Bethlehem’s last Christians? / Op-ed: World, churches silent in face of Islamic persecution of Palestinian Christians (YNetNews.Com -Yedioth Internet) Giulio Meotti Published: 04.28.12, 16:27)
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Veteran CBS News anchor Bob Simon just reported on the Palestinian
Christians, indicting Israel’s “occupation” as responsible for their
dramatic disappearance. The 60 Minutes story caused Israel tremendous
Yet largely ignored by Western media, a systematic campaign of Muslim
persecution against the Christians is taking place in Palestinian
areas. It’s a religious and ethnic cleansing campaign silenced by the
Christians have long been the frontrunners of Arab nationalism. The
most prominent Palestinian intellectual was a Christian, Edward Said.
The propaganda term “Nakba” has been penned by a Christian,
Constantin Zureiq. The terrorist George Habash was a Christian, as
was Yasser Arafat’s wife. Azmi Bishara, the Arab MK who leaked
secrets to Hezbollah, comes from a middle-class Christian family from
Since the first Intifada, Palestinian Christians created a Muslim-
Christian unity to portray Israel as the aggressor, colonizer and
invader. They thought that the Islamic-Christian front against
Zionism would help secure their position in the Arab world. Indeed,
Arab Christians, and especially their judeophobic clergy, have been
in the vanguard of the battle for the destruction of Israel. It was a
political operation that also served to cover the crimes committed
against Christians by the PLO and the Islamic groups: forced
marriage, conversions, beatings, land theft, fire bombings,
commercial boycott, torture, kidnapping, sexual harassment, and
The latest victim has been the Baptist Church in Bethlehem, which the
Palestinian Authority just declared as illegitimate, as the US
church’s message of reconciliation flies in the face of the hateful
propaganda permeating Palestinian society. Arab Christians were
obliged to make continual compromises, afraid to mention their own
suffering for fear of irritating the Muslim authorities. Soon it
became a taboo subject even in the West.
When last month Ayaan Hirsi Ali penned the Newsweek cover story on
the persecution of Christians under Islam, she did not mention the
Palestinian areas, where Christians dropped from 15% of the
population in 1950 to just 2% today. With the PA refusing to reveal
accurate statistics, the real extent of Christian emigration is
Christian shops firebombed
As the CBS report showed, Palestinian Christians today have to speak
out against “Israeli occupation,” because if they don’t, their
silence will be perceived as pro-Israeli by the Muslims. Christian
leaders don’t mention the fact that they have suffered the most from
the mafia-style rule of Yasser Arafat’s kleptocracy, that slogans
like “Islam will win” and “First the Saturday people then the Sunday
People” have been painted on their churches, and that PLO flags were
draped over crosses.
After the 1948 war, Christian communities suffered most in the West
Bank, not under “Israel’s occupation,” but because Muslim refugees
were cynically settled in their midst by the Arab leadership.
Ramallah was 90% Christian before the war, while Bethlehem was 80%
Christian. By 1967, more than half of Bethlehem’s residents were
Muslim, while Ramallah is a large Muslim city today.
In a process of “Lebanonization,” Arafat changed Bethlehem’s
demography by bringing in thousands of Muslims from refugee camps.
Arafat then turned the city into a safe haven for suicide bombers and
transformed the Greek Orthodox monastery, located next to the Church
of Nativity, into his residence. Christian cemeteries and convents
were desecrated and Christians became the PLO’s human shields.
In the first year of the second Intifada, when Arafat’s terrorists
ravaged Christian towns by gunfire and mortars, 1,640 Christians left
Bethlehem and another 880 left Ramallah.
In 2007, one year after Hamas’ Gaza takeover, the owner of the
Strip’s only Christian bookstore was murdered. Christian shops and
schools were firebombed. Ahmad El-Achwal is just one of the many
Palestinians converted to Christianity killed by Islamic militants.
The silence of the Vatican and the World Council of Churches has been
astonishing. Only a few Christian leaders have been brave enough to
denounce what is taking place on the ground. With harsh and
unexpected words, in 2005 the Custodian of the Holy Land,
Pierbattista Pizzaballa, said to an Italian newspaper: “Almost every
day – I repeat, almost every day – our communities are harassed by
the Islamic extremists.”
When Palestinian Christians approached their organizations and
complained that terrorists were using Christian homes to fire on
Gilo, international Christian solidarity did not meet the challenge.
A few days ago, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England,
Archbishop Vincent Nichols, urged William Hague, the UK Foreign
Secretary, to address the “tragic situation” faced by Palestinians -
not because Islamist threats, but because Arabs were “displaced” by
the Israeli barrier in Beit Jala, despite the fact that in
constructing the security barrier no land has been annexed by Israel,
no houses have been demolished, and no-one has been required to leave
In fact, the bigger truth ignored by the Western press and the
Churches is that Israel’s barrier helped restore calm and security
not just in Israel, but also in Bethlehem. The Church of the
Nativity, which Palestinian terrorists defiled in 2002 to escape from
the Israeli army, is now filled again with tourists from around the
The Catholic and Orthodox Churches also frequently asked Israeli
authorities to change the route of the fence. They simply didn’t want
to live under the Palestinian autocracy. Thus, for example, the
Rosary Sisters School in the Dachyat El Barid neighborhood north of
Jerusalem was included on the Israeli side of the fence, in light of
requests from the Mother Superior of the order.
Today, Palestinian Christians risk the same fate of their brethren in
Lebanon. Everyone remembers the Phalange atrocities at Sabra and
Shatila. But very few know that the first ethnically cleansed
community during the civil war was a Christian town. In November
1976, Palestinian forces came into Damour and dynamited homes and
churches, massacring entire families. They exhumed the dead from the
Christian cemetery and scattered skeletons throughout the rubble.
Some 500 Christians died that day. Will Bethlehem be a second Damour?
Giulio Meotti, a journalist with Il Foglio, is the author of the book
A New Shoah: The Untold Story of Israel´s Victims of Terrorism
(Copyright 2012 © Yedioth Internet 04/28/12)
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