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ICC NOTE: Barely noticed in the world today by the media is the situation in regards to Palestinian Christians, who have virtually disappeared from Palestine because of religious persecution.

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Fight Erupts in D.C. Over Plight of Palestinian Christians

By Ori Nir

June 23, 2006

WASHINGTON — A battle has erupted on Capitol Hill over who should be blamed for the plight of Palestinian Christians: Israel or the Palestinian Authority.

All sides agree that the Christian community in the West Bank faces existential threats and is dwindling, from 6% of the population 50 years to about 1.5% today. They bitterly disagree, however, about who should be held responsible for the decline.

Some argue that the continuing burden of Israel ‘s occupation is the main culprit; others contend that it is the Palestinian Authority that is mainly responsible, because it allegedly engages in religious discrimination and turns a blind eye to the harassment and persecution of Christians.

The debate itself is not new. Israel and some of its advocates in the United States have in the past fended off accusations regarding the negative impact on Christians of Israeli policies in the West Bank by arguing that intra-Palestinian tensions play a more decisive role in pushing Palestinian Christians to leave the territories. This time around, however, the tussle is taking place on Capitol Hill, with Palestinian Christian activists and their backers attempting to rally the White House for help, and pro-Israel forces trying to leverage government support through legislation.

The battle erupted last month, when the powerful chairman of the House International Relations Committee, Rep. Henry Hyde, an Illinois Republican, sent a letter to President Bush, warning that “Israeli actions [in the West Bank] seem to go beyond the realm of legitimate security concerns and have negative consequences on communities and lands under their [sic] occupation.” Hyde wrote that while America should support Israel ‘s self-defense, it is “important that United States ‘ support for Israel not be perceived as involving the affirmation of injustice.”

Days after the letter was sent, an aide to Rep. Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican, drafted a resolution blasting the P.A. over the plight of Christians in the territories. The resolution, which makes no attempt to place any degree of blame on Israel, calls on the president and the secretary of state “to address the condition of minorities under Palestinian Authority rule in order to save from destruction the oldest Christian community in the world.” It also urges the State Department to “investigate and report on the extent of human rights violations by the Palestinian Authority” against Palestinian Christians.

American and Palestinian Christians say that they were not consulted about the proposed resolution. They also point out that it was drafted with the help of an Israeli lawyer, and they say that the current version of the text is marked by distortions and misinformation.

Rep. Joseph Crowley, a New York Democrat, also sponsors the resolution. So far, staffers for Crowley and McCaul — both members of the House International Relations Committee, chaired by Hyde — have recruited more than 20 co-sponsors, including the chair of the House’s subcommittee on the Middle East and the lead candidate to succeed Hyde, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican, and the committee’s minority leader, Rep. Gary Ackerman, a New York Democrat. For the full article…