We've seen in the past that Arab leaders like to pretend that not a single Palestinian Arab "refugee" would want to become a naturalized citizen of Arab countries, even though every single time they had the chance thousands of them jump at the opportunity. Yet in the name of "Palestinian unity," self-proclaimed "leaders" rail against giving individuals the opportunity to make their own decisions that may be at odds with the political will of the unelected leaders.
For some reason, not too many Western liberals are upset over this steamrolling of individual choice.
Now we have another example, that of Christians in Israel. From AFP:
In a region marked by sectarian division, Israel is trying to bring its Christian Palestinian population on side in a move aimed at splitting them from their Muslim compatriots, experts say.What is missing from this discussion?
This Israeli charm offensive has recently led to the army calling for the first time on Arab Christians to sign up for military service, and in a newly-passed law which formalizes a distinction between Christian Palestinians and Muslims.
But ahead of a key visit to the Holy Land by Pope Francis which begins on Saturday, this apparent strategy of divide and rule has Israel's Palestinian community worried.
Israel's Palestinian population -- descendents of some 160,000 Palestinians who remained after Israel was established in 1948 -- today numbers 1.4 million, 130,000 of whom are Christians.
Military service is not compulsory for Israel's Palestinians, except for the tiny Druze community, and only around 100 Christians volunteer for service each year, army figures show.
But last month, Israel said it would start sending enlistment papers to all Christian Arabs of military service age, angering Palestinian MKs who accused the government of seeking to divide Christians from Muslims.
The reaction of the Christian Churches was not slow in coming.
In Nazareth, the largest Palestinian city in Israel, the Greek Orthodox Church sacked one of its priests after he publicly encouraged young Christians to join the army to understand "the importance of serving and getting involved in the country in which they live and which protects them."
The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, which represents the Roman Catholic Church, protested against the army's decision to seek a tenfold increase in the number of Christian recruits annually.
"The issue is that these Christians are Palestinian," said Michel Sabbah, patriarch between 1988-2008 and the first Palestinian to hold the post for centuries.
"If you accept yourself as Palestinian, you must be logical with yourself -- you don't go into an army which maintains occupation on Palestinians, or kills Palestinians.
Opponents accuse nationalist right-wing elements within Netanyahu's coalition of playing the "sectarianism" card and seeking to create a divide between Christians and Muslims.
"I don't think that Israel is serious about integrating Arab Christians in Israeli society on the basis of full, equal-rights citizens. This is a clear attempt to split the Arab-Palestinian minority in Israel," said political analyst Wadie Abu Nasser.
Israel isn't drafting any Christians into the IDF. It isn't forcing them to do anything. It isn't stopping any of them from identifying as "Palestinian."
But as we saw recently, some 43% of Arabs in Israel identify more as Arab Israelis than as Palestinian. For Michel Sabbah to flatly say that "these Christians are Palestinians" He is disenfranchising two out of every five Arabs, and I suspect that the percentage of Christians who identify as Israeli is higher.
Yet AFP cannot find a single person to argue that Israeli Arabs, or Israeli Christian Arabs, should have the simple right to decide for themselves what they want to do.
If you are liberal, isn't that what your position must be? Isn't dissent from within one's community something to be celebrated, not insulted?
Or is choice something that is only for Westerners, but not for Arabs?
Being against Arab individuality and choice sounds a little racist to me.