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» 02/26/2014
ISRAEL
New Israeli 'divide and rule' law to separate Arab Christians and Muslims
by Joshua Lapide
A minor law on equal opportunities is set to appoint distinct Christian and Muslim representatives with the aim of making Christians the "allies" of the State of Israel, at the expense of Muslims. This has raised fears among Christian Arabs. A letter is sent to Pope Francis to stop the recruitment of Christian Arabs into the Israeli Defence Forces (from which Arab Muslims are excluded).

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - A new law that provides for distinct representation for Christian and Muslim Israeli Arabs has been labelled racist by both Jews and Palestinians.

On Monday, the Knesset approved a minor bill expanding the equal opportunities commission from five to ten members, giving separate seats to Christians, Muslims, Druze and Circassians.

Some MKs (Members of the Knesset) have immediately slammed the law as "useless" because Israeli society has a duty to provide jobs to all Arabs, not specifically to Christians or Muslims.

Statements by the bill's sponsor, Likud MK Yariv Levin, has led to a heated debate. Interviewed by the newspaper Maariv a few weeks ago, he explained that the purpose of the law is "To grant separate representation and separate treatment to the Christian community, which will be distinguished from the Muslim Arabs."

"This," he explained, "is a historic and important move that could help balance the State of Israel, and connect us and the Christians, and I'm being careful about not calling them Arabs because they aren't Arabs."

"We and the Christians have a lot in common," he added. "They're our natural allies, a counterweight to the Muslims who want to destroy the country from within."

Israel's Arab community has its roots in the 160,000 Palestinians who remained inside Israel following its creation in 1948. Today they and their descendants number around 1.3 million (20 per cent) out of a total Israeli population of 7.9 million.

Israeli Arabs enjoy full citizenship and are allowed to vote but have long complained of official discrimination.

Adopted two days ago, the law is seen by many as an attempt to divide Israeli Palestinians on the basis of religion, pitting Christians against Muslims, in order to make the first the "allies" of the State of Israel.

For Meretz MK Issawi Freij, "an effort is being made to try to define the state according to religions. Here they are trying to say that there's a difference between Muslim Arabs and Christian Arabs."

Balad party chief Jamal Zahalka also criticised the bill's sponsor. "Arab rights don't interest Yariv Levin," he said. "We will not be his lackeys."

"This law aims to create a new reality among our people based on religion and not national identity," Palestine Liberation Organization executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi said in a statement.

Today, an editorial in Haaretz also describes the law as racist because it separates "good Arabs" (Christians)" from "bad Arabs (Muslims)".

"Such a distinction is designed to spark conflicts between minorities in a divide-and-conquer style that breaches international agreements that Israel has signed," the paper writes.

Christian sources in Jerusalem told AsiaNews that the law itself does not make any substantial change to the situation since Christians are Arab by ethnicity and tradition.

Still, there is widespread fear that, as a result of the Knesset bill, Palestinian Muslims will look upon Christians as enemies and as allies of the Israeli state.

Backed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a campaign is underway to enrol more Christians in the Israeli Defence Forces whilst excluding Muslim Arabs, thus contributing to this view.

In this regard, MK Basel Ghattas (an Orthodox Christian) wrote a letter to Pope Francis, which he gave to the Apostolic Nuncio Mgr Giuseppe Lazzarotto. The Holy Father is expected in the Holy Land in May.

In his letter, he slams the attempt to Israelise the Arab minority, a step that could erode Christians' identity in the country.

Ghattas calls on the pope to intervene with the Israeli government to end its "divide-and-conquer policy applied," which will "harm the Palestinian minority inside Israel."


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See also
10/15/2004 israel - palestine
Israel: no limits on Al Aqsa Mosque
10/20/2010 ISRAEL – PALESTINE
Israeli and Palestinian children not educated to love
03/29/2010 ISRAEL - PALESTINE
Holy Week in Jerusalem, difficulties for Palestinian Christians
by Joshua Lapide
01/17/2005 PALESTINE - ISRAEL
PLO calls for an end to anti-Israel violence because it harms Palestinians
07/08/2004 ISRAEL - PALESTINE
International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague to issue its decision on the Wall tomorrow

Editor's choices
EGYPT - ISLAM
What Tayeb and Sisi said is big step towards a revolution in Islam
by Samir Khalil SamirThe grand imam of Al-Azhar slammed literalist interpretations of the Qur'an and the Sunnah, as fundamentalists and Islamic terrorists do. He supports the urgent need for Islam's reform, especially in terms of teaching lay people and clerics. He also calls for an end to mutual excommunication (takfir) between Sunnis and Shias. Egyptian President al-Sisi chose to fight the Islamic state group after it beheaded 21 Coptic Christians, whom he called "Egyptian citizens" with full rights.
SAUDI ARABIA - ISLAM
For head of Al-Azhar, religious education reform is needed to stop Islamic extremismFor Ahmed al-Tayeb, it is urgent to come up with new educational programmes to avoid "corrupt interpretations" of the Qur'an and Sunnah. Islamic terrorism undermines the unity of the Muslim world. He blames Mideast tensions on a "new global colonialism allied to world Zionism". a speech by the Saudi king is read at the conference.
HONG KONG - CHINA - VATICAN
It looks like someone is trying to shout us down
by Card. Joseph Zen Ze-kiunThe widespread optimism concerning the dialogue between the Holy See and China is largely groundless. Some Chinese bishops unable to speak freely are asked "leading" questions. The key issues remain unresolved, namely episcopal appointments and the fate of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association. Benedict XVI's Letter to Chinese Catholics, also cited by Pope Francis, provides guidelines. No agreement is better than a bad agreement. What happened to Msgr. Cosma Shi Enxiang and Msgr. James Su Zhimin? Hong Kong's bishop emeritus, champion of religious freedom in China, delivers a vibrant reflection.

Dossier

by Giulio Aleni / (a cura di) Gianni Criveller
pp. 176
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