Swaid said, "These people are being used by the government. A few Christians like Shlayan have bought into the false promise that if they serve they will get special favors. But we only need to look to the situation of the Druze. Their youth have been conscripted for decades and yet their communities are in much worse state even than that of the Christians."
Claims by Nadaf that he has been the target of a hate campaign in Nazareth, including an attack on his teenage son, have been widely reported in the Israeli media. Nadaf's leading critics, including Nazareth Christians, have been called in for interrogation by the police and warned that they are under investigation for "incitement to violence."
Hakim said he had been called for interrogation on three occasions since he and the Orthodox council originally denounced Nadaf last year. He was also phoned by the domestic intelligence service, the Shin Bet, two hours before the council met to issue a statement against Nadaf. "They warned me, 'This is bigger than you or the council.' They told me not to get involved."
Swaid said Israel's real attitude towards the local Christian population was revealed following a request he submitted to the Knesset Speaker last month to place a Christmas tree in the parliament building. His request was rejected, with the speaker arguing that the Christian symbol would cause "offence."
"I saw this as a test of whether Israel was prepared to give a sign of goodwill towards its Christians and to behave like a tolerant, multicultural state -- in the way it expects other states to act towards Jewish minorities. The truth was clear. Whatever it says, Israel has no special sentiments towards Christians."
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