By Samantha BordersSamantha Borders

Dear Yifat,

In your recent op-ed titled “Arab-Jewish co-existence through a Christian military draft”, you state that rather than a dividing force, Arab Christians joining the Israeli Defense Forces would provide “an entry ticket into Israeli society”.

It is from this inter-mingling with Jewish youth serving their conscriptions in Israel’s military that you believe true coexistence between these ethnic groups would be cultivated.

However, this is a grossly naive assumption that does not lend itself to either the present or historical context of Palestinian Christians within historic Palestine, modern day Israel, or the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Unlike previous eras which saw higher intermingling between not just Jews and Christians, but Muslims as well, the current system of laws in Israel is far more discriminating in nature with regards to religious and ethnic groups. As you rightly stated, “the current system does not support Arab Christians in Israel, or any other Arab group.”

The current set of laws regarding benefits of joining the military are clearly set to punish those who have moral objections to military service. Denying these conscientious objectors through de facto discrimination practices in requesting loans of all sorts, access to scholarships and even employment, one could argue that the democratic nature of Israel is highly suspect when a minority is punished for not following mainstream ideas of militarization.

Your postulation that the dwindling Palestinian Christian population in the West Bank and Gaza is due to the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, does not consider the effect Israel’s occupation of these territories and its effects on this minority.

Contrary to your opinion, Christians and Muslims are placed under equal and undiscriminating oppression by Israel’s military forces. The 273 mile long apartheid wall affects Christians just as much as Muslims, and indeed has deprived some of their livelihoods.

We can further discuss Israeli violations against property belonging to Christians, such as that of the Nasser family just outside Bethlehem. On May 19th of this year, their land was unlawfully ravaged by the IDF despite the fact that the land and agricultural projects on it were both legal and peaceful in nature. They have yet to receive proper retribution in the legal courts of Israel, and struggle to replace their lost orchard and means of living.

The exodus of Palestine’s Christians is not due to Muslim extremism, but rather your government’s violent and repressive activities that encourage this mass departure. Surely, the history of violence against Jews should help you understand Palestinian Christians’ plight and desire for a better life; rather than throwing up the straw man of Islamic extremism within the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

We would also like to address your position as an illegal settler in Ofra. You speak of a need for coexistence, but with the high levels of violence coming from the various settlements throughout the West Bank, it is difficult to take yours words of “tolerance” into serious consideration. By living in Ofra, you willingly are a part of a colonial-settler project that blatantly violates international law and is a part of a systematic ethnic cleansing of the region.

It is a natural part of Zionism, a racist ideology that inherently finds Arabs to be intruders in a land Jews claim to be theirs, without regarding the thousands of years these indigenous Arabs have been living there. As addressed previously by me, Arab Christians of Palestinian origin largely view themselves as allies in the struggle for equal rights for their Palestinian compatriots, regardless of religion; with the majority refusing to serve in the IDF.

When you claimed that “many” of these Christians in Israel answered the opening call for their enlistment in the IDF, we hardly consider 150 to be numerous since it is a mere 0.00125% of the Arab Christian population within Israel.

Lastly, if Israeli society is as democratic and tolerant as is currently purported, then why would Arab Christians in Israel need “an entry” into society at all? I wonder if by equating the situation of Arab Christians in Egypt and Syria, you do not wish to acknowledge the culpability of your own society and its oppressive practices against this minority.

If Israel and Palestine are to see a true and lasting peace, let us first be honest with one another regarding the reality of the situation.

Dissonance and resistance from Palestinians, Christian or Muslim, is not a result of inherent anti-Semitism or blood lust, but rather to end over 60 years of brutal occupation and consistent denial of basic human rights and equality within the legal system in word and practice.


Samantha Borders is a MA Palestine Studies graduate from the University of Exeter in the UK. Her work consists of historical and theoretical analysis, and has published with various media outlets regarding the occupation of Palestine, American foreign policy, and various social issues. She divides her time between the Middle East and the US.