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Priest who pushed Palestinian Christian army service is canned

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Father Gabriel Nadaf. (Photo: Israeli Government Press Office)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Father Gabriel Nadaf. (Photo: Israeli Government Press Office)

The protests in response to the push to enlist Palestinian Christians scored a victory this week, as the priest spearheading the effort has been dismissed by the church he is affiliated with.

Father Gabriel Nadaf, a Nazareth-based priest with the Greek Orthodox Church, has been canned from his official post.  Nadaf has been welcomed into the arms of the Israeli political establishment for encouraging the Palestinian Christian community to enlist in the military.  But that position has made him a lightning rod in the community, the majority of whom oppose the effort.

Agence France Presse reported today that Nadaf was officially sacked on Tuesday, but that the announcement only emerged today.  “We warned him before to keep to his priestly duties and not to interfere in matters of the army,” Greek Orthodox Church spokesman Issa Musleh told the news outlet.  “When he did not heed our warning, we held a meeting of the church court which decided to sack him.” In response, Nadaf said he had not been fired since he has received no official notification from the church.

Last month, the Israeli army announced it was sending voluntary enlistment notices to all Palestinian Christians of draft age.  The move struck a nerve in a community that sees itself as being an integral part of the larger Palestinian struggle for rights.  Those opposing the move see it as the latest attempt by Israel to divide and weaken the Palestinian community within Israel.

Nadaf has met repeatedly with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials in an attempt to encourage Palestinian Christians to take the army’s offer. In October 2012, after Nadaf attended a panel meant to encourage Palestinian Christian army service, a Greek Orthodox Church council excommunicated him.

Meanwhile, protests against the overall plan continue to be staged.  As journalist Patrick Strickland reported, in late April, Hebrew University students held a silent protest against Palestinian Christian enlistment.  Three students who were arrested say the Israeli police apprehended them in an aggressive fashion.

Watch video of the arrests here:

(Hat tip to commenter Walid for the news.)

Alex Kane

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist who focuses on Israel/Palestine and civil liberties. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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18 Responses

  1. Zach S on May 9, 2014, 11:45 am

    No Arab can speak out in favor of Arab enlistment in the IDF and keep their job.

  2. MahaneYehude1 on May 9, 2014, 12:05 pm


    The number of the Christian Palestinians join the Israeli army (their country’s army) is increasing. Don’t close your eyes.

    • W.Jones on May 9, 2014, 2:20 pm

      What’s the percent increase over the last ten years, and what’s the current number?

    • Walid on May 9, 2014, 2:46 pm

      Mahane 100 Christians enlisted in the IDF on a total Christian populations of over 150,000 is nothing to get excited about. Palestinians in general are upset with the 100 and with the priests not because of their numbers but because of the principle behind their support of Israel. Would these guys shoot or arrest fellow Palestinian kids for throwing stones?

    • Cliff on May 9, 2014, 3:33 pm


      How many Palestinian Christians are enlisted? How many total Palestinian Christians are there?

      You’re pathetic attempt at spin has failed.

    • Inanna on May 9, 2014, 7:36 pm

      The reason why a lot of them join is not love of the Israeli state. They do it so they can access welfare benefits and jobs and other opportunities that are otherwise denied to them by racist laws and racist attitudes within Israeli Jewish society. It’s not a stance that has a lot of support in the community at all.

      • MahaneYehude1 on May 10, 2014, 3:14 am


        How do you know? Did you ask each of them why he joined the Israeli army or you just assume that since you feel uncomfortable with this trend? Just let you know that the number of Christian Palestinians soldiers is increasing since the “Arab Spring” started. You can guess why.

    • amigo on May 10, 2014, 3:53 pm

      Mahane ,I was unable to find a comment from you on the thread exposing Israeli Jews teaching their children to worship violence.

      Subject matter to sensitive for you?????.

  3. Tzombo on May 9, 2014, 12:13 pm

    I’m a bit confused here. So was he still excommunicated or was he pardoned? Because why would they need to sack him if he’s excommunicated anyway? I can’t read the Haaretz article, maybe it’s in there.

    • Alex Kane on May 9, 2014, 1:45 pm

      He was excommunicated in 2012 from a council, not the actual church. Today, it was announced he was fired from his post at the church. It’s two separate things.

      • MahaneYehude1 on May 10, 2014, 3:17 am

        @Alex Kane

        Fired or not fired, with or without G. Nadaf, let’s all wait few years and see if Nadaf is the reason for that trend or maybe there are other reasons. You will be surprised.

  4. American on May 9, 2014, 1:22 pm

    10 to 1 there were some ‘personally enriching rewards’ offered to Nadaf for his support of Israel.
    Thats usually how Isr gets it non Israeli supporters.

    • Walid on May 9, 2014, 2:20 pm

      The worst of it, American, is that the Patriarch himself is very very close to Israel. In fact, Israel had to agree with his appointment along with Jordan and the PA. This is the cause of a major problem because of the Patriarchate’s sale and rental of land to the Israelis without the knowledge or the consent of the congregation. This has been going on for decades.

      On the positive side, the Christians are now rid of Father Nadaf an he is finally free join the IDF himself, if they’d have him. Everybody wins. It’s said that a picture of President Shimon Peres hangs at the entrance to his home, beside icons of Jesus and Mary; this gives an idea where this guy’s at.

      The other priest that’s been encouraging enlistment with the IDF is Father André Alamiya. Hopefully, he’ll also get canned.

      • American on May 9, 2014, 3:45 pm

        @ Walid

        ‘corruption knows no creed or color.’………or something like that.
        And I cant remember the one about the man and the prostitute
        ……that goes ”now that we’ve established what you are its only a matter of price….or something like that.
        But you get my theory and meaning…

      • Inanna on May 9, 2014, 7:38 pm

        Yes Walid, which is why so many of us want Atallah Hanna, Archbishop Theodosios of Sebastia to be the next Patriarch.

  5. LeaNder on May 9, 2014, 2:07 pm

    Mothers little helpers


    Why not add another Palestinian category to Israel’s complex “Arab” political landscape: Christian “Arab” Israelis, “Arab” Israelis, Jerusalem “Arab” citizen, “Arabs” in the West Bank Bantustans, ghettoized “Arabs” in Gaza.

    Now if we add “Palestinians” in exile–strictly the ideal community from the Israeli perspective (although maybe not?)–, that would add up to six by now.

    Hmm, generally result American Christian church activities beyond the camp of the Evangelicals? Or Evangelical influence?

  6. Sycamores on May 9, 2014, 2:39 pm

    Father Gabriel Naddaf is the chairman of a group called the Israeli Christians Recruitment Forum (ICRF) that has been lobbying the government for the draft of Christian youth for the past two years.

    ICRF facebook page has only 138 likes not really inspiring.

    Bishop Jibril Nadaf or Father Gabriel Naddaf getting canned is a great victory he can’t be used by the Israelis as a mouthpiece for the largest Christian denomintion in Israel anymore.

    Israeli army recruitment plan aims to incite Christian-Muslim tensions

    Jonathan Cook The Electronic Intifada Nazareth 31 July 2013

    “Good Arabs”

    News of the conference on recruiting Christian community members was revealed on social media a short time after it was held in October. More than 120 Christian teenagers were reported to have attended, mostly drawn from the local Greek Catholic and Maronite scout groups.

    However, the fact that three senior clergy from Nazareth took part and spoke in favor of Christian enlistment has caused particular consternation.

    They include 39-year-old Bishop Jibril Nadaf, from the Greek Orthodox community, the largest Christian denomination in Israel, and Father Masoud Abu Hatoum, of the Greek Catholic community.

    Nazareth’s Greek Orthodox council, an elected body that represents the community’s interests in the city, immediately issued a statement denouncing Nadaf’s participation. A short time later the patriarch in Jerusalem, Theophilus III, barred Nadaf from entering the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation.

    According to church officials, Theophilus will announce Nadaf’s relocation to Jerusalem in the next few weeks.

    Azmi Hakim said Israel had been trying to find a way to recruit Christians to the army – to sever them from the 80 percent of the minority who are Muslim – since the state’s creation. The chief obstacle, he said, had been finding a religious leader who would give the initiative the stamp of the church’s approval.

  7. iResistDe4iAm on May 10, 2014, 9:57 am

    One burial policy for fallen Jewish Israeli soldiers (but with separate burial rows for soldiers “of Jewish descent but who are nevertheless not Jewish according to Jewish law”), a different burial policy for fallen non-Jewish Israeli soldiers = Israeli apartheid

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