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How friendly is Israel to its Christians?

ICC Note

The Palestinian Christians’ response to an article written by Michael Oren, the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, concerning the protection of Christians within Israel. Article titled: “Israel and the Plight of Mideast Christians"

3/16/2012 Israel (Wall Street Journal) – Regarding Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren's "Israel and the Plight of Mideast Christians" (op-ed, March 9): No doubt, his piece will be compelling for many readers. Christians in North America are generally sympathetic to Christians who suffer elsewhere. More negatively, many respond well when blame for that suffering is placed on Muslims. The biggest problem with Mr. Oren's analysis, however, is that it stands in sharp disagreement with the perspectives shared by those he presumably wants to protect. Mr. Oren seeks to speak for Palestinian Christians before he has spoken with them.

Palestinian Christians have produced major studies of Palestinian Christian demographic trends. Difficulties created by Israeli occupation policies far outweigh pressure from Muslim neighbors as reasons for Christian migration from the West Bank. According to a study by the Bethlehem-based Diyar Consortium, "most of those who choose to emigrate" are "aggravated by the lack of freedom and security." At "the bottom of the scale," they found, "are family reunification, fleeing religious extremism and finding a spouse."

It is irresponsible for Amb. Oren to make political points among some segments of the U.S. population by intentionally disregarding factors contributing to Palestinian Christian migration away from their homeland. By blaming their condition on Muslims alone, while ignoring the negative effects of Israeli occupation policies, including the debilitating economic effects of the separation barrier, Mr. Oren is using anti-Muslim sentiments among some Americans to hide the effects of Israeli policy. This cynical political rhetoric fuels extremism and does not promote peace.

The Rev. Robert O. Smith

Chicago

I am a Palestinian Christian, and the numbers and facts given by Mr. Oren are erroneous and misleading. With the creation of the state of Israel, 80% of Palestinian Christians were forced into exile. The number of Christians in Jerusalem dropped dramatically since the occupation of the city in 1967, and Palestinian Christians are denied access to Jerusalem. To pretend that their numbers greatly increased contradicts all statistics, including Israeli statistics. Allowing "holiday access to Jerusalem's churches to Christians from both the West Bank and Gaza" is denying free access, and those permits are given selectively, in small numbers and revoked often with the "closure" of the occupied territories. Pretending to defend the interests of the Christians contradicts facts on the ground, where Christians suffer the same consequences of military occupation as all Palestinians. Most of the land belonging to Christians in Bethlehem is being confiscated with the building of the separation wall. Is that the "respect and appreciation" the Christian community receives from the Jewish state?

Fr. Jamal Khader, D.D.

Dean of the Faculty of Arts

Bethlehem University

Bethlehem

I am one of those Palestinian Christians that Mr. Oren refers to, who live inside Israel. At no time in my life have I ever felt the "respect and appreciation" by the Jewish state which Mr. Oren so glowingly refers to in his last paragraph. Israel's Christian minority is marginalized in much the same manner as its Muslim one, or at best, quietly tolerated. We suffer the same discrimination when we try to find a job, when we go to hospitals, when we apply for bank loans and when we get on the bus. In my daily dealings with the state, all I have felt is rudeness and overt contempt.

Fida Jiryis

Fassuta, Israel

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  • http://twitter.com/brianvhunt Brian V Hunt

    Rev. Robert O. Smith sites a study that suggests that the first reason Palestinian Christians emigrate is their "lack of freedom and security". He implies that it is Israel's fault. Can anyone seriously argue that Palestinian Christians would have enhanced 'freedom and security' under a Hamas, Islamic Jehad or PLO controlled west bank? What plans does Rev. Smith believe the Islamists have for Christian if they take power? Have a look at what has happened to Christians in Muslim controlled Gaza. See how Christians are faring in Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Algeria, etc. Everywhere in the Middle East except in Israel the Christian population is in decline. In all Arab counties Christians are persecuted. 

  • David

    Under 19 years of Jordanian occupation - from 1948 - 1967, the number of Christians in East Jerusalem dropped from 28,000 to 11,000.  Israel is the only country in the Middle East where the Christian population is growing.  I could list the many persecutions of Christians by their fellow Arabs in the West Bank & Gaza - whether by Jordan or by the current regimes.  But the numbers speak for themselves.

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