Palestinians: Why are attacks on Christians ignored? :: Gatestone Institute

A series of violent incidents in Bethlehem and the nearby towns of Beit Jala and Beit Sahour have left Christians worried about their safety and future under the Palestinian Authority. Last week, dozens of Muslim men attacked the Ancestor Orthodox Church in Beit Sahour, throwing stones and injuring several Christians. Pictured: Beit Sahour. (Image source: Iseidgeo/Wikimedia Commons)

A series of violent incidents in Bethlehem, birthplace of Jesus, and the nearby towns of Beit Jala and Beit Sahour, have left Christians worried about their safety and future under the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Many Christians living in these communities complain that the Palestinian Authority is not doing enough to punish those who attack Christian-owned churches and businesses. The perpetrators are Muslims who make up the majority of the population in the Bethlehem area.

Earlier this year, Palestinian evangelical pastor Johnny Shahwan was stopped by PA security forces under the charge of “promoting normalization” with Israel.

The arrest came after Shahwan, founder and chairman of the board of Beit Al Liqa (House of Encounter) in Beit Jala, appeared in a photo alongside Rabbi Yehuda Glick, a former member of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset.

Beit Al-Liqa is a Christian community and training center. The center, accused of hosting the rabbi with a group of German tourists, was closed for a week by the Palestinian Authority.

After the photo of the pastor and rabbi appeared on social media, unidentified gunmen fired on the center. No one was injured and no damage was reported. According to some reportsthe pastor was detained by Palestinians for more than a month to protect him from Palestinians who threatened his life.

In another incident earlier this year, a large group of masked Muslim men carrying sticks and iron bars offensive The Christian brothers Daoud and Daher Nassar while working on their land. Bshara Nassar, son of a Daher, commented:

“I am particularly devastated that this [attack] was made by a group of Palestinian masked men from the nearby village of Nahalin. It certainly does not reflect or represent who the Palestinian people are, and we are not sure of their motives or who is behind them. But it’s really hard to see our Palestinian brothers attacking the family. The family demands justice and that those responsible be held accountable.”

In early October, armed men fire to the Bethlehem Hotel for displaying Jewish symbols in one of its meeting rooms. The armed men accused the Christian-owned hotel to “promote normalization with Israel” because of the cardboard cutouts of a Star of David and a Menorah that were placed in the room.

The Palestinian Ministry of Tourism has ordered the venue closed and said that he has launched an investigation into allegations that the hotel was preparing to host a Jewish holiday.

Terrified hotel manager Elias al-Arja denied the allegations. He Told Palestinian radio station Mawwal that a group of tourists from the Philippines were preparing to hold a Christian religious conference in the assembly hall. “We don’t allow Jews to come here,” al-Arja said. “We never throw parties for Jewish holidays.”

The ruling Fatah faction, led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, issued a statement in which it sentenced the attempt to hold a “Zionist party” in the hotel, calling it “a stab at Bethlehem and a betrayal of the traditions and values ​​of the Holy Land”.

The most recent attack on Christians took place in late October, when dozens of Muslim men targeted the Orthodox Ancestor Church in Beit Sahour. During the offensivethe attackers threw stones at the church, injuring several Christians.

Residents of the Christian town called on the Palestinian Authority to arrest anyone who attacked the church. They said the attack on the church was an assault on the whole town. After the incident, church bells rang for help and some videos circulating on social media showed the attackers throwing rocks at the building.

Archbishop Atallah Hanna, Greek Orthodox Archbishop denounced the attack as “shocking” and “horrible”. He added:

“The attack on the church is a criminal act par excellence. The church is not a place for settling scores and expressing hatred on the part of those who have lost their humanity and their patriotic sense.”

Shadi Khalloul, a prominent Christian rights advocate, said in response to the attack:

“The Muslim Arab tribe of Atamra attacked the Christian church of Bet Sahour near Bethlehem last night. Have you ever seen a Christian attack a Mosk [sic] in Christian-majority cities in the Middle East? Of course not. It shows the difference in culture, faith, respect and recognition that we hold”

The Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land also condemned the attack on the church. “A group of men attacked the church in Beit Sahour following a fight between young men,” the group said. said.

“We condemn this attack and demand that the Palestinian Authority bring the attackers to justice as soon as possible. On the other hand, we congratulate all those, of different faiths and families, who arrived at the site and made their best to protect the church. . We hope no similar incidents happen in the future and urge everyone to keep places of worship away from any disputes.”

As in previous cases, the Palestinian Authority has taken no meaningful action to punish those who attack Christians or Christian holy sites in the Bethlehem area. In April 2002, several armed men stormed the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Three monks taken hostage by the armed men managed to flee the church through a side door. They told Israeli army officers that the gunmen stole gold and other goods, including crucifixes and prayer books.

Such incidents are the main reason why many Christians no longer feel safe in areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. The number of Christians has fall considerably in recent decades: from 18% of the population in 1948 to just 2% of the population of the West Bank, Gaza and Israel. In Bethlehem, it fell from 80% to 12%. Many moved to the United States, Canada and Europe.

Muslim attacks on Christians are often ignored by the international community and the media, which only seem to speak out when they can find a way to blame Israel.

Another worrying situation is that leaders of the Christian community in the West Bank are reluctant to hold the Palestinian Authority and their Muslim neighbors responsible for the attacks. They are afraid of reprisals and prefer to follow the official line of holding Israel solely responsible for the misery of the Christian minority.

Unfortunately, it is safe to assume that the plight of Palestinian Christians will only worsen in light of the international community’s silence and the all-too-justified fear of reprisals against their own leaders.

Khaled Abu Toameh is an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem.

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