God willing, and with the help of Jesus the Messiah.”
Halul strongly rejects the term Christian Arab, labeling himself and other Christians like him as Aramaic Christian Israelis. Legal recognition of Christians as Arameans and not Arabs was obtained in September last year.
The leading figures of the Catholic Church in Israel have called on the electorate to exercise the right to vote in the general election to advance “justice, peace, and equality” and an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In a statement released in Arabic and English, the Assembly of the Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land, headed by Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal, said it is critical that voters help the country emerge from the ongoing conflict.
“We say to the voters and to the elected: We are deeply concerned about justice, peace, and equality in this country,” the statement said.
“In order to progress towards these aims, we call upon the voters to go out and vote in the upcoming elections,” it continued.
“Your vote, your single vote, might make a difference for our present and future in this country and for the life of many,” the assembly said, adding that people should vote in accordance with their conscience.
“We hope that those who will be elected will hear the voices of all who suffer in this permanent conflict. Your duty is to help the country emerge from the enduring situation of conflict.
We are not condemned to live forever in fear of the other, in continuous suffering. Help make this holy land a better place.”