Jerusalem (Agenzia Fides) - The Committee on the Constitution, Law and Justice of the Israeli Parliament passed a bill providing for criminal penalties - up to imprisonment - for those who try to dissuade Arab Christian citizens of Israel to enroll in the Israeli army. The vote of the Parliamentary Committee, announced last Sunday by the Israeli press, took place while many of the Muslim Arab parliamentarians, members of the committee, had not yet returned from their holiday period granted for Ramadan. The bill, sponsored by Likud parliamentarians, will have to be submitted to the vote of the Parliamentary Assembly. According to critics, it also aims to end, through legal process, a debate about the entry of Arab Christians in the army as a volunteer of the military corps with the Star of David.
The bill, with a language by some judged ambiguous, is also facing prison sentences for those who commit "incitement to breach" military commitments, a formula that can be referred to any criticism or any verbal attempt to persuade someone not to enter as a volunteer in the Israeli army.
According to the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, founded in 1983 by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein to promote understanding and friendship between Christians and Jews, the number of Arab Christians enlisted as volunteers in the army is constantly increasing: we have gone from 40 Christian recruits in 2012 to 102 recorded in March 2015.
The rules currently in force in Israel provide for the obligatory conscription only for the Jewish population and the Druze males. Christians and Bedouins can join on a voluntary basis.
Already in July 2013 (see Fides 09/07/2013) a document issued by the Justice and Peace Commission - a body linked to the Assembly of the Holy Land Catholic ordinary Bishops - had offered criteria of discernment on the issue of the recruitment of Arab Christians in the Israeli army.
According to the drafters of this document, the Israeli army is used as "an institution that promotes social cohesion" and a "key site" to engage citizens in the national project "as it is conceived by the authorities, that is, promoting Israel as a Jewish national State". In this perspective - said the text published by the Justice and Peace Commission, which operates in the Holy Land - "to talk about the enrollment of Christian Arabs rather than the Arabs in general - Muslims and Christians - is clearly an attempt to drive a wedge between Christians and Muslims in Israel". (GV) (Agenzia Fides 14/07/2016)