Groups opposed to the drafting of Christian Arab youth into the Israel Defense Forces, including the youth wing of the Hadash party, staged a protest rally in Nazareth on Saturday in which male and female teens marched into Spring Square in the center of town dressed in military attire and carrying toy rifles.
The protesters declared the area a closed military zone and set up barbed wire and checkpoints. Other youths acted as civilians facing difficulty entering or exiting the closed area, to illustrate the difficulty Arab soldiers face when forced to control Palestinians. On the city’s main street, dozens more people demonstrated against the draft.
In Arab society, particularly among Christian Arabs, there has been growing debate over the initiative to draft Christian Arabs into the IDF. The new forum to promote Christian Arab enlistment is starting to be countered by local anti-draft initiatives, some party- or movement-affiliated, and some private.
A leaflet distributed at the rally claimed that “divisive ethnic discourse presents fertile ground for the draft plans … for disconnecting Palestinian youth from affiliation with their people, and for the disintegration of the Palestinian national minority in Israel into warring sects.”
Hadash Youth activist Amjad Shabita termed the rally a great success. “We brought the separation fence, the mine fields and the routine abuse of innocent civilians in the occupied territories into the heart of Nazareth,” he said.
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