A new law to create a separate ‘Christian’ nationality for Palestinian citizens of Israel successfully passed through the Knesset, on Monday, with more than three-quarters in favor.
Palestinian priest Father Shomali leads an open air mass on church lands
threatened with confiscation by Israeli authorities for the separation wall
on April 6, 2012

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Original article by Alex Shams

The bill, which creates a distinction from the existing ‘Arab’ nationality, has raised fears among many Palestinians that a renewed push is underway, by the state, to divide their society along religious lines.

The law’s supporters have made clear that the new measure is not merely a legal formality but, instead, intends to de-emphasize the Arab identity of Christians by racializing and politicizing existing religious distinctions.

‘It’s a historic and important step that could balance the State of Israel and connect us to the Christians, and I am careful not to refer to them as Arabs, because they are not Arabs,’ sponsor Likud MK Yariv Levin said in January, adding that Christians are ‘our natural allies,’ unlike Muslims ‘who want to destroy the state from within.’

On Wednesday, PLO executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi condemned the law, calling it an effort to transform the occupation into ‘an outright religious confrontation,’ and stressing that Israel is adopting a ‘policy of the classification of its citizens based on religion or ethnicity’ as part of a larger system of ‘apartheid.’

A Knesset committee is even looking into instituting compulsory army service for Israel’s 120,000 Palestinian Christians, a proposal which has raised ire among both Muslims and Christians citizens, who are currently exempted.

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