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Thursday, October 10, 2002
THE BELEAGUERED CHRISTIANS OF THE PALESTINIAN-CONTROLLED AREAS

THE BELEAGUERED CHRISTIANS OF THE PALESTINIAN-CONTROLLED AREAS

by David Raab 1

INTRODUCTION
The Christian community in the areas administered by the Palestinian
Authority (PA) is a small, but symbolically important one. About 35,000
Christians live in the West Bank and 3,000 in Gaza2, representing about 1.3
per cent of Palestinians. In addition, 12,500 Christians reside in eastern
Jerusalem.

This population is rapidly dwindling, however, and it is not solely the
result of the difficult military and economic situation of the past two
years. Rather, there are numerous indications that the Christian population
is beleaguered due to its Christianity. Taken in context of the condition
of Christians in other Middle Eastern countries, this picture is especially
credible and troubling.

SOURCES OF PALESTINIAN CHRISTIAN BELEAGUERMENT

Regional Repression Of Christians

Under Islam, Christians are considered dhimmi, a tolerated, but second class
who are afforded protection by Islam. Dhimmitude is integral to Islam; it
is a "protection pact" that suspends "the [Moslem] conqueror's initial right
to kill or enslave [Jews and Christians], provided they submitted themselves
to pay tribute."3

However, the reality of Christianity under Islam has often been difficult.
"Over the centuries, political Islam has not been too kind to the native
Christian communities living under its rule. Anecdotes of tolerance aside,
the systematic treatment of Christians...is abusive and discriminatory by
any standard...Under Islam, the targeted dhimmi community and each
individual in it are made to live in a state of perpetual humiliation in the
eyes of the ruling community."4 As described by a Christian Lebanese
president, Bashir Gemayil: "a Christian...is not a full citizen and cannot
exercise political rights in any of the countries which were once conquered
by Islam."5

The current Christian reality in many Middle Eastern countries is also
difficult. In Egypt, "Muslim, but not Christian, schools receive state
funding...It is nearly impossible to restore or build new
churches...Christians are frequently ostracized or insulted in public, and
laws prohibit Moslem conversions to Christianity...Islamic radicals have
frequently launched physical attacks on [Christian] Copts."6

Saudi Arabia "is one of the most oppressive countries for Christians. There
are no churches in the whole country. Foreign workers make up one-third of
the population, many of whom are Christians. For their entire stay, which
may be years, they are forbidden to display any Christian symbols or Bibles,
or even meet together publicly to worship and pray. Some have watched their
personal Bibles put through a shredder when they entered the country."7

An official Saudi cleric, Sheik Saad Al-Buraik, recently pronounced in a
Riyadh government mosque, "People should know that...the battle that we are
going through is...also with those who believe that Allah is a third in a
Trinity, and those who said that Jesus is the son of Allah, and Allah is
Jesus, the son of Mary."8

In Iran, "the printing of Christian literature is illegal, converts from
Islam are liable to be killed, and most evangelical churches must function
underground."9 Christians are not allowed to testify in an Islamic court
when a Muslim is involved and they are discriminated against in employment.
A 1992 UN report cites cases of imprisonment and torture of Muslims who
converted to Christianity and of Armenian and Assyrian pastors, the
dissolution of the Iranian Bible Society, the closure of Christian
libraries, and the confiscation of all Christian books, including 20,000
copies of the New Testament in Farsi.10

In Israel too, Moslem fundamentalists seek to assert dominance over
Christian Arabs. "Attacks against and condemnation of Christians are also
often heard in mosques, in sermons and in publications of the Muslim
Movement."11 Recent events in Nazareth are illustrative.

Nazareth is especially important to the Catholic Church and, in 1969, the
church consecrated a massive, modern structure over the spot where Christian
tradition holds that Mary had her home...The Basilica of the Annunciation
became the dominant landmark of Nazareth. Israel decided to turn a small
square at the base of the hill on which the basilica stands into a broad
plaza where pilgrims could gather.

Nazareth, however, had grown...from a small Galilee village with a
predominantly Christian Arab population into a regional center of about
200,000, 70 percent of them Muslim. So, when the plans were announced, an
emerging Islamic movement seized on the fact that a small Muslim
shrine...stood on the square and announced plans to build a grand mosque on
'their' land...

...The Muslims, not waiting for plans to be approved or even to be drawn,
promptly began pouring a foundation, with flags of Islam fluttering on all
sides.

To Catholics, the size was not the issue. Any mosque on the site, they
believed, would challenge the Christians by blocking the square and by
raising high minarets from which the Muslim calls to prayer would echo
through the basilica. On Easter 1999, violence broke out between Christians
and Muslims.12

Official PA Domination Of Christians

Islam is the official religion of the Palestinian Authority.13 In addition,
fundamentalist Hamas and Islamic Jihad have promoted Islamic influence on
Palestinian society.

Officially, the PA claims to treat Palestinian Christians equally and
pointedly seeks public display of such. Christmas is recognized as an
official holiday; Chairman Arafat attends Mass and holds an official
reception that day. Arafat has stated as his mission "the protection of the
Christian and Muslim Holy places."14 Several Christians have held prominent
PA positions.

Occasionally, however, contrary messages slip through. In a Friday sermon
on October 13, 2000, broadcast live on official Palestinian Authority
television from a Gaza mosque, Dr. Ahmad Abu Halabiya proclaimed:

Allah the almighty has called upon us not to ally with the Jews or the
Christians, not to like them, not to become their partners, not to support
them, and not to sign agreements with them.15

In addition, no PA law protects religious freedom.16 While asserting that
all Palestinians' "liberty and freedom to worship and to practice their
religious beliefs are protected," a PA Information Ministry statement also
stresses that:

The Palestinian people are also governed by [Islamic] Shari'a law...with
regard to issues pertaining to religious matters. According to Shari'a Law,
applicable throughout the Muslim world, any Muslim who [converts] or
declares becoming an unbeliever is committing a major sin punishable by
capital punishment...the [Palestinian Authority] cannot take a different
position on this matter.17

In attempting to assuage Christians, the statement goes on to say that
capital punishment for conversion "has never happened, nor is it likely to
happen" in the Palestinian territories, but that "norms and tradition will
take care of such situations should they occur."

The PA's judicial system also does not ensure equal protection to
Christians. For example, a recent Israeli government report noted the
failure of the judicial system in Bethlehem to provide protection to
Christian land-owners.

The Comtsieh family (a Christian family) has a plot of land with a building
that serves as a business center in the city. Several years ago a Moslem
family from Hebron took possession of the building and started to use it
without permission. The Comtsieh family filed a claim with the judicial
system and after long and arduous court hearings, the court ruled in the
claimant's favor. However, the verdict was never enforced by the police and
representatives of the family from Hebron later appeared with a new court
verdict (signed by the same judge who ruled in the claimants' favor
previously), canceling the previous verdict and ratifying the Hebron
family's ownership of the property.18

An Israeli government report in 1997 asserted actual harassment of
Christians by the PA.

In August 1997, Palestinian policemen in Beit Sahur opened fire on a crowd
of Christian Arabs, wounding six. The Palestinian Authority is attempting to
cover up the incident and has warned against publicizing the story. The
local commander of the Palestinian police instructed journalists not to
report on the incident...

In late June 1997, a Palestinian convert to Christianity in the northern
West Bank was arrested by agents of the Palestinian Authority's Preventive
Security Service. He had been regularly attending church and prayer meetings
and was distributing Bibles. The Palestinian Authority ordered his
arrest...

The pastor of a church in Ramallah was recently warned by Palestinian
Authority security agents that they were monitoring his evangelistic
activities in the area and wanted him to come in for questioning for
spreading Christianity.

A Palestinian convert to Christianity living in a village near Nablus was
recently arrested by the Palestinian police. A Muslim preacher was brought
in by the police, and he attempted to convince the convert to return to
Islam. When the convert refused, he was brought before a Palestinian court
and sentenced to prison for insulting the religious leader...

A Palestinian convert to Christianity in Ramallah was recently visited by
Palestinian policemen at his home and warned that if he continued to preach
Christianity, he would be arrested and charged with being an Israeli spy.19

Another report in 2002, based on Israeli intelligence gathered during
Israel's Defensive Shield operation, asserts that "The Fatah and Arafat's
intelligence network intimidated and maltreated the Christian population in
Bethlehem. They extorted money from them, confiscated land and property and
left them to the mercy of street gangs and other criminal activity, with no
protection."20

Similar findings were reported in the Washington Times following the PA
takeover of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

Residents of this biblical city are expressing relief at the exile to Cyprus
last week of 13 hard-core Palestinian militants, who they said had imposed a
two-year reign of terror that included rape, extortion and executions. The
13 sent to Cyprus, as well as 26 others sent to the Gaza Strip, had taken
shelter in the Church of the Nativity, triggering a 39-day siege that ended
Friday.

Palestinians who live near the church described the group as a criminal gang
that preyed especially on Palestinian Christians, demanding "protection
money" from the main businesses, which make and sell religious artifacts.

"Finally the Christians can breathe freely," said Helen, 50, a Christian
mother of four. "We are so delighted that these criminals who have
intimidated us for such a long time are now going away."

The gang's hostility toward Christians extended to a 17-year-old altar boy
fatally shot during an Israeli incursion in October.

A small stone monument the family erected in Johnny Talgieh's memory on the
spot in Manger Square where he died was kicked and spat on by gang members,
then toppled with ropes and cables and left smashed on the ground.

"They did not want to recognize that a Christian could be considered a
[martyr]," said a family member..."They hate us Christians more than they
love Palestine." 21

Adding insult to injury, during this reign of terror, PA's Al Aqsa Martyrs
Brigades (declared a terrorist organization by the United States) sent a
letter to the Bethlehem municipality "requesting" aid in the form of
monetary contributions for military operations. Cynically adding a symbol
of Christianity to their extortion demand, the letter was signed "Fatah/Al
Aqsa Martyrs (and Church of) Nativity Brigades" [emphasis added].22

PA Disrespect For Christian Holy Sites

The PA has shown contempt for certain Christian holy sites, and there has
been significant desecration as well. For example, without prior consent of
the church, Yasser Arafat decided to turn the Greek Orthodox monastery near
the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem into his domicile during his visits
to the city. 23 On July 5, 1997, the PLO seized Abraham's Oak Russian Holy
Trinity Monastery in Hebron, violently evicting monks and nuns.24

During the 2000-2002 Palestinian War of Terror, the PA's Tanzim militia
chose the Christian town of Beit Jala to shoot at Jerusalem over other
locations from which they could have similarly targeted communities built on
land captured in 1967. They specifically positioned themselves in or near
Christian homes, hotels, churches (e.g., St. Nicholas), and the Greek
Orthodox club, knowing that a slight deviation in Israeli return fire would
harm Christian institutions or homes.25 In other words, they preferred
making Israel look bad to preserving the sanctity and integrity of Christian
sites and property.

At one point, Andreas Reinecke, head of the German Liaison office to the PA,
protested:

I would like to draw your attention in this letter to a number of incidents
which occurred at "Talitakoumi" school in Beit Jala...which is funded mainly
by the Protestant Church in Berlin.

Over the last few days the school staff noticed attempts on the part of
several armed Palestinians to use the school premises and some of its
gardens for their activities. If they succeed in doing this, an Israeli
reaction will be inevitable. This will have a negative impact on the
continuation of the functioning of the school, in which no less than 1,000
[Christian] Palestinians study...[Furthermore,] You cannot imagine the kind
of upheaval which will be provoked among the supporters of this school [in
Germany] should they discover that the school premises are used as a battle
ground.26

The most glaring example of PA disregard for the holiness of Christian
shrines, however, was the March 2002 takeover of the Church of Nativity in
Bethlehem by PA forces and their taking of over 40 Christian clergy and nuns
as hostages. This takeover was not an act of desperation or seeking of
refuge in the heat of battle. It was premeditated specifically to make
Israel look bad. According to our own source and confirmed by a senior
Tanzim commander, Abdullah Abu-Hadid, "The idea was to enter the church in
order to create international pressure on Israel...We knew beforehand that
there was two years' worth of food for 50 monks. Oil, beans, rice, olives.
Good bathrooms and the largest wells in old Bethlehem. You didn't need
electricity because there were candles. In the yard they planted
vegetables. Everything was there."27

The official PA forces' behavior during the episode showed outright disdain
for the shrine, as described in the box below.

The PA Takeover Of The Church Of The Nativity

On April 2, 2002, as Israel initiated its Defensive Shield operation to
combat the Palestinian terrorist infrastructure in Bethlehem, "a number of
terrorists took over St. Mary's Church grounds and...held the priest and a
number of nuns there against their will. The terrorists used the Church as
a firing position, from which they shot at IDF soldiers in the area. The
soldiers did not return fire toward the church when fired upon. [emphasis
added] An IDF force, under the command of the Bethlehem area regional
commander, entered the Church grounds today without battle, in coordination
with its leaders, and evacuated the priest and nuns."28

That same day, "More than 100 Palestinian gunmen..., [including] soldiers
and policemen, entered the Church of the Nativity on Tuesday, as Israeli
troops swept into Bethlehem in an attempt to quell violence by Palestinian
suicide bombers and militias."29 The actual number of terrorists was
between 150 and 180, among them prominent members of the Fatah Tanzim. As
the New York Times put it, "Palestinian gunmen have frequently used the area
around the church as a refuge, with the expectation that Israel would try to
avoid fighting near the shrine."30 [emphasis added]

And in fact this was the case. The commander of the Israeli forces in the
area asserted that the IDF would not break into the church itself and would
not harm this site holy to Christianity. Israel also deployed more mature
and more reserved reserve-duty soldiers in this sensitive situation that
militarily called for more-agile, standing-army soldiers.31

The Palestinians, on the other hand, did not treat it the same way. Not
only did they take their weapons with them into the Church of the Nativity
and fire, on occasion, from the church, but "the entrance to the church is
also heavily booby-trapped."32

On April 7, "one of the few priests evacuated from the church told Israeli
television yesterday that gunmen had shot their way in, and that the
priests, monks and nuns were essentially hostages...The priest declined to
call the clergy 'hostages,' but repeatedly said in fluent English: 'We have
absolutely no choice. They have guns, we do not.'"33

Christians clearly saw the takeover as a violation of the sanctity of the
church. In an interview with CWNews, Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, the
Vatican's Undersecretary of State and the top foreign-policy official,
asserted that "The Palestinians have entered into bilateral agreements [with
the Holy See] in which they undertake to maintain and respect the status quo
regarding the Christian holy places and the rights of Christian communities.
To explain the gravity of the current situation, let me begin with the fact
that the occupation of the holy places by armed men is a violation of a long
tradition of law that dates back to the Ottoman era. Never before have they
been occupied-for such a lengthy time-by armed men."34 On April 14, he
reiterated his position in an interview on Vatican Radio. 35

On April 24, the Jerusalem Post reported on the damage that the PA forces
were causing:

Three Armenian monks, who had been held hostage by the Palestinian gunmen
inside the Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, managed to flee the church
area via a side gate yesterday morning. They immediately thanked the
soldiers for rescuing them.

They told army officers the gunmen had stolen gold and other property,
including crucifixes and prayer books, and had caused damage...

One of the monks, Narkiss Korasian, later told reporters: "They stole
everything, they opened the doors one by one and stole everything... they
stole our prayer books and four crosses... they didn't leave anything.
Thank you for your help, we will never forget it."

Israeli officials said the monks said the gunmen had also begun beating and
attacking clergymen.36

When the siege finally ended, the PA soldiers left the church in terrible
condition:

The Palestinian gunmen holed up in the Church of the Nativity [had] seized
church stockpiles of food and "ate like greedy monsters" until the food ran
out, while more than 150 civilians went hungry. They also guzzled beer,
wine and Johnnie Walker scotch that they found in priests' quarters,
undeterred by the Islamic ban on drinking alcohol. The indulgence lasted
for about two weeks into the 39-day siege, when the food and drink ran out,
according to an account by four Greek Orthodox priests who were trapped
inside for the entire ordeal...

"They should be ashamed of themselves. They acted like animals, like greedy
monsters. Come, I will show you more," said one priest, who declined to
give his name. He gestured toward empty bottles of beer and hundreds of
cigarette butts strewn on the floor. The priest then took the reporters to
see computers taken apart and a television set dismantled for use as a
hiding place for weapons...

"You can see what repayment we got for 'hosting' these so-called guests,"
said Archbishop Ironius, as he showed reporters the main reception hall of
the Greek Orthodox Monastery...

The Orthodox priests and a number of civilians have said the gunmen created
a regime of fear.

Even in the Roman Catholic areas of the complex there was evidence of
disregard for religious norms. Catholic priests said that some Bibles were
torn up for toilet paper, and many valuable sacramental objects were
removed. "Palestinians took candelabra, icons and anything that looked like
gold," said a Franciscan, the Rev. Nicholas Marquez from Mexico.37

A problem that arose during the siege again shows Christian fear of Muslim
domination. Two Palestinian gunmen in the church were killed, and the PA
wanted to bury them in the basilica. For Christians, this was a potential
"absolute disaster."

"With two Muslim bodies inside the Church of the Nativity, Christianity
could be facing an absolute disaster in Bethlehem," said Canon Andrew White,
the special representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury in the Middle
East. "It would be catastrophic if two Muslim martyrs were buried in the
church. It could lead to a situation like that in Nazareth [DR: as
described above]," he said. 38

Only after intensive mediation efforts, were plans to bury the bodies inside
abandoned.

Similar Behavior In Jerusalem

Despite having no legal standing in Jerusalem, PA officialdom has acted
similarly there.

The PA, in fact, denies historic Jewish-thus Christian-ties to Jerusalem.
Walid M. Awad, Director of Foreign Publications in the Palestine Ministry of
Information, asserted: "The location of the [Jewish] Temple on the Temple
Mount is in question...There are scholars who say that it might be in
Jericho or somewhere else 4 kilometers outside of Jerusalem." Asked "The
New Testament talks of Jesus going to the Temple in Jerusalem. Are you
suggesting that Jesus went to Jericho rather than Jerusalem?", he responded
"It depends on what temple you think he went to."39 U.S. Ambassador Dennis
Ross asserted: "The only new idea [Arafat] raised at Camp David was that the
temple didn't exist in Jerusalem."40

A Christian leader, Father Marun Lahham worries, "Frequent Muslim
declarations that...Jerusalem is [an] Islamic [city] trouble Christians."41

The PA has begun to interfere with Jerusalem Christians:

...the Palestinian Authority-appointed Waqf (Moslem religious property)
authorities attempted to break through into the Church of the Holy Sepulcher
from the adjacent al-Hanaqa Mosque. [They] decided to install a latrine on
the roof of the Church. According to a May 11, 1997, report in Ha'aretz, "A
Waqf internal report, written two weeks ago by the Waqf's Jerusalem
engineer, 'Isam 'Awad, confirms many of the Christians' claims in the
conflict that has emerged adjacent to the Holy Sepulcher Church regarding
construction in the Church. The Church's claim [is] that the Waqf has
harmed the historical and architectural substance of the Holy Sepulcher, as
a result of a construction addition to the courtyard of the 'Hanaqa,' which
leans on the wall of the Holy Sepulcher and even darkens it by its height.

Israel attempted to calm down the conflict after the Churches complained and
issued a work stoppage order against it, which was promptly ignored. The
same Ha'aretz story reported that "The Jerusalem district archeologist in
the Antiquities Authority, John Zeligman, wrote to the Waqf director, 'Adnan
Husayni, pointing out to the Waqf the damage to a site that is declared to
be an antiquity and threatens to go to law if work is not halted
immediately." Finally, the illegal construction was halted due to Israeli
and world pressure, but we can be certain that without such pressure the
desecration would have continued.42

The PA-appointed Waqf is also working feverishly to convert the Temple
Mount, a site holy to Christians and Jews, into a mosque and erase any
traces of the Temple. In June 2000, Ha'aretz reported that "the Islamic
Movement in Israel has master plan to build a fourth mosque on the eastern
side of the Temple Mount" and that, in fact, according to a head of the
Movement, "the entire area of the Temple Mount is an inseparable and
integral part of the Al Aqsa Mosque."43

The Wakf made a mockery of the laws of the State of Israel. Wakf officials
[had] requested and received a permit to open an emergency exit in the new
mosque in Solomon's Stables. [But], in fact, the Wakf tried to break
through four of the underground arches in the northern part of Solomon's
Stables. To do so, it dug a huge hole 60 meters long and 25 meters wide in
the earth of the Temple Mount...6,000 tons of earth [were] removed. Some of
it was scattered at dumpsites. Some was dumped in the Kidron River.
Antiquities dating back to [the first and second Temple eras] were tossed on
garbage heaps.44

Israel Antiquities Authority Director-General Shuka Dorfman affirms
"categorically" and "in an unequivocal manner, that there is archeological
damage being done [by the Waqf] to antiquities on the Temple Mount."45

Under the "guardianship" of the Waqf, "Palestinian pirates are brazenly
digging up Jewish artifacts from the holy Temple Mount site and trying to
sell them on the black market for as much as $1 million."46

More recently, since the start of the Palestinian War of Terror, the Waqf
has precluded Christians from visiting the Temple Mount, despite the fact
that no security considerations whatsoever are involved.

Reduction Of Christian Political Power

Historically, not only has Bethlehem been a Christian city governed
primarily by Christians, but, with its sister towns of Beit Jala and Beit
Sakhur, it has been the largest enclave of Christians on the West Bank.

Since assuming control in 1995, however, the PA has been Islamizing
Bethlehem. It changed its municipal boundaries and severely tipped the
demography by incorporating 30,000 Moslems from three neighboring refugee
camps, Dehaisheh, El-Ayda' and El-Azeh. It also added a few thousand
Bedouins of the Ta'amrah tribe, located east of Bethlehem and encouraged
Moslem immigration from Hebron to Bethlehem. The net result is that the
area's 23,000 Christians were reduced from a 60% majority in 1990 to a
minority in 2001.

Also, defying tradition, Yasser Arafat appointed a Moslem from Hebron,
Muhammed Rashad A-Jabari, as governor of Bethlehem. He fired the existing
Bethlehem city council that had consisted of nine Christians and two
Moslems, replacing it with a 50:50 council. While the mayor is a Christian,
the top bureaucratic, security and political echelons, and lower levels as
well, have been drained of Christians.47 Furthermore, "according to the new
local council elections' regulations designed by the PA-but not yet put into
effect, however-mayors will be nominated by the council members in their
towns. Christians fear that these new regulations will open the way to the
nomination of Muslim mayors to the traditional Christian towns."48

While six out of the eighty-eight seats in the Palestinian Legislative
Council have been reserved for Christians49, representing more than double
their proportion in Palestinian society, the Council is a fairly powerless
entity. Similarly, no Christian holds a position of power in the
Palestinian government.

Harassment Of Palestinian Christians By Palestinian Muslims

Palestinian Christians are perceived by many Moslems-as were Lebanon's
Christians-as a potential Fifth Column for Israel. In fact, at the start of
the recent War of Terror in 2000, Moslem Palestinians attacked Christians in
Gaza, as confirmed by Fr. Raed Abusahlia, chancellor of the Latin
Patriarchate in Jerusalem.50

Anti-Christian graffiti is not uncommon in Bethlehem and neighboring Beit
Sahur, proclaiming such things as: "First the Saturday people (the Jews),
then the Sunday people (the Christians)."51 The same has often been heard
chanted during anti-Israel PLO/PA rallies. Accused of wearing "permissive"
Western clothing, Bethlehem Christian women have been intimidated. Finally,
rape and abduction of Christian women is also reported to have occurred
frequently (especially in Beit Sahur), as was the case in Lebanon.52

Christian cemeteries have been defaced, monasteries have had their telephone
lines cut, and there have been break-ins to convents.53

In July 1994, the Wall Street Journal reported that Palestinian Moslems
would not sell land to Christians and that Christian facilities and clubs
had been attacked by Moslem extremists. Christian graves, crosses, and
statues had been desecrated; Christians had suffered physical abuse,
beatings, and Molotov cocktail attacks.54

Continuing the Islamic tradition of Saladin-who constructed two mosques
contiguous to and taller than the Church of the Holy Sepulcher-mosques have
mushroomed adjacent to and usually taller than churches. Loudly amplified
Moslem sermons have been aired during Christian services, including the
Pope's April 2000 address in Nazareth, which had to be halted until the
Moslem call to prayer was concluded.55

In February 2002, Palestinian Moslems rampaged against Christians in
Ramallah, and the Palestinian Authority failed to intervene. As reported by
the Boston Globe,

...the rampage began after Hanna Salameh, a member of a wealthy Christian
family, allegedly killed Jibril Eid, a Muslim construction contractor from
the Kalandia refugee camp, after the two men argued at the Israeli army's
Kalandia checkpoint...Salameh also allegedly assaulted Eid's brother and a
police officer, then fled the scene and turned himself in to police in
Ramallah. A few hours later, hundreds of men poured out of the refugee camp
and went to Ramallah, where they burned Salameh's house and store. They then
burned his brother's store, damaged several businesses owned by Christians
not related to the Salamehs, and torched the exercise room and terrorized
more than 100 children at Sariya, a scouting and youth center.

Palestinian police did nothing to stop this destruction, according to
numerous witnesses, but drew the line as the mob moved toward Christian
churches, whose leaders the Palestinian Authority is cultivating for
international support in its struggle with Israel.

While officials of the Palestinian Authority and of Fatah insisted that the
incident was simply about revenge and anger, many in Ramallah said
otherwise.

"The truth is this is a problem between Christians and Muslims," said one
Christian businessman. "There is no security for us. Everyone is taking the
law in his own hands...This [accused] man's brother, they burned his house,
his shops, his cars, and the police of Ramallah stood by and watched. This
is the democracy of Palestine?"

...[even] some members of the security services participated in the mob
action, witnesses said.

"The chief of security at Kalandia was in charge of this rampage," said a
Muslim shopkeeper. "The mayor of Ramallah came, saw what was happening, and
withdrew. I am a Muslim, but I condemn this. These are savage people." 56

And, similar attacks have occurred in eastern Jerusalem.

Over the weekend, a gang of Moslem youths ransacked a pool hall near the
Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is frequented by Christian youths. Four
of the Christians were stabbed and lightly wounded; one of them required
hospitalization. Witnesses said about fifty Moslem youths marched through
the Christian Quarter to the pool hall Saturday afternoon, chanting
anti-Christian slogans. They attacked the Christians inside, and broke
chairs, tables, and other objects...Old City police chief Dep. Cmdr. David
Givati, confirmed that there have been a number of attacks by Moslems on
Christian targets recently.57

THE PALESTINIAN CHRISTIAN RESPONSE

Escape

Per the Oslo Accords, between 1995 and 1997 the Palestinian Authority was
given civilian control over 98% of the Palestinian population of Gaza and
the West Bank. One might have expected Palestinian Christians, in the
spirit of Palestinian self-determination, to embrace PA jurisdiction. This
has not been the case; Palestinian Christians are fleeing.

Palestinian Christians have fled Islamic rule in the past. In the final
census conducted by the British mandatory authorities in 1947, there were
28,000 Christians in Jerusalem. The census conducted by Israel immediately
after the Six Day War in 1967, which ended the 19-year Jordanian control of
the eastern portion of the city, found just 11,000 Christians remaining in
the city. Some 17,000 Christians (or 61 per cent!) left during the days of
Jordan's rule over Jerusalem.58

True, there has been a steady outflow of Christians from the Holy Land for
some time. Daughter communities in North and South America had already
outnumbered their mother communities by 1948.59 But, this outflow has
accelerated since the imminence of PA control.

Between the 1993 signing of the Oslo Accords until the 1995 transfer of
Bethlehem to the PA, Palestinian Christians lobbied Israel against the
transfer. The late Christian mayor, Elias Freij, warned that it would
result in Bethlehem becoming a town with churches, but no Christians. He
lobbied Israel to include Bethlehem in the boundaries of Greater Jerusalem,
as was the Jordanian practice until 1967.60

In December 1997, The Times of London reported: "Life in (PA ruled)
Bethlehem has become insufferable for many members of the dwindling
Christian minorities. Increasing Muslim-Christian tensions have left some
Christians reluctant to celebrate Christmas in the town at the heart of the
story of Christ's birth."61 The situation has become so desperate for
Christians that, "during his visit to Bethlehem, Pope John Paul II felt it
necessary to urge Palestinian Christians already in March 2000: 'Do not be
afraid to preserve your Christian heritage and Christian presence in
Bethlehem.'"62

More recently, on July 17, 2000, upon realizing that then Prime Minister
Barak was contemplating repartitioning Jerusalem, the leaders of the
Greek-Orthodox, Latin and Armenian Churches sent a letter to him, President
Clinton, and Chairman Arafat, demanding to be consulted before such action
was undertaken. Barak's proposal also triggered a flood of requests for
Israeli I.D. cards by thousands of East Jerusalem Arabs. (This plus the
fact that Israel's own Christian population is actually growing refute any
claim that emigration is a result of Israel's treatment of Christians.)

Muteness to Obsequiousness

Despite their beleaguerment, Palestinian Christians do not speak out about
their situation. Indeed, some seem to go out of their way to profess unity
and harmony with Palestinian Moslems.

Intellectuals and clergymen...never tire of insisting that harmony has
always prevailed between Muslims and Christians in Palestine. The Anglican
Bishop of the Diocese of Jerusalem Riyah Abu-'Assal stated emphatically:
"The entire history of Palestine never witnessed any religious conflict
between Christians and Muslims." In her book This Side of Peace, Hanan
Ashrawi declares that while growing up she felt no difference between
Palestinian Christians and Muslims: "We did not know who was what, and it
was not an issue."63

Some publicly reject claims of maltreatment. For example, the Christian
National Institutions in Palestine and the Holy Lands averred on January 4,
2002:

We reiterate our strongest condemnation to all the lies and allegations of
the Israeli officials about Christians being oppressed by the [PA].
Therefore, we declare our absolute rejection to all those lies.64

Some go so far as to distort Christian belief to actively ally with their
Moslem compatriots. A glaring example was recently reported in the
International Herald Tribune:

"We are marching to Jerusalem, martyrs in the millions," chanted students at
Ramallah's Anglican elementary school, as Arafat waved from the balcony of a
cultural center next door.65

Yet, as Hanan Shlein writes in Ma'ariv, while "out of fear for their safety,
Christian spokesmen aren't happy to be identified by name when they complain
about the Muslims' treatment of them,...off the record they talk of
harassment and terror tactics, mainly from the gangs of thugs who looted and
plundered Christians and their property, under the protection of Palestinian
security personnel."66

In fact, the Christians' silence may be precisely because they are a
beleaguered minority with a long history of dhimmitude. As Lebanese
Christian Habib Malik describes:

This sentiment is motivated primarily by a desire for a unified position vis
Ó vis Israel. But it also stems from a deeper dhimmi psychological state:
the urge to find-or to imagine and fabricate if need be-a common cause with
the ruling majority in order to dilute the existing religious differences
and perhaps ease the weight of political Islam's inevitable discrimination.
The history of Palestinian Christianity has, for the most part, been no
different from that of dhimmi Christianity throughout the Levant.67

One Christian cleric in Jerusalem whom I interviewed compared the behavior
of Christian dhimmis to that of battered wives or children, who continue to
defend and even identify with their tormentor even as the abuse persists.

In fact, Palestinian Christians have suffered as dhimmis for centuries. An
English traveler in the Holy Land in 1816, for example, remarked that
Christians were not permitted to ride on horseback without express
permission from the Moslem Pasha.68

Other European travelers to the Holy Land mentioned the practice whereby "a
dhimmi must not come face to face with a Muslim in the street but pass him
to the left, the impure side" and described how Christians were humiliated
and insulted in the streets of Jerusalem until the mid-1800s. The British
consul in Jerusalem wrote that in the Holy Land, particularly in Jerusalem
until 1839, Christians were pushed into the gutter by any Muslim who would
swear: "turn to my left, thou dog." They were forbidden to ride on a mount
in town or to wear bright clothes.69

In the early 1900s, sporadic attacks on Christians by bands of Muslims
occurred in many Palestinian towns.70 During the Palestinian Arab revolt in
the late 1930s, which involved very few Christians, if Christian villagers
refused to supply the terrorist bands with weapons and provisions, their
vines were uprooted and their women raped. The rebels forced the Christian
population to observe the weekly day of rest on Friday instead of Sunday and
to replace the tarboosh by the kaffiyeh for men, whereas women were forced
to wear the veil. In 1936, Muslims marched through the Christian village of
Bir Zayt near Ramallah chanting: "We are going to kill the Christians."71

From 1953 until 1967, Jordan undertook to Islamize the Christian quarter in
the Old City of Jerusalem by laws forbidding Christians to buy land and
houses...It ordered the compulsory closure of schools on Muslim holidays and
authorized mosques to be built near churches, thus preventing any
possibility of enlargement.72

In the early 1900s, an additional dynamic took root with the advent of the
Jewish return to the area. Palestinian Christians began to band with the
Moslems to oppose Jewish immigration and presence, at least in part as a way
to deflect Moslem hostility away from themselves and onto Israel. As Sir
John Chancellor, British High Commissioner in Palestine, put it in 1931:

Christian Arab leaders, moreover, have admitted to me that in establishing
close relations with the [Palestinian] Moslems the Christians have not been
uninfluenced by fears of the treatment they might suffer at the hands of the
Moslem majority in certain eventualities.73

[Palestinian Christians] "internalized this dependence on the Muslim
majority as a social characteristic that persisted even after the Ottoman
reforms of the nineteenth century abolished these rules...The Christians
worried that Muslim religious emotions aroused against the Jews might
subsequently be turned against them."74

It is no surprise, then, that Palestinian Christians do not speak out
against their treatment. What may be surprising is the extent to which this
condition has taken some Palestinian Christians: denigration of
non-Palestinian Christians. As Father Manuel Musalam, head of the Latin
Church in Gaza, told Palestinian Authority Television:

Therefore I, the Christian Palestinian, say in all rage and daring to the
Christians of the world: You are loathsome! You are contemptible!...[We
Palestinian Christians] are facing the filthy Christians of the West...What
kind of Christianity is this? This is not Christianity; it is not even
paganism. This is Christianity of the jungle. Our New Testament is not
their New Testament, our Jesus is not their Jesus...I will say still more:
Our God is not their God.75

CONCLUSION

The number of reported incidents, the diversity of sources, and the fleeing
of Christians warrant concern and further investigation.

1 David Raab is a strategy consultant who writes frequently on the Middle
East.
2 Daphne Tsimhoni, "The Christians in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza
Strip," Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2001
3 Bat Ye'or, Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide, Fairleigh
Dickenson University Press, 2002, p. 41
4 Habib C. Malik, "Christians In The Land Called Holy," First Things: A
Journal of Religion And Public Life, January 1999
5 Bashir Gemayel, LibertÚ et SÚcuritÚ (Beirut, 1983), pp. 37-38, cited in
Bat Ye'or, p. 248
6 Jonathan Adelman and Aggie Kuperman, Rocky Mountain News, December 22,
2001
7 "Muslim Countries Becoming Bolder in Persecuting Christians," Battle Cry
Magazine, September/October 2001
8 "Saudi Telethon Host Calls for Enslaving Jewish Women," from the Saudi
Information Service as reported in the National Review Online, April 26,
2002
9 Adelman and Kuperman
10 Bat Ye'or, p.225
11 Raphael Israeli, Green Crescent Over Nazareth: The Displacement Of
Christians By Muslims In The Holy Land, (Frank Cass: London, 2002), p. 60
12 Serge Schmemann, "Israelis Bar Mosque On Site In Nazareth," International
Herald Tribune, March 4, 2002
13 Tsimhoni
14 Tsimhoni
15 MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 138, October 13, 2000
16 International Religious Freedom Report: Israel and the Occupied
Territories, U.S. Department of State, Released October 26, 2001
17 Palestinian Authority Ministry of Information, December 1997, as reported
in http://www.lawsociety.org/Reports/reports/1998/crz4.html
18 Dani Naveh (Israeli Minister of Parliamentary Affairs) et al, The
Involvement of Arafat, PA Senior Officials and Apparatuses in Terrorism
against Israel, Corruption and Crime, 2002,
http://www.mfa.gov.il/mfa/go.asp?MFAH0lom0
19 The Palestinian Authority's Treatment of Christians in the Autonomous
Areas, Israeli Government, October 1997, translated to English by IMRA
20 Naveh
21 Sayed Anwar, "Exiled Palestinian militants ran two-year reign of terror,"
The Washington Times, May 13, 2002
22 Naveh
23 The Palestinian Authority's Treatment of Christians in the Autonomous
Areas
24 Associated Press, as reported in Yoram Ettinger, "The Islamization of
Bethlehem By Arafat," Jerusalem Cloakroom #117, Ariel Center for Policy
Research, December 25, 2001
25 Yoram Ettinger
26 Letter from Andreas Reinecke to Colonel Jibril Rajoub, Head of the PA
Preventive Security Apparatus in the West Bank, May 5, 2002, from IDF
Spokesperson, May, 12, 2002
27 Yediot Ahronot on May 24 as reported in Daily Alert, Conference of
Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, May 30, 2002
28 IDF Spokesperson, April 3, 2002
29 Serge Schmemann et al, "Israeli Military Sends Tanks Into Largest West
Bank City," New York Times, April 3, 2002
30 "Sharon Proposes Arafat's Exile While Israeli Forces Shell His Compound,"
New York Times, April 2, 2002
31 Amos Harel, "IDF Declares: We Won't Forcefully Enter The Church Of The
Nativity Holy To Christians," Haaretz (Hebrew Edition), April 5, 2002
32 Baruch Kra et al, "IDF Maintains Cautious Approach In Bethlehem,"
Haaretz, April 10, 2002
33 Paul Martin, "Arafat Tells Gunmen To Refuse Deal," The Washington Times,
April 8, 2002
34 "Top Vatican Official Speaks On Bethlehem Crisis," CWNews, April 10,
2002, http://www.catholicexchange.com/vm/index.asp?vm_id=31&art_id=13065
35 "Vatican Proposes Independent Force To Halt Mideast Violence," Worldwide
Faith News website, http://www.wfn.org/2002/04/msg00201.html, 15 April, 2002
36 Margot Dudkevitch, "Gunmen Stole Gold, Crucifixes, Escaped Monks Report,"
The Jerusalem Post, April, 24 2002
37 "'Greedy Monsters' Ruled Church," The Washington Times, May 15, 2002
38 Ori Nir et al, "Arafat's Terror In Church: Armed PA Security Forces
Keeping 50 Youths Hostage In Church Of The Nativity Cellar," Haaretz, April
22, 2002
39 Interview with Independent Media Review and Analysis (IMRA), 25 December
1996
40 Interview, Fox News Sunday, April 21, 2002
41 Al-Quds, June 18, 1999, as reported in MEMRI, Special Dispatch No. 41,
August 2, 1999
42 Murray Kahl, "Yasser Arafat and the Christians of Lebanon," 13 January
2002, http://christianactionforisrael.org/prsecutn/yasser.html
43 Nadav Shragai, "Islamic Movement Planning Fourth Mosque For Temple
Mount," Haaretz (Online English Edition), June 18, 2000
44 Andrea Levin, "EYE ON THE MEDIA: Desperately Seeking the Temple Mount,"
The Jerusalem Post, July 11, 2000
45 Etgar Lefkovits, "Antiquities Authority: Wakf damaging Temple Mount," The
Jerusalem Post, March 22 2001
46 Uri Dan, "Temple Mount Artifacts Looted", The New York Post, April 22,
2001
47 Ettinger
48 Tsimhoni
49 Tsimhoni
50 Margot Dudkevitch et al, "Church Denies Christians Fleeing PA Areas," The
Jerusalem Post, October 26, 2000
51 Andre Aciman, "In the Muslim City Of Bethlehem," New York Times Magazine,
December 24, 1995
52 Ettinger
53 The Palestinian Authority's Treatment of Christians in the Autonomous
Areas
54 Bat Ye'or, p. 244
55 Tsimhoni
56 Charles Radin, "Mob Fears Grow In West Bank," The Boston Globe, February
6, 2002.
57 Bill Hutman, "Concern Over Moslem Attacks On Christians In Old City,"
Jerusalem Post, July 18, 1994
58 The Palestinian Authority's Treatment of Christians in the Autonomous
Areas
59 Tsimhoni
60 Ettinger
61 Reported in Adelman and Kuperman
62 Yasser Arafat, Christmas, and the PFLP, JERUSALEM ISSUE BRIEF, Jerusalem
Center for Public Affairs, Vol. 1, No. 13, 25 December 2001
63 Malik
64 WAFA (Official Palestine News Agency), January 5, 2002,
http://www.wafa.pna.net/EngText/05-01-2002/page004.htm
65 John Lancaster, "Hailed As Hero, Arafat Emerges From Siege And Tours
Ramallah," International Herald Tribune, May 3, 2002, p.1
66 Ma'ariv, December 24, 2001. Translated from the Hebrew by Palestinian
Media Watch.
67 Malik
68 James Silk Buckingham, Travels in Palestine, (London, 1821), cited in Bat
Ye'or, p. 98
69 James Finn, as cited in Bat Ye'or, p.100 and footnote 65
70 Yehoshua Porath, The Palestinian Arab National Movement, 1929-1939: From
Riots to Rebellion (London, 1977), p.109, cited in Bat Ye'or p. 160-161
71 Porath, pp. 268-70
72 Bat Ye'or, p. 235
73 Yehoshua Porath, The Emergence Of The Palestinian Arab National Movement,
1918-1929, (London, 1974), p. 303, cited in Bat Ye'or, p. 160
74 Tsimhoni
75 Palestinian Television (Palestinian Authority), April 22, 2002, as
transcribed and translated by MEMRI, Arab Christian Clergymen Against
Western Christians, Jews, And Israel, #93, May 1, 2002

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