December 24, 2009, - 4:20 pm
Every year, at Christmas time, the anti-Israel mainstream media uses it as an excuse to do double duty on what they do every single day: bash Israel and claim it’s “harassing the Palestinians of Bethlehem.”
But we know who is really harassing the Palestinian Christians–the few left of them that there are–of Bethlehem. The same group of Muslim persecutors who kill Christian Arabs all over the Mid-East. I’ve written about them many times on this site. I’ve noted that Christmas is an especially stark time of fear for the scant few Christians left in Gaza, and noted that Last Rites in the Holy Land are truly the “last.” But it’s the same for Christians in Iraq, Egypt, Turkey, and in some parts of Lebanon (soon all of it). And forget any sign of Christianity in most of the Gulf states and Iran, as well as parts of Africa.
It should be noted that these Christians often bet on the Muslims–such as the Palestinian Christians, who historically sided with Arafat against Israel (a notable example was Hanan Ashrawi, Peter Jennings former concubine, who was removed from the Arafat camp because she was a Christian). But they bet wrong. And the Muslims have shown them that in spades. David Schwammenthal, a Wall Street Journal Europe editorial writer, has a must-read, “Bethlehem’s Persecuted Christians.” None of this is news to me, but it might be to many Christians who believe what they see on the nightly news.
Meet Yussuf Khoury, a 23-year old Palestinian refugee living in the West Bank. . . . Mr. Khoury fled his birthplace just two years ago. And he wasn’t running away from Israelis, but from his Palestinian brethren in Gaza.
Mr. Khoury’s crime in that Hamas-ruled territory was to be a Christian, a transgression he compounded in the Islamists’ eyes by writing love poems.
“Muslims tied to Hamas tried to take me twice,” says Mr. Khoury, and he didn’t want to find out what they’d do to him if they ever kidnapped him. He hasn’t seen his family since Christmas 2007 and is afraid even to talk to them on the phone. . . .
Mr. Khoury describes a life of fear in Gaza. “My sister is under a lot of pressure to wear a headscarf. People are turning more and more to Islamic fundamentalism and the situation for Christians is very difficult,” he says.
In 2007, one year after the Hamas takeover, the owner of Gaza’s only Christian bookstore was abducted and murdered. Christian shops and schools have been firebombed. Little wonder that most of Mr. Khoury’s Christian friends have also left Gaza. . . .
Until Palestinian terrorist groups turned Bethlehem into a safe haven for suicide bombers, Bethlehemites were free to enter Israel, just as many Israelis routinely visited Bethlehem.
The other truth usually ignored by the Western press is that the barrier helped restore calm and security not just in Israel, but also in the West Bank including Bethlehem. The Church of the Nativity, which Palestinian gunmen stormed and defiled in 2002 to escape from Israeli security forces, is now filled again with tourists and pilgrims from around the world.
But even here in Jesus’ birthplace, which is under the control of the Palestinian Authority (PA), Christians live on a knife’s edge. Mr. Khoury tells me that Muslims often stand in front of the gate of the Bible College and read from the Quran to intimidate Christian students. Other Muslims like to roll out their prayer rugs right in Manger Square.
Asked about why Muslims would pray so close to one of Christianity’s holiest sites, Pastor Alex Awad, dean of students at the Bible College, diplomatically advises me to pose this question to the Muslims themselves. . . .
Christians have only recently begun to talk about how Muslim gangs simply come and take possession of Christian-owned land while the Palestinian security services, almost exclusively staffed by Muslims, stand by. Mr. Qumsieh’s own home was firebombed three years ago. . . .
“We have never suffered as we are suffering now,” Mr. Qumsieh [Samir Qumsieh, the founder of what he says is the holy land's only Christian TV station] confesses, violating his own introductory warning to the assorted foreign correspondents in his office not to use the word “suffering.”
Always a minority religion among the predominantly Muslim Palestinians, Christians are, Mr. Qumsieh says, “melting away,” even in Bethlehem. While they represented about 80% of the city’s population 60 years ago, their numbers are now down to about 20%, a result not just of Muslims’ higher birth rates but also widespread Christian emigration. “Our future as a Christian community here is gloomy,” Mr. Qumsieh says.
What is happening to Christians in Bethlehem can and will happen anywhere in the world, including here in the United States. That’s why it’s so important to take the important steps to stop Islamic immigration here, though it’s basically already too late. We won’t likely see it in our lifetimes. But if we continue to do nothing, in a hundred years or a couple of centuries, America will see it as bad as the Christian residents of Bethlehem are, today.
Read more on the Christians fighting to survive throughout the Islamic world:
Tags: Bethlehem, Christian Palestinians, Christmas, Christmas in Bethlehem, Muslim persecution of Christians, Palestinian Christians, persecution, Samir Qumsieh, Yussuf Khoury