Veteran 60 Minutes correspondent Bob Simon on Sunday
presented “Christians of the Holy Land,” a piece of complex, anti-
Israeli propaganda that was clearly intended to cause Israel damage
among US Christians. It throws unfair accusations at Israeli Jews—who
are essentially blameless in the story of the vanishing Arab
Christians—while practically ignoring the active role of Palestinian
Muslims in pushing Christians out of Bethlehem, to name but one city.
Fifty years ago, Christians were easily 70 percent of Bethlehem’s
population; today they make up less than 15 percent. It’s the same in
Egypt, Lebanon and Iraq. In fact, the only place in the Middle east
where the Christian population is growing is inside “green line”
But the 60 Minutes piece, and the “scary” document it keeps referring
to, “The Kairos Palestine Document,” have virtually no Muslim
villains in them. At most it is “Jewish and Muslim extremists,” a
nicely balanced package of crazies, who are to blame for Christian
There’s a fleeting reference to the fate of Israeli Christian Arabs,
who may be equal citizens in a Western democracy, but, trust Bob
Simon, they, too, suffer. They may be thriving, unlike their brethren
from Casablanca to Tehran, but they’re still crying all the way to
The classic segment within the piece concerns the security wall –
look for it around minute 4. Simon acknowledges that the wall was
built to stop Palestinian terrorism, and concedes that it is working,
having reduced terrorism by 90 percent. Then the story proceeds to
detail how tough it is for Palestinian Christians to be living in the
shade of this wall, which has come to be known as an “open air
“How do you live with this?” Simon asks in horror.
The piece also shows the long lines of Palestinian cars at Israeli
checkpoints, and the fact that Palestinians must obtain Israeli
permits to be moving about at all. Now the case is complete:
Christians are leaving because of the hardship of Israeli occupation.
There are two logical problems here. One is of simple fairness, as
Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren actually spells out: which would Bob
Simon prefer, continued Jewish bloodshed on buses and in restaurants
and hotels, or Arab inconvenience?
The other is even simpler: assuming Muslims are subject to at least
the same level of hardship by the Israeli “occupiers,” why has the
Muslim population of Bethlehem gone up to 85% while the Christians
If the reason for the emergence of a Christian Diaspora in Michigan
is the occupation, there should be a corresponding percentage of
Palestinian Muslims leaving Judea and Samaria.
But we haven’t seen 70 percent of Muslims leaving the “disputed
territories,” because—and that’s the bit of harsh reality completely
absent and, in fact, being denied, in Bob Simon’s piece—it’s the
Palestinian Muslims doing much of the pushing.
In 2008, human rights attorney Justus Reid Weiner wrote “Palestinian
Crimes against Christian Arabs and Their manipulation against Israel”
for the Jerusalem Institute for Global Jewish Affairs. He summed up
his argument : “Under the Palestinian regime Christian Arabs have
been victims of frequent human rights abuses by Muslims. There are
many examples of intimidation, beatings, land theft, firebombing of
churches and other Christian institutions, denial of employment,
economic boycotts, torture, kidnapping, forced marriage, sexual
harassment, and extortion. Palestinian Authority (PA) officials are
directly responsible for many of the human rights violations. Muslims
who have converted to Christianity are in the greatest danger. They
are often left defenseless against cruelty by Muslim fundamentalists.
Some have been murdered.”
Read this interview by “Christianity Today” with Weiner. He tells
There is a Greek Orthodox Christian who was so tight with the
Palestinian Liberation Organization that during the first intifada,
Israel expelled him from the West Bank. Arafat brought him back to
the West Bank after the Oslo process began. He ran a TV station that
he built in Bethlehem. Despite that connection, he gradually got fed
up with what was going on with the Christians. About two months ago,
he went public with a dossier that he had previously delivered to
Arafat and then Abu Mazen. The dossier gives 70 detailed examples of
attacks on specific Christians—beatings, sexual harassment, all
nature of theft, stealing land—and 140 cases of land theft where
Muslim gangs in cahoots with the Palestinian Authority showed up,
poured a slab of cement, built apartment houses, and sold them right
under the nose of the land’s Christian owners.
Since going public, he’s gone abroad for a trip. That’s a clue as to
how long he would likely be alive if he were to show up in the Middle
East anytime soon.
There’s a pastor in Bethlehem whose name I haven’t used, but one day
a couple years ago he came home from work at his church, and as he
parked his car, he saw a masked man jump over the fence into his
front yard. The man had a pistol and took three shots, hitting the
pastor once in the shoulder. The pastor fell to the ground and
pretended to be dead, and the man jumped back over the fence and left.
A great deal is made by Bob Simon of the fact that Ambassador Oren
had called CBS to complain about the anti-Israeli hatchet job in his
piece – before the piece had aired. In fact, he practically yells at
Oren, that this is the first time a subject had ever called to
complain about him to his bosses before the finished piece had a
chance to air.
Oren, who is not a timid man, appears dumbfounded by this direct
attack and mumbles, “There’s a first time for everything.”
I would have said something about bullies not deserving the benefit
of the doubt. Simon’s agenda is clear, he’s looking to damage
Israel’s relationship with American Christians who support it
wholeheartedly, even if, on occasion, for all the wrong reasons.
But, judging by the “Christianity Today” interview with Justus Reid
Weiner, US Christians already know the real story. (© 2012
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