Get them out: It’s time to evacuate Christians from the Gaza Strip

The 1,300 or fewer Christians who remain in the Gaza Strip need to be evacuated and moved to the West Bank, because the cost of them staying where they are is simply too high.

Palestinian Christians attend a service on Easter Sunday, April 1, at the Saint Porfirios Church in Gaza City (photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinian Christians attend a service on Easter Sunday, April 1, at the Saint Porfirios Church in Gaza City
(photo credit: REUTERS)
It is time to evacuate the last remnant of Christianity from the Gaza Strip. By last count there were about 1,300 Christians living in the Strip, which has been turned into an impoverished theocratic gulag by Hamas since it took control of the area in a bloodbath of violence in 2007. Christians who live in the Gaza Strip suffer from the threat of kidnappings and forced conversions at the hands of extremists intent on reenacting an antiquated drama of Islamic supremacism in the modern world. Journalists who criticize Hamas are imprisoned and tortured.
During Hamas’s 2014 war against Israel, a foreign journalist was expelled from Gaza after he reported that one of Hamas’s rockets fell short and landed in a refugee camp and killed a number of children. Gaza’s inhabitants also suffer the consequences of Hamas’s hostility toward Israel. The terrorist group digs tunnels and launches rockets into the Jewish state, Israel fights back, and civilians suffer the consequences.
The 1,300 or fewer Christians who remain in the Gaza Strip need to be evacuated and moved to the West Bank, because the cost of them staying where they are is simply too high. Financially, it’s not too much of a burden for Christians in the West to pay, but the moral cost for Christendom is exorbitant and deeply destructive.
For Christians to remain in the Gaza Strip, both they and their benefactors in the West must conceal Hamas’s evil acts from scrutiny and condemnation. They must act as bystanders to the organization’s genocidal hostility toward Jews, and falsely tell Westerners that Israel is solely responsible for the continued existence of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the suffering it causes.
A prime example of this problem is Rev. Hanna Massad, a Baptist minister who used to pastor in the Gaza Strip, but now works out of Noronton Presbyterian Church in Darien, Connecticut. In a 2014 interview with Christianity Today, Massad told Evangelical Christians in the West that Palestinians and Jews killing each other are symptoms of a problem, the root of which “is the Israeli occupation of Gaza.” Left unmentioned in Massad’s narrative, which omits Hamas’s ongoing incitement against Jews and Israel, is that Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005.
In the same interview, Massad said, “Some in the West say Hamas is using human shields,” as if that was a false accusation, when in fact, Hamas itself has bragged about the willingness of its supporters to stand between Israeli missiles and the homes of Hamas leaders. That’s a straight-up admission of using human shields. But with a convenient bit of double-speak, Massad, a Baptist minister, transformed the issue from a war crime into a propagandistic talking point put forth by Israel’s supporters in the West.
CHRISTIAN LEADERS are supposed to help clarify, not obscure, the misdeeds of sinful organizations like Hamas, but that’s not what Massad did in his 2014 interview in Christianity Today.
Massad has continued his campaign of obscuring the misdeeds of Hamas in Pastor from Gaza, a book he published on October to publicize the relief work he performs through his non-profit organization Christian Mission to Gaza. In his book, Massad professes love for Israel and Jews. But when it comes time to speak about Hamas – an organization that promotes hatred of Jews and Israel – about all he can say is that he can “neither accept nor condone the purpose or behavior of Hamas.”
Massad describes Hamas as a protector of the small Evangelical community in the Gaza Strip, describing how one of its leaders, Mahmoud Al Zahar, warned Massad of impending attacks from militants against his church. Zahar, Massad writes, is “sympathetic to Christians” and “likes to mention” that he was nursed by a Christian woman as an infant.
What Massad does not tell his readers is that Zahar has called the Torah “a fabrication,” and justified the expulsion of Jews from Europe because they corrupted the societies in which they lived “through usury, the worship of money, extreme miserliness, and bribery.” To be fair, that’s a recent quote from just a few months ago. But in 2010, Zahar said the Muslim world “extended our hands to feed these hungry dogs and wild beasts, and they devoured our fingers. We have learned the lesson – there is no place for you among us, and you have no future among the nations of the world. You are headed to annihilation.”
This isn’t cultural antisemitism. This isn’t bigotry. This is genocidal antisemitism that not only justifies Hamas’s regular attacks on Jews, but prevents the social and economic development of Palestinian society. And yet Massad – the executive director of a charity charged with sharing the “Good News of the love of God with the people in Gaza through community development” – says nothing about it. It is simply impossible to engage in “community development” without confronting the backward ideas that prevent Palestinians from adapting to modernity. The Jew-hatred espoused by Massad’s protector is one of those ideas that must be confronted.
And when it comes to Hamas’s “protecting” Christians, Massad clearly overstates the case. For example, he cites in passing, the 2007 kidnapping and forced conversion of Sana al-Sayegh, a professor at Palestine University. Massad writes innocently enough that she “was kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam, reportedly assisted by the president of the university.” But omits that the kidnapping was perpetrated by Hamas militiamen and that Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh was deeply involved in the scandal.
IT’S NOT as if Massad can’t call out evil for what it is. When he writes about the mistreatment endured by Christians who have fled to Jordan to escape the violence of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, he speaks in bold, direct terms about the evil acts of this organization. He describes how one father fled Aleppo, fearing that his daughters “would be kidnapped and raped by ISIS militants.” He explicitly described ISIS members as “torturers” and “terrorists” who, among other things, “slaughtered” children of Egyptian families “on the beaches of Libya.” Hamas has, thankfully enough, not reached the level of violence that ISIS has. But it has perpetrated great acts of violence that Massad just can’t seem to bring himself to describe with the same specificity.
The answer is obvious. Massad operates under the thumb of Hamas in the Gaza Strip and has to watch what he says about life in the Strip. In other words, he has to lie by omission about Hamas and then blame Israel’s occupation for the suffering Palestinians endure. By way of comparison, Massad has little to fear by helping Christian refugees in Jordan, so he can speak freely about ISIS.
Massad is not the only Christian affiliated with the Gaza Strip that has engaged in this type of behavior. World Vision International has done the same thing. For many years, staffers from the Christian charity have regularly vilified Israel while remaining silent about Hamas’s bad acts against both Palestinians and Israelis.
And then there’s Suhaila Tarazi, a Greek Orthodox Christian from the Gaza Strip who wrote an article in 2016 for One, a magazine published by the Catholic Near East Welfare Agency. In it, she blamed Israel for starting three wars with Hamas, failing to mention that each of these wars she invokes was precipitated by tunneling and rocket attacks into Israel from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
Telling one-sided narratives that condemn Israel and absolve Hamas of all blame for Palestinian suffering is just part of the cost of Christians doing business in the Gaza Strip. In order to stay in the Gaza Strip, Christians and their benefactors must bear false witness against Jews and their homeland, and lie by omission about the sins of Hamas.
If this is the cost of a Christian presence in the Gaza Strip, it’s not worth it. For everyone’s sake, it’s time to evacuate every last Christian from the Gaza Strip so at least one group of Christians can stop lying about Israel just to stay alive.
The writer is Christian media analyst for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA). His opinions are his own.