A funny thing happened the other day. Michael Oren, the Israeli Ambassador to the United States, tried to convince readers of the Wall Street Journal that the “only place in the Middle East where Christians aren’t endangered but flourishing is Israel,” while blaming Islam for the plight of Christians in the Middle East, specifically the plight of Christian Palestinians in the West Bank.
Now, I have a lot of issues with Mr. Oren’s pathetic attempt to explain the so-called “plight of Christians” in Palestine mainly because I am a Christian and I am a Palestinian, and I happen to live in the West Bank. I’ve worked closely with both Christian and Muslim communities in most areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and can tell you with absolute certainty that the Christian Palestinians are not suffering due to the actions of Muslim Palestinians. Last I checked, it wasn’t Muslim Arabs that spray painted “Death to Arabs” on our churches, or smashed the tombstones in our cemeteries.
Rather, Christian Palestinians are suffering for the same reasons that Muslim Palestinians are suffering, namely land confiscations, movement restrictions, checkpoints, home demolitions, crop razing, military raids, flagrant human rights violations, illegal detentions, violence and destruction perpetrated by settlers. There is a reason why George Habash, a Christian, founded the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and it wasn’t to because Muslim on Christian violence, I can assure you. In fact, although there are occasional incidents between Muslim and Christian shabab, they are quite rare. The majority of the time, Israeli settlers are to blame for violence against Christians; the Israeli authorities always claim to conduct “internal investigations” but you’ll never see anything come of them. Since the start of 2012, there have been many Israeli settlers’ price tag attacks against churches, Christian cemeteries and schools. One need not look further than Israel’s own Haaretz newspaper for Israel’s tolerance of Christians.
Christian Palestinians are suffering for the same reasons that Muslim Palestinians are suffering, namely land confiscations, movement restrictions, checkpoints, home demolitions, crop razing, military raids, flagrant human rights violations, illegal detentions, violence and destruction perpetrated by settlers.
In truth, Israel is the biggest perpetrator of crimes against Christian Palestinians while attempting to convince the world that it’s an inclusive Western Democracy. However, a true democracy is a secular democracy that doesn’t favor one type of citizen over another. Yet, Israel’s state-funded Rabbis often issue racist religious decrees referring to non-Jews, Christians and Muslims alike, as animals which are OK to kill; and it’s orthodox Jewish men in the Jerusalem, the holy city of all three religions mind you, have been seen spitting on, kicking and attacking Christian clergymen while the Israeli police constantly turn a blind eye. Let’s not even mention that all of the Christian Palestinians living in Jerusalem, Beit Hanina and other areas, are constantly under the threat of having their residency rights confiscated. According to Israeli law, they can be “residents” but not “citizens” and Israel can confiscate their residency anytime it wants. At the same time, anyone of the Jewish faith from anywhere in the world can come to Israel, become a permanent citizen and purchase property. Certainly these are not the actions of a state that protects, and is tolerant of its Christian populations, is it?
Perhaps Michael Oren was talking about Bethlehem city which has been effectively fenced in as a large open air human zoo, while its lands have been confiscated and added to one of 5 surrounding settlements? I’m sure he knows that 78% of Bethlehem Governorate has already been confiscated by the Israeli state. However, he did forget to mention that in his article.
Personally, I’ve worked closely with over 300 Palestinian grassroots non-profit organizations, including quite a few in Bethlehem. One that comes to mind is Wi’am, the Palestinian Conflict Resolution Center….which happened to be wedged between the
Separation wall and an Israeli settlement. Wi’am plays a prominent role in advocating for non-violence, human rights, justice and secular democracy. However, like most areas Palestinian NGOs, its work is affected by illegal and unilateral annexation of Bethlehem’s lands, for “closed military zones” and settlement expansions that continue to suffocate Bethlehem governorate and restrict access to travel within the West Bank and Jerusalem. The latest target of Israel’s land annexation is Bethlehem’s Cremisan Monastery. Civil administration has already delivered that eviction papers and perhaps by the time you read this article, I’ll be a new tourist attraction in Israel’s guide to the Jewish state at the expense of its original Christian owners; ironic, considering Oren’s claim that Bethlehem’s Christian population under Israel grew 57%.
While Israel, the so-called Jewish Democratic state, continues to employ and fund racist Rabbis, turn a blind eye towards Israeli/Jewish settler violence against Christian holy sites, and continues to build facts on the ground to railroad the two state solution in favor of state expansions at the expense of both Christians and Muslims, the Palestinian Authority -a secular government made up of both Muslims and Christians – is working to secure the establishment of a Palestinian state through international diplomacy and non-violent popular resistance.
In the end, Oren can speak all he wants about how great Israel treats Christians; However, Bethlehem, Beit Hanina, Beit Jala, Beit Sahour, Zababda, Aboud, Taybeh Jifna, Beirzeit and Ein Arkeek are Christian villages that are directly affected by the on-going Israeli occupation of Palestine. Until Oren speaks of this, his words are not worth the paper they were printed on.Filed Under Christianity, Christians, islam, Islamophobia, Israeli Settlers, jerusalem, judaism, michael oren, Muslims, palestine, Palestinian Christians, Price Tag Attacks, racism, religion, Wall Street Journal, west bank