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.)