.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;} <$BlogRSDUrl$>




Ontario Empoblog

Ontario Emperor Blog
("yup, its random!")
This blog has been superseded by the mrontemp blog


Home
Archives

October 2003   November 2003   December 2003   January 2004   February 2004   March 2004   April 2004   May 2004   June 2004   July 2004   August 2004   September 2004   October 2004   November 2004   December 2004   January 2005   February 2005   March 2005   April 2005   May 2005   June 2005   July 2005   August 2005   September 2005   October 2005   November 2005   December 2005   January 2006   February 2006   March 2006   April 2006   May 2006   June 2006   July 2006   August 2006   September 2006   October 2006   November 2006   December 2006   January 2007   February 2007  


The Breast Cancer Site
Fund free mammograms at no cost to yourself by clicking on the link, then on the pink button.


Hall of Shame (NoteUnworthy Blog Posts)
Other Blogs (sorted regionally)
Ontario Emperor Selected del.icio.us Tags

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Listed on BlogShares

;

pkblogs.com


Who Links Here

Click for Ontario, California Forecast

Wednesday, November 10, 2004


Meanwhile, the Christian Palestinians Continue Their Struggle
From The American Conservative:


Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” is playing to full houses in the Syrian capital Damascus....Many of those watching the movie on this occasion are Palestinian Christian refugees whose parents or grandparents were purged from their homeland—the land of Christ—at the foundation of Israel in 1948. For them the movie has an underlying symbolic meaning not easily perceived in the West: not only is it a depiction of the trial, scourging, and death of Jesus, it is also a symbolic depiction of the fate of the Palestinian people. “This is how we feel,” says Zaki, a 27-year old Palestinian Christian whose family hails from Haifa. “We take beating after beating at the hands of the world, they crucify our people, they insult us, but we refuse to surrender.”

At the time of the creation of the Israeli state in 1948, it is estimated that the Christians of Palestine numbered some 350,000. Almost 20 percent of the total population at the time, they constituted a vibrant and ancient community; their forbears had listened to St. Peter in Jerusalem as he preached at the first Pentecost. Yet Zionist doctrine held that Palestine was “a land without a people for a people without a land.” Of the 750,000 Palestinians that were forced from their homes in 1948, some 50,000 were Christians—7 percent of the total number of refugees and 35 percent of the total number of Christians living in Palestine at the time....

Today it is believed that the number of Christians in Israel and occupied Palestine number some 175,000, just over 2 percent of the entire population, but the numbers are rapidly dwindling due to mass emigration. Of those who have remained in the region, most live in Lebanon....[I]t is estimated that between 100,000 and 300,000 Palestinian Christians currently live in the U.S.

The Palestinian Christians see themselves, and are seen by their Muslim compatriots, as an integral part of the Palestinian people, and they have long been a vital part of the Palestinian struggle. As the Anglican bishop of Jerusalem, the Reverend Riah Abu al-Assal has explained, “The Arab Palestinian Christians are part and parcel of the Arab Palestinian nation. We have the same history, the same culture, the same habits and the same hopes.”

Yet U.S. media and politicians have become accustomed to thinking of and talking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as one in which an enlightened democracy is constantly forced to repel attacks from crazy-eyed Islamists bent on the destruction of the Jewish people and the imposition of an Islamic state. Palestinians are equated with Islamists, Islamists with terrorists. It is presumably because all organized Christian activity among Palestinians is non-political and non-violent that the community hardly ever hits the Western headlines; suicide bombers sell more copy than people who congregate for Bible study.

Lebanese and Syrian Christians were essential in the conception of Arab nationalism as a general school of anti-colonial thought following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the beginning of the 20th century. During the 1930s, Hajj Amin al-Hussein, the leader of the Palestinian struggle against the British colonialists, surrounded himself with Christian advisors and functionaries. In the 1950s and ’60s, as the various factions that were to form the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) emerged, some of the most prominent militants were yet again of Christian origin. For instance, George Habash, a Greek Orthodox medical doctor from al-Lod, created the Arab Nationalists’ Movement and went on to found the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Naif Hawatmeh, also Greek Orthodox, from al-Salt in Jordan, founded and still today heads up the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine....

Among the remnant communities in Palestine, most belong to the traditional Christian confessions. The largest group is Greek Orthodox, followed by Catholics (Roman, Syrian, Maronite, and Melkite), Armenian Orthodox, Anglicans, and Lutherans. There is also a small but influential Quaker presence. These communities are centered in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Beit Jala, Beit Sahour, and Ramallah.

For them, the conflict with Israel is quite obviously not about Islamism contra enlightenment but simply about resistance against occupation. To be sure, there have been periods of tension between the Christian communities and members of the Islamist groups, yet to many Christian Palestinians the Islamist movements have emerged by default as the heroes in the conflict with Israel....The Lebanese Hezbollah, widely seen as a nonsectarian organization that is able to cooperate with people of all faiths, is particularly admired both among the refugees in Lebanon as well as those who remain in Palestine. “We have received far more support and comfort from the Hezbollah in Lebanon than from our fellow Christians in the West,” remarked one Christian Palestinian refugee in Damascus. “I want to know, why don’t the Christians in the West do anything to help us? Are the teachings of Jesus nothing but empty slogans to them?”

This is a justified and important question, but the answer is not straightforward. The Catholic Church has, in fact, long argued for an end to the Israeli occupation and for improvement of the Palestinians’ situation. The leaders of the Eastern Orthodox churches have taken similar, often more strongly worded positions. Likewise, many Lutheran and Calvinist churches run organizations and programs that seek to ease the suffering of the Palestinians and draw attention to the injustices with which they are faced. Usually working within strictly religious frames of reference, however, their impact on the political situation has been minimal.

This political limitation has not applied to those parts of the Evangelical movement that have adopted Zionism as a core element of their religious doctrine. Christian Zionists in the U.S. are currently organized in an alliance with the pro-Israel lobby and the neoconservative elements of the Republican Party, enabling them to put significant pressure on both the president and members of Congress. In fact, they are among the most influential shapers of policy in the country, including individuals such as Ralph Reed, Pat Robertson, and Jerry Falwell, and groups such as the National Unity Coalition for Israel, Christians for Israel, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, and Chosen People Ministries.

Christian Zionism is an odd thing on many levels. A key tenet of Christian Zionism is absolute support for Israel, whose establishment and existence, it is believed, heralds Armageddon and the second coming of Christ. The politically relevant upshot of this is that without Israel’s expansion there can be no redemption, and those who subscribe to this interpretation are only too eager to sacrifice their Palestinian fellow Christians on the altar of Zionism. They do not want to hear about coreligionists’ suffering at the hands of Israel....

One of the most potent forces behind the Evangelical Zionist influence in Washington is Tom DeLay, leader of the Republican majority in the House. DeLay insists that his devotion to Israel stems from his faith in God, which allows him a clear understanding of the struggle between good and evil....

Christians find themselves under the hammer of the Israeli occupation to no less an extent than Muslims, yet America—supposedly a Christian country—stands idly by because its most politically influential Christians have decided that Palestinian Christians are acceptable collateral damage in their apocalyptic quest....



You'll recall that we've encountered the Christian Coalition before, and its policy of only supporting candidates from the two major political parties.

Well, let's see what the Christian Coalition website has to say about palestinian christians:







Oopsie...well, at least the United Methodists have a balanced approach...sort of:


"Peace in the Middle East"
United Methodist Church Resolution
~May 2004~

We join with Palestinian Christians as well as our Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters in feeling a deep sense of rootedness to the land which has special meaning for our three religious traditions....

Jerusalem is sacred to all the children of Abraham: Jews, Muslims, and Christians. We have a vision of a shared Jerusalem as a city of peace and reconciliation, where indigenous Palestinians and Israelis can live as neighbors and, along with visitors and tourists, have access to holy sites and exercise freedom of religious expression. The peaceful resolution of Jerusalem's status is crucial to the success of the whole process of making a just and lasting peace between Palestinians and Israelis.

We seek for all people in the region an end to military occupation, freedom from violence, and full respect for the human rights of all under international law....

WHEREAS, the continuing confiscation of Palestinian land for construction of settlements and the building of a separation wall violates basic understanding of human rights, subverts the peace process, destroys the hope of both Israelis and Palestinians who are working for and longing for peace, both Israelis and Palestinians, and fosters a sense of desperation that can only lead to further violence; and

WHEREAS, continued and often intensified closures, curfews, dehumanizing check points, home demolitions, uprooted trees, bulldozed fields, and confiscation of Palestinian land and water by the government of Israel have devastated economic infrastructure and development in the West Bank and Gaza, have caused a massive deterioration of the living standards of all Palestinians... and an increasing sense of hopelessness and frustration; and

WHEREAS, targeted assassinations, suicide bombings and attacks against civilians by both Israelis and Palestinians heighten the fear and suffering of all....

Therefore, be it resolved,

That The United Methodist Church opposes continued military occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, the confiscation of Palestinian land and water resources, the destruction of Palestinian homes, the continued building of illegal Jewish settlements, and any vision of a "Greater Israel" that includes the occupied territories and the whole of Jerusalem and its surroundings....

The United Methodist Church requests that the government of the United States, working in cooperation with the United Nations and other nations, urge the state of Israel to:

cease the confiscation of Palestinian lands and water for any reason;

cease the building of new, or expansion of existing, settlements and/or bypass roads in the occupied territories including East Jerusalem;

lift the closures and curfews on all Palestinian towns by completely withdrawing Israeli military forces to the Green Line (the 1948 ceasefire line between Israel and the West Bank);

dismantle that segment of the Wall of Separation constructed since May 2002 that is not being built on the Green Line but on Palestinian land which is separating Palestinian farmers from their fields.

We also urge the Palestinian Authority and all Palestinian Religious Leaders to continue to publicly condemn violence against Israeli civilians and to use non-violent acts of disobedience to resist the Occupation and the illegal settlements....



Note, of course, that there is no obligation to actually stop the violence against Israeli civilians. But still the United Methodists' heart is in the right place, I guess.

The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs argues that the sad plight of the Palestinian Christians is the fault of the Palestinian Muslims:


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 [Muslim] conqueror's initial right to kill or enslave [Jews and Christians], provided they submitted themselves to pay tribute."

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." 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."

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 Muslim Pasha.

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.

In the early 1900s, sporadic attacks on Christians by bands of Muslims occurred in many Palestinian towns. 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 with 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."

In the early 1900s, with the Jewish return to the area, Palestinian Christians began to band with the Muslims to oppose Jewish immigration, at least in part as a way to deflect Muslim hostility away from themselves. 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."

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....

In Israel...Muslim 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." In Nazareth, a significant clash developed in recent years when Muslims sought to build a grand mosque next to the Basilica of the Annunciation, the dominant Christian landmark in the town.

Islam is the official religion of the Palestinian Authority. 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 to display this publicly. Christmas is an official holiday. Arafat has stated as his mission "the protection of the Christian and Muslim holy places," and 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."

In addition, no PA law protects religious freedom. 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."

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."...

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.

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."

Similar findings were reported in the Washington Times following the PA takeover of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in April 2002.

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."...

Palestinian Christians are perceived by many Muslims - as were Lebanon's Christians - as a potential fifth column for Israel. In fact, at the start of the recent violence in 2000, Muslim Palestinians attacked Christians in Gaza, as confirmed by Fr. Raed Abusahlia, chancellor of the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem.

Anti-Christian graffiti is not uncommon in Bethlehem and neighboring Beit Sahur, proclaiming: "First the Saturday people (the Jews), then the Sunday people (the Christians)." 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.

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

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

In February 2002, Palestinian Muslims 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....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?"

"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."...

Under the Oslo Accords, between 1995 and 1997 the Palestinian Authority was given civilian control over 98 percent of the Palestinian population of Gaza and the West Bank. Instead of embracing PA jurisdiction in the spirit of Palestinian self-determination, however, 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. Some 17,000 Christians (61 percent) left during the days of Jordan's rule over Jerusalem.

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. But this outflow has accelerated since the rise of PA control.

Between the 1993 signing of the Oslo Accords and 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.

In December 1997, the London Times 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."66 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.'"

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 wrote to him, President Clinton, and Yasser Arafat, demanding to be consulted before such action was undertaken. Barak's proposal also triggered a flood of requests for Israeli identity cards by thousands of eastern Jerusalem Arabs. (This, plus the fact that Israel's own Christian population is actually growing, refutes any claim that emigration is a result of Israel's treatment of Christians.)

Despite their beleaguerment, Palestinian Christians do not speak out about their situation. "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."

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-a-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.

One Christian cleric in Jerusalem interviewed by this author 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.

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."



The website palestinefacts.org claims that the situation is better for Christians in Israel - well, sort of:


Jews are over 80% of the population of Israel; most of the remaining number are Sunni Palestinian Arabs. Christians make up 2% to 3% of the population. Of the Christian population in Israel, over 80% are Arabs. Many of the non-Arab Christians came to Israel with their Jewish spouses during the waves of immigration in the 1980s and '90s, mainly from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia.

The percentage of Christians in the Israeli population has steadily declined due to the immigration of Jews from all over the world. However, the absolute number of Christians has increased as Christians have entered Israel from Europe or areas in the Middle East. The Christian population of Israel has grown from 34,000 in 1949 to about 140,000 today.

Israeli law provides for freedom of religion and religious communities have legal authority in matters such as marriage and divorce. Some Christians live in Israel because that is where Jesus lived and the central events of Christianity took place. Some maintain the Christian holy sites and keep them open and accessible to all. They are welcomed by Israel and there is no friction with Jewish residents. However, some Christians have come to Israel as aggressive missionaries and that is not welcome, giving rise to restrictive laws. Despite pro-Arab claims, however, there is no evidence of Jewish persecution of Christians in Israel.


Comments:
I wrote about Palestinian Christians again in September 2005.
 
Post a Comment


Links to this post:

Create a Link