Onward Christian Soldiers

Palestinian Arabs, Muslims and Christians, have been living here together for generations in harmony and sharing the same destiny, and now Netanyahu comes to divide them.

Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat
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Christian Orthodox worshippers hold candles lit from the "Holy Fire" as thousands gather in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City on April 30, 2016.
Christian Orthodox worshippers hold candles lit from the "Holy Fire" as thousands gather in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City on April 30, 2016.Credit: Gali Tibbon, AFP
Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat

A lyrical spirit moved Gilad Sharon (son of Ariel Sharon), who wrote the following in the daily Yedioth Ahronoth a week ago:

“Just like the Son of God who looks out from the painting on the wall of his home in Nazareth, who carried the cross on his back, the same is true of priest Gabriel Nadaf, who carried the heavy burden on his back - to lead the Christians in Israel to enlist in the Israel Defense Forces." The messiah is here, my friends, a messiah with a Negev machine gun. And as opposed to the messiah whose birth is now being celebrated, the new messiah is calling on his believers to carry a sword. In Arabic they say. ‘The cooking pot has found a lid.’”

The fans of the right-wing organization Im Tirtzu deserve such a messiah. Mabruk to them. But the crowning glory is undoubtedly the stammering of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his blessing to the Christian recruits. In a paraphrase of the words of Neil Armstring when he stepped on the moon - “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” - we could say: “One small stammer for Netanyahu, one giant gaffe for the policy of discrimination and separation.” Netanyahu said festively: “We will enforce the law and severely judge any interest that tries to prevent you from enlisting and contributing to the Jew… (state). “ And after recovering, he said: “to our state.”

And so, dear Christians, enlist, contribute, and all for the sake of the Jewish state. In Arabic they say “to harvest and thresh for Butrus.” And if you want to place even a tiny Christmas tree in Upper Nazareth, then Mayor Shimon Gapso, a sponsor of the recruits, will make sure to prevent it; after all, and with all due respect, this is the Jewish state. In the Knesset too, Speaker Yuli Edelstein didn’t care about anything, not even what his father the priest would say, and prevented MK Hana Sweid from putting up a Christmas tree in the building. When it comes to the symbols of the Jewish state, we don’t give a damn - not even about father and mother.

Netanyahu’s blessing offered no promise to the Christians, not to provide housing, not to supply jobs, not to let the uprooted return. Really, how stingy can the Jewish state be: to serve and to bear the burden in return for “Israeli society is proud of you”? As though the Arabs lack pride; all their songs drip with pride. In Egypt they say: “Let’s sell water in the neighborhood of the water sellers.”

One thing that Netanyahu said was especially hard for me to digest. He said that the forum for Christian recruitment “will not only encourage enlistment in the IDF, it will also grant protection to supporters of enlistment and to the conscripts themselves from threats and violence directed at them.” Who is threatening? In a properly run country, if there are such suspicions, they are exposed. I live among my people, and I have never heard that a young conscript encountered threats or curses. And if such a thing happens, there are police and courts. What do you mean, “The forum will grant protection to supporters of enlistment”? Are we talking about a militia?

If you listen carefully to the words of his blessing, it’s impossible to shake off the feeling that this recruitment is aimed at achieving internal objectives within Arab society. Netanyahu seems to be playing, with much pomp, the role of the classic colonialist who adopts a policy of “divide and conquer.” Palestinian Arabs, Muslims and Christians, have been living here together for generations in harmony and sharing the same destiny, and now Netanyahu comes to divide them. A country that sparks dispute between its sons is not a normal country. The time has come for the prime minister to absorb the fact that before him stands a nation, and not a collection of ethnic groups. In Arabic they say about such stubbornness: “A goat, even if it flies.”

On the other hand I was thinking that if it’s hard for a leader who is so passionate about the Jewish state to express the concept to a non-Jewish audience, even a sympathetic one, then how does he demand, especially from a nation that has suffered from the Jewish state’s violent treatment, recognition of both the character, and perhaps soon the beauty, too, of the Jewish state?

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