In June I wrote about how the Palestinian Authority (PA) since the 2006 take over of the city of Bethlehem the city's Christian population has gone from being 85% of the population to just over 12% of the population. Nothing has changed, if anything it has gotten worse.
It is estimated that, for the past seven years, more than one thousand Christians have been emigrating from the Bethlehem area annually and that only 10,000 to 13,000 Christians remain in the city. International human rights lawyer Justus Reid Weiner, who teaches at Hebrew University, told the Jerusalem Institute for Global Jewish Affairs that, under the PA-Fatah regime, Christian Arabs have been victims of frequent human rights abuses by Muslims.A systematic destruction of one of the world's oldest Christians communities.
"There are many examples of intimidation, beatings, land theft, firebombing of churches and other Christian institutions, denial of employment, economic boycotts, torture, kidnapping, forced marriage, sexual harassment, and extortion," he said. PA officials are directly responsible for many of the attacks, and some Muslims who have converted to Christianity have been murdered.
In 2006, Hassan El-Masalmeh, a member of the Bethlehem City Council and local Hamas leader, publicly advocated implementing a discriminatory tax on non-Muslim residents. In late 2007 an evangelical pastor was forced to leave Ramallah under threats from Fatah gunmen, and soon after, his congregation dispersed.No child, no woman, no man of the Christian faith is safe. They will be harassed, threatened, raped and killed if they resist.
"Incidents of Muslim men ‘seducing' or kidnapping Christian girls have caused growing anxiety among the Christian population. In May 2004, a sixteen-year-old Christian girl from Bethlehem, who was a U.S. citizen, went missing for five days after being kidnapped by a 23 year-old Muslim. " The girl's family contacted the American Consulate in Jerusalem, and it was only thanks to their intervention that she was rescued and left with her family for the United States. The episode received virtually no international media coverage.
In another case, a Muslim family appeared uninvited on the doorstep of a wealthy Christian family in Judea and Samaria and demanded that the Christian family's daughter, known for her beauty, marry their son. Their son was already dressed up for his wedding, accompanied by the sheikh and fifteen Muslim men. To protect his family the Christian girl's father opened fire on the Muslim entourage, killing three and wounding ten. The girl's family immediately abandoned their home and fled abroad."
The PA was involved in the torture of two Muslim brothers from Samaria who adopted the Christian faith.
The first brother was arrested by the PA secret police and accused of collaborating with Israeli and American intelligence. After the interrogation the police placed a cardboard sign on his back upon which was written, ‘Najib the Christian.' Then he was told to ‘curse Jesus.'" He eventually made contact with Israelis who arranged for him to hide in a bomb shelter in a Jewish community and was finally granted asylum in Norway.
His brother spent 21 months in a PA prison after being arrested on fabricated charges. He was held for seven months in underground solitary confinement. Weiner quotes his testimony before him thus: "I was beaten with sticks; they stripped me naked and made me sit on bottles, and on the legs of chairs that they turned upside down, and many, many other sadistic things that I am even ashamed to say." Many times they allowed lynch mobs like the Al-Aksa Brigades to come in and pull prisoners out of the cells. They were taken out and shot on the spot, their bodies then dragged through the streets for all to see."
The young man was sentenced to be executed but was liberated from prison by the Israel Defense Forces. He lives in Israel but his wife and eight children remained behind and are under constant threat of harassment. He hopes to find asylum in Norway.
Another Christian convert, El-Achwal, was initially arrested on fabricated charges of stealing gold. He was kept in a tiny cell and regularly left without food or water for days on end. The torture he sustained during the interrogation required lengthy hospitalization. Weiner, who interviewed El-Achwal, said Ahmed "had suffered extensive and serious burns on his back, buttocks, and legs. The heated torture implement that was applied to his skin reminded me of similar medieval instruments." He was eventually freed but refused to renounce his Christian faith. One day he was beaten by a group of masked men affiliated with the PA security services, who also torched his car. His residence was firebombed and on January 21 2004, he was shot dead by masked gunmen who have never been arrested.
And what is the Christian community in the US saying about this?
American Episcopalians and Presbyterians frequently blame Israel for the Middle East conflict. Leaders of other North American churches including the Methodists, the United Church of Christ, and the Lutherans "have also gone to great lengths to offer up one-sided condemnations of Israeli policies."
They know not what Christianity is it seems. For they condemn those who until they gave up control of Judea and Samaria, had guaranteed religious freedom to all. But that is not enough. What the Methodists, United Church of Christ and Lutherans have actually done is to show themselves to be anti-Semites of the worst form. Instead of a cross, they should place a swastika above their altars.
If this keeps up there will be no Christians in Bethlehem, and one of Christendom's most holy sites will become a mosque. Exactly what the Muslims have been striving for all along.I ask my Christian friends to speak out about this at your church, to your pastor, to your friends. The western media will not mention it for it puts the PA into a bad light and that is not allowed. And to pray for your Christian brothers and sisters who are facing a persecution the likes of which has never been seen in the land of Israel before.