The persecution of Greek Orthodox priest Father Gabriel Nadaf has escalated to a new crescendo, as the Jerusalem Patriarchate threatens to sack the Nazareth-resident and deprive him of his livelihood.
Nadaf’s sin is his open activism on behalf of integration by Arab Christians – or Arab-speaking Christian Israelis, as Nadaf prefers to call himself and his followers – into Israel’s mainstream.
He openly and bravely supports, though does not necessarily encourage, the growing number of young Christians who are interested in enlistment in the IDF. He also supports those interested in performing national service in their own communities. This sufficed to put him on the hit list of radical Arab MKs – including the only Greek Orthodox Arab MK, Basel Ghattas (Balad) – and to create inordinate pressure on the Jerusalem Patriarchate to dissociate itself from Nadaf and to punish him. The Palestinian Authority is also reportedly leaning on the patriarchate.
Last week, Christian Arab pro-Israel activists held a rally in Yafia, where Nadaf leads a congregation, and reported that this year 94 Christian Arabs signed up for military duty. In the whole of 2010, the comparable number was merely 30.
In their Facebook page the new recruits refer to themselves as “Arabic-speaking Israeli Christians.”
They say they live in a democratic Jewish state, see themselves as integrally part of it (Christians pre-date Muslims by centuries) and will not desist from saying so – especially in view of the bitter lot of their co-religionists in Syria, Iraq, the PA and Gaza. Their ambition, they stress, is status of the sort enjoyed by the Druse and Circassians.
But no sooner was the rally held, then the PA demanded Nadaf be fired. The threats against him were ramped up.
Nadaf calls this “blatant intimidation geared to frighten young Christians from identifying with Israel as fully fledged Israelis.”
Father Gabriel Naddaf, a Greek Orthodox priest from Yafia, was approached by the Forum soon after its creation, along with two other clerics, to serve as the movement’s spiritual guides. But following a campaign of intimidation the other two dropped out, leaving Naddaf alone at the helm.
For his positive view on Christian recruitment, Naddaf was banned from entering Nazareth’s Church of the Annunciation, and may be fired from his church position in Yafia. The tires of his car were punctured and a rag with bloodstains was laid at his doorstep.
“This is proof of their moral bankruptcy,” Naddaf told The Times of Israel in a telephone conversation. He considered the freedom to speak his mind on the recruitment of Christians “a matter of faith,” he added, noting that he has filed a police complaint against his attackers but could do little against inciting videos posted on YouTube or threatening tweets.