On the most important week of the year for Christian faith, you would think that
churches around the world and the Western media would bear witness to the
accelerated persecution of Christians in Arab lands by the forces of
You would think that the de rigueur bashing of Israel might be put
aside for a moment of Christian self-defense and solidarity.
Much of Western media devoted their Christmas ink, and many
Christian NGOs dedicated their Christmas appeals, to purveying the false
impression that Christians are under assault by Israelis; and worse still, that
Jews are crucifying Christians smack in the heart of Bethlehem.
singular, outstanding exception to this was Christa Case Bryant of The Christian
Science Monitor, who published a finely researched, 3,700- word article
detailing the Muslim assault on Christians across the Middle East, often with
government encouragement and support.
Bryant reveals that Iraq has lost
at least half of its Christians over the past decade, and Egypt is wracked by
the “worst spate of anti-Christian violence in 700 years.” In Syria, jihadists
are killing Christians and burying them in mass graves. More than 600,000 Syrian
Christians have been displaced or fled Syria since the rebellion began,
according to Patriarch Gregorios III Laham, spiritual leader of the Melkite
Greek Catholic Church.
In Gaza, Muslim militants have bombed churches,
killed prominent Christians, and forced others to convert to Islam. In the West
Bank, Arab Christians are better off than many in parts of the region, but only
an estimated 50,000 live there – about 2 percent of the population, down from
10% in 1920. Christians make up only 5% of the population of the Middle East,
down from 20% a century ago.
But you wouldn’t know any of this from most
media reports. Instead, most foreign correspondents produced the usual
bash-Israel- for-Christmas articles, ignoring the dire plight of Christians
across the region. Last year, for example, CBS’s Bob Simon produced a
masterpiece of mistruth on 60 Minutes in which he indicted Israel’s “occupation”
for the decline of the Christian population in the entire West Bank.
the slam-Israel doozy of the year was published by Harriet Sherwood, in The
Observer, who wickedly evoked biblical and Christian imagery to savage Israeli
settlement in and around Jerusalem.
Sherwood painted a picture of a
pastoral “Christian biblical landscape” with “gnarled olive trees,” “bleating
sheep and goats” and “vine covered terraces,” “near the site where angels
announced the birth of Jesus to shepherds in a field” – all tended to with love
by Bethlehem’s remaining Christian heroes. She then contrasted this with the
evil Israeli security fence – “8-meter high concrete slabs casting a deep
shadow, both literally and metaphorically, snaking around most of Bethlehem,”
along with the monster “cranes, bulldozers and concrete apartment blocks” – all
of which are “strangulating” the city.
Sherwood capped-off her tiresome
slam by telling us lovingly about a Beit Jala parish priest who “leads open-air
prayers under olive trees at sunset every Friday” to protest the route of the
security fence: “a vast concrete and steel barrier with a long steel-caged
corridor with multiple turnstiles” that chokes off the main exit for
Palestinians who want to go to Jerusalem.
Similarly blowing off all
pretensions of journalistic respectability, Ben White of Middle East Monitor
published a filthy piece titled “Bethlehem Bantustan 2013: Have Yourself an
Apartheid Christmas.” White says that Bethlehem is “a microcosm of Israel’s
colonization of Palestine.”
The refugee camps are home to those expelled
from their villages in the “ethnic cleansing” that enabled a majority Jewish
citizenry; camps where “Israeli soldiers snatch residents and deploy lethal
force” against youth raised in the shadow of the “apartheid, choking
These screeds demonize Israel and seek to cover up for the real
reason for Christian decline in Bethlehem: the Palestinian Authority and radical
Islam. It started with Yasser Arafat.
Arriving from Tunis in 1994, Arafat
immediately set out to suppress the Palestinian middle class across the West
Bank, which he understood could be the only real opposition to his planned
dictatorial authority. He nationalized most business sectors, and squeezed
Palestinian small businessmen out of business. Especially hard hit were the
middle class businessmen of Bethlehem, most of whom were
Arafat then sidelined the longtime Christian mayor of
Bethlehem, Elias Freij, and Arafat’s henchmen led a campaign of terror and
intimidation against Christian institutions and families in the city. Land
theft, beatings and intimidation of Christians in Bethlehem by PA security
services and other Muslim gangs became routine.
Forced marriages between
Christian women and Muslim men were reported. Arafat’s terrorists even took over
and defiled the Church of the Nativity for 39 days in 2002, holding 200 priests
as hostage as the terrorists sought to escape Israeli justice.
has been an inexorable and ongoing Christian exodus from Bethlehem; a city
captured by the PA and taken over by a very intolerant strain of
None of this stopped the current PA president, Mahmoud Abbas, from
this week releasing a malevolent Christmas message in which he cynically called
Jesus Christ a “Palestinian messenger,” and went on to blast Israel for denying
“millions” of Christians their “right to worship in their homeland.”
is an ugly attempt to apply replacement theology (in which Christians are said
to have superseded the Jews in a covenant with G-d) to the Palestinian assault
on Israel. In Abbas’s reversed and warped world, the Jewish and Christian Jesus
has been replaced by a Palestinian Christ, and Christianity is under attack by
the Jews, not by the Arabs and Muslims.
Few Christian leaders, and no
prominent Western journalists, publicly took Abbas to task for arrogating Jesus
to Palestinian propaganda.
Turning the other cheek, they apparently
thought, alas, that challenging Abbas just wouldn’t be in the Christmas spirit
of justice, peace, charity and love.
Unfortunately, Abbas’s perverse and
perfidious statement is in keeping with the Palestinian Authority’s ongoing
denial of Jewish history and rights in the historic Land of Israel. It doesn’t
augur well for the peace process.