The plight this Christmas of the Christian community in the Palestinian Territories.

jin-december-24-2016-feature

Part of this article was originally published by the Gatestone Institute, and republished with permission by jewishinfoNews on December 24, 2016

Yet another wake-up call!

by Alan Simons

The Palestinian Information Center, so-called “Voice of Palestine to the World and the Voice of the World to Palestine,” as seen in the illustration above, directs its oppugnant Christmas message to the world. One would surmise, at this time of year, an honourable declaration of peace, compassion and goodwill to mankind that encompasses all that is good in Jesus Christ and Mary would be appropriate. Think again! At the time of writing this article, PICs website extends no hand in friendship and not even to its own Christian community in the West Bank and Gaza.

Within the Palestinian Territories the Christian population, comprising of a mere grain of sand compared to the overwhelming number of predominantly Sunni Muslims, only 1,100 Christians live in the Gaza Strip compared to 5,000 in 2006. And in the West Bank only 42,000 Christians remain. One wonders, with some dismay, what is to become of its Christians? Will history repeat itself as in Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Egypt?

This morning, Khaled Abu Toameh, who is based in Jerusalem  and is one of the areas most respected journalists, in an article originally published by the Gatestone Institute, and republished below with permission by jewishinfoNews, had something to say about the plight of the Christian community in the Palestinian Territories. Irrespective of your religious faith, I urge you to read it now!

Palestinians: The Nightmare of Christians

  • For the past four decades, Samir Qumsieh, who hails from a large and well-respected Christian family in the town of Bet Sahour, near Bethlehem, has fought for the rights of the region’s minuscule Palestinian Christian minority. He has even dared to speak out against the subjugation of Christians living under the rule of Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
  • He regularly receives death threats, and he has been the target of a petrol bomb attack.
  • “The solution to extremism starts with the kindergarten, with elementary school. It begins with the churches, with the mosques and the school curricula. Curricula are very important – Jewish, Christian and Muslim ones. They should concentrate on accepting the ‘other.’ If this idea is adopted, the future generation will be liberal and open-minded.” — Samir Qumsieh.
  • “Every day we hear and see some radical Muslim clerics speaking strongly against Christians. Just recently, one of the sheiks was saying that Christian Copts should be slaughtered like sheep. Where is the Egyptian security? If I were in charge of Egyptian security, I would have this sheikh arrested immediately, and have him rot in a dark underground cell.” — Samir Qumsieh.
  • “To understand the severity of the situation is, let us recall that in the 1950s about 86% of the population of the Bethlehem area was Christian. Today, we are only 12%. In Israel, by contrast, we have 133,000 Christians and the figure is stable. Of course, I am worried about the future of Christians here.” — Samir Qumsieh.
  • “I fear the day will come when our churches will become museums. is my nightmare.” — Samir Qumsieh.

Without question, Samir Qumsieh is one of the most courageous Christian leaders in the Middle East. Qumsieh is one of the few willing to risk his life to speak out against Muslim persecution of Christians in the Palestinian territories and the Middle East, generally.

For the past four decades, Samir Qumsieh, who hails from a large and well-respected Christian family in the town of Bet Sahour, near Bethlehem, has fought for the rights of the region’s miniscule Palestinian Christian minority. He has even dared to speak out against the subjugation of Christians living under the rule of Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The plight of the Christians living under the Palestinian Authority and Hamas is a subject truly taboo. Yet Qumsieh perseveres – and pays the price. He regularly receives death threats, and he has been the target of a petrol bomb attack. Muslim extremists have also distributed leaflets in the Bethlehem area condemning him for his outspoken views and activities on behalf of persecuted Christians.

Samir Qumsieh.

However, the campaign of intimidation has not deterred Qumsieh from defending them.

In an exclusive interview with Gatestone Institute, the prominent Christian figure, who founded the private Nativity TV Station in Bet Sahour, accuses the Obama Administration of failing to combat ISIS and radical Islam. Qumsieh says he is convinced that President-elect Trump will “terminate” ISIS.

Qumsieh discloses that a “Muslim mafia” has been stealing Christian-owned lands in the Bethlehem area.

As a prominent Palestinian Christian figure in the living in the Middle East, how would you assess the Obama Administration’s role in the war on ISIS?

President Obama is the spiritual father of ISIS. His administration and he were never serious about fighting ISIS. This is what I firmly believe, and many facts confirm my thoughts. When Obama saw that this was about to be exposed, he finally acted, but in a weak manner. He put out a ransom against (ISIS leader) Abu Baker Al-Baghdadi and started telling us that he had bombed ISIS, and so on.

How do you explain Obama’s refusal to use the term radical Islam?

If you ask me, I will tell you the truth: I doubt that Obama is a Christian. Really, I doubt it. During his term, ISIS emerged, and the Christians have suffered heavily. Let me ask you a question. What is ISIS? Why is it that this mobilization of the whole world has not been able to eradicate them? Who can convince me? When America toppled Saddam Hussein, who had a very big and strong army, he collapsed. But when it comes to ISIS, how come they still exist?

Do you believe that President-elect Donald Trump will endorse a different stance toward ISIS?

Absolutely. Trump will obliterate ISIS. Had Hilary Clinton won, believe me ISIS would have continued and flourished. In my view, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is the ‘father’ of ISIS, and Clinton is its ‘mother.’

I have a friend who is a painter. He paints portraits of presidents. He is a Muslim, by the way. We sent portraits to King Abdullah, to Mahmoud Abbas and the Pope. He painted a portrait of Obama in front of the Church of Nativity. He worked on it for two months and it cost a lot of money. When the portrait was presented to Obama through the US consul-general in Jerusalem, they did not bother to send a thank you letter to the painter, although I personally talked to the consulate about this. I told them, ‘Gentlemen, this is shameful, at least send a thank-you letter to this man.’ The consul-general at that time came to my office and took the portrait. Doesn’t the painter deserve at least a thank-you letter?

Are you saying that Obama has not done anything to help Christians in the Middle East?

Nothing at all. As I said, I think he was not serious about fighting ISIS, which has harmed the Christians very badly.

In your opinion, what is the best way to fight religious extremism?

I have always said that the solution to extremism is not through the military or security. The solution to extremism starts with the kindergarten, with elementary school. It begins with the churches, with the mosques and the school curricula. Curricula are very important – Jewish, Christian and Muslim ones. They should concentrate on accepting the ‘other.’ If this idea is adopted, the future generation will be liberal and open-minded.

But isn’t the turmoil and violence in the Middle East the result of religious extremism?

The current conflict in the entire region is a religious and sectarian war. Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are Sunni. They are against Iran, Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Alawite regime of Bashar Assad in Syria. So we are witnessing a religious and sectarian war. This is not only a conflict between Sunnis and Shias.

How do you feel as a Christian when you see what is happening to Christians in the Middle East, especially the recent bombing of a church in Egypt?

What is happening is extremely sad, especially the bombing of a church. I think the Egyptian authorities should act decisively. Every day we hear and see some radical Muslim clerics speaking strongly against Christians. Just recently, one of the sheiks was saying that Christian Copts should be slaughtered like sheep. Where is the Egyptian security? If I was in charge of Egyptian security, I would have this sheikh arrested immediately, and have him rot in a dark underground cell.

Are you aware of Palestinian Muslim clerics who also speak out against Christians?

Yes. This past Friday, one of the sheikhs at a mosque was speaking in a threatening way about Christians. He said that Muslim youths should not imitate Christian youths, and should not wish them well at Christmas. He also said that Muslims should not be doing business with Christians. The sheikh said some highly intimidating things about Christians.

Did the Christians protest against this incitement by the sheikh?

My cousin, who is a retired officer with the Palestinian Authority Intelligence Security Department, published something about the Friday sermon on Facebook. The following day he had to delete the post because it seems he received threats or something like that. When I told my cousin that I will talk with the Palestinian Authority attorney-general about it, he asked me not to talk to anyone. My cousin said, ‘Please don’t talk about this matter because we are 40 Christian families in that area (where the sheikh lives). It is clear to me that my cousin did receive threats, although he would not admit to it.

How would you describe relations between Christians and Muslims in the Bethlehem area?

Objectively speaking, there are millions of Muslims who are good people. I have many close Muslim friends whom I consider as my brothers. The problem is not Muslims. The real problem is radical Islam. In the Quran, there are various kinds of statements, and every Muslim, depending on his belief and attitude, selects what suits him. Some verses call for peace and describe Christians as the ‘People of the Book’ and good people. There are also verses that describe us as infidels and sinful folks. Everyone chooses what appeals to him. According to my humble knowledge, these verses are undated. I think that if they were dated, the fresh ones would supersede the old ones.

My understanding is that you have personally been the target of threats and violent attacks. Can you elaborate?

Yes, I have faced a great deal of harassment, and in 2006 I was even attacked with Molotov cocktails. Also, fliers that spoke against me have been distributed.

What is the main accusation against you? Why are some Muslims angry with you?

When I saw that there was encroachment on Christian-owned land here, I protested against it.

Is it true that Muslims have been illegally laying their hands on Christian property in Bethlehem?

We have a mafia here that is seizing Christian-owned lands. I protested against this Muslim mafia, and I even called a large gathering. I invited 80 people to my home. They included the elite of society – Muslims and Christians. They all joined my protest. That same night, fliers were distributed in Bethlehem threatening to kill me.

What has the Palestinian Authority done to help against you fight this mafia?

There are still many unresolved cases with regards to land encroachment. These cases are in the courts, but our judicial system is very slow. If you go to court, you have to wait 15-20 years. Recently, we have noticed that the encroachments decreased immensely because we have been talking to the Palestinian Authority and pressing them about the problem. Today, there are only a few cases like this taking place. We want all these cases to be solved.

Is there discrimination against Christians living under the Palestinian Authority?

One cannot say that there is official discrimination. President Abbas attends Christmas midnight mass, his prime minister attends the lighting of the Christmas tree. Still, I can simply say that among our people you will find some who harbor radical extremist thoughts. ISIS is a thought. There are Christians working in the Palestinian Authority, but not many. We have Christian mayors, and that is how it should be. Bethlehem, Bet Sahour and Bet Jala have Christian mayors, although some have been demanding that this be changed because Christians are a minority. Fortunately for us, the Palestinian Authority did not respond to these demands.

Do you believe that Christian leaders are doing enough to defend the interests of their people?

Frankly, I do not want the day to come when the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Church of the Nativity are turned into museums. Rather, I wish to seize this opportunity hope that it will encourage our leaders to tackle the problem and find a solution. Any Christian businessman who is interested in the general issue of Christians should come and invest here. We want them to build projects, including housing projects. We are also hoping that these projects will provide jobs for young Christians. The biggest problem we are facing is Christian emigration. Some Christians are helping, but this is being done on a very limited scale. But I cannot say that Christian patriarchates are doing their best. Some of them are far from the congregation and do not even care about us. We want wealthy Christians to come here and create project initiatives. It is not enough to say ‘I love the Christians and I care about them.’ This love should be demonstrated through deeds.

Are you worried about the growing number of Christians who are leaving the West Bank and Gaza Strip?

Once, 5,000 Christians lived in the Gaza Strip. When Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in 2006, Christians began to be harassed and discriminated against. Today, only 1,100 Christians live there. In the Bethlehem area, there are about 40,000 Christians. Altogether, there are about 42,000 Christians remaining in the West Bank. There are two reasons behind the dwindling figures. The first of these is the ongoing emigration, which is a nightmare for us; the second is the low birth rate among Christian families. To understand the severity of the situation is, let us recall that in the 1950s about 86% of the population of the Bethlehem area was Christian. Today, we are only 12%. In Israel, by contrast, we have 133,000 Christians and the figure is stable. Of course, I am worried about the future of Christians here. Looking at the facts on the ground, you can see that there is no future for the Christians here. We are melting; we are disappearing. I fear the day will come when our churches will become museums. That is my nightmare.

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

* * *

SEVENTY YEARS LATER -

OVER SEVENTY YEARS LATER – “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” | “The more things change, the more they stay the same”

What actually does the Palestinian want?

“Read our lips, how many times do we have to tell you?”

by Alan Simons

 by Alan Simons

There’s a well-known quotation by the American writer Eric Hoffer. “Passionate hatred can give meaning and purpose to an empty life.”

Among the lives of people, individuals and cultures there are many living in the Palestinian Territories who maintain that the best thing for man to strive for in this world is to take revenge on his enemies. For many young Muslim Palestinians who have been educated at an early age in their schools to hate Israel and hate Jews, the satisfaction for revenge cannot be clearer than it is today.  

The great ninth century Jewish philosopher Saadia Gaon commented that the thirst for revenge affords the pleasure of seeing discomfiture of its enemy, assuages the vehemence of its wrath and puts an end to excessive brooding. Saadia said that the man who is consumed by the desire for revenge gets into a frame of mind of refusing to accept intercession or entertaining any feeling of compassion or pity.

“Hatred brought on by illiterate Imams.”

Over one thousand years later Saadia’s comments still reflect the attitude that we have learnt nothing. As we observe the hatred in the Palestinian Territories against the Jew we find very little is based upon the acceptance that, heaven forbid, my world can also be shared in peace, equally, without reservation.

And as to its leaders, today’s Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, openly falsifies historical evidence, instills hatred in his young people’s minds towards the Israeli citizen, young and old, that I maintain no civilized democratic government has a hope in hell in stopping. It is a hatred that has its own direction, its own time and space, egged on by the perverse nature of fanatics utilizing the services of weak squabbling western-based democratic governments, of financially-strapped international media that have no time, or will, to verify the accuracy of its stories, the ten second clip, satellite dishes, mobile phones, photos of children and Internet web sites and social media outlets. It is a hatred brought on by illiterate Imams to the masses of the uneducated and their educated children.

Christopher Hitchens, the noted British born author, religious and literary critic once said: “It is a moral idiot who thinks that antisemitism is a threat only to Jews.” How right he was! Look no further than in the Middle East. Those who hate Jews also hate Christians.

“The Church is being silenced and driven out of its ancient biblical heartland.”

JIN November 2015 shutterstockEarlier this week, a bi-annual report on Christian persecution, produced by the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, was published. In essence, the report states:

At a time when the numbers of displaced and refugees have hit an all-time high, Islamists groups—ISIS foremost—are carrying out religiously motivated ethnic cleaning of Christians, notably in the Middle East and in parts of Africa.

In parts of the Middle East—particularly in Syria and Iraq—the crisis is so severe that barring significant interventions on the part of world powers, the Christian presence may disappear completely within a decade or even sooner. For example, there may be as few as 275,000 Christians left in Iraq, down from 1 million 12 years ago.

For Palestinian Christians, in towns such as Bethlehem, which used to be uniquely Christian, Muslims now are a clear and growing majority. As it’s been said, “The veil has replaced the cross.”

To return to Hitchens: “And the most depressing and wretched spectacle of the past decade, for all those who care about democracy and secularism, has been the degeneration of Palestinian Arab nationalism into the theocratic and thanatocratic hell of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, where the Web site of Gaza’s ruling faction blazons an endorsement of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

Many Jews ask me, “What actually does the Palestinian want?”

For Palestinians, the answer is simple. Time and time again, in numerous opinion polls and studies, the vast majority have said; read our lips, how many times do we have to tell you? We do not want to make peace with Israel. Yet, for some crazy implausible reason many Jews on the political left, don’t believe them. Why is it that by some twisted conclusion we wholeheartedly accept that Iran wants to annihilate Israel, yet, in our hearts and minds we have become mired in the conviction that we can help to transform a Palestinian people, indoctrinated from birth to hate and kill Jews, to live side-by-side with their Jewish neighbour?

Was it not Shakespeare who said: “In time we hate that which we often fear?” For the ordinary Palestinian perhaps we should first try to understand what they fear more than what they want.

Well, that’s my opinion!

* * *

SEVENTY YEARS LATER -

SEVENTY YEARS LATER – “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” | “The more things change, the more they stay the same”

Thank God there’s an Israel!

بفضل الله، هناك إسرائيل

ہم اسرائیل کے پاس خدا کا شکر ہے

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Mishigas! Has the world gone utterly crazy?

SPECIAL REPORT

by Alan Simons

Alan SimonsI really can’t think of any other way to put it. Mishigas!

–  Christmas cards published by the virulent antisemitic group Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) depicting Madonna and child dressed in the Palestinian flag. (See below)

–  Protesting Muslims stabbed a life-size Santa Claus figure in a rally held on Thursday in İstanbul . “No to New Year and Christmas celebrations,” they chanted. I’m relieved to tell you Santa Claus fortunately survived with multiple stabbing wounds.

IPSC Christmas Card

–  President Abbas has declared that Jesus Christ is a “Palestinian messenger.  According to Wafa, the Palestinian Authority’s official news agency, Abbas said: “In Bethlehem, more than 2000 years ago, Jesus Christ was born; a Palestinian messenger who would become a guiding light for millions  around the world. As we Palestinians strive for our freedom two millennia later, we do our best to follow his example. We work with hope, seeking justice, in order to achieve a lasting peace.” He added, “Christians are not a minority here: they are an integral part of the Palestinian people.”

–  Oh yeah? Perhaps I should remind Abbas it was only last year that, “Palestinian sources said PA security forces have been called to stop Muslim attacks on Christians in several communities in the West Bank. They said attacks have been reported on Christian villages or neighborhoods by hostile Muslim elements. A Palestinian Authority security officer outside of the Entry of Humility at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. ‘There is a growing perception by young Muslims that Christians are agents of Israel and the West and must be expelled,’ a Palestinian source said. In mid-May, nearly 100 Muslims attacked the Christian village of Taibeh in the West Bank. The sources said the Muslim assailants arrived in Taibeh with pistols and clubs after rumors spread that a Muslim was attacked in the village, with a population of fewer than 2,000. ‘Palestinian Authority policemen who rushed to the village had to shoot into the air to drive back the Muslim attackers and prevent a slaughter,’ Hisham Jarallah. a Palestinian analyst and journalist, said.”

IPSC Christmas Card

–  In the meantime, Persecution.org reports, “Christians living in the Gaza Strip live under the reality of ongoing attacks on both churches and individuals. Living under the control of Hamas which considers Christians as infidels, the situation is more serious than you can imagine, Hazem Shanab said. Hamas controls all churches and mosques implements their ideology in all sectors of life, even to rewriting textbooks to match their worldview.”

–  And who isn’t screaming at Israel this week for striking at Gaza because 22 year-old Israeli Bedouin Salih Abu Latif was killed by a sniper in Hamas-controlled Gaza as he was repairing a fence on the border of Gaza?

–  In the UK, oh yes, it has to be in the UK, The Daily Mail reports, “Fanatics from a banned Islamic hate group  Islam4UK have launched a nationwide poster campaign denouncing Christmas as evil. Organizers plan to put up thousands of placards around the UK claiming the season of goodwill is responsible for rape, teenage pregnancies, abortion, promiscuity, crime and paedophilia. They hope the campaign will help ‘destroy Christmas’ in this country and lead to Britons converting to Islam instead.”

–  In the meantime . . .  the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, director Antonio Guterres says, “We have not seen a refugee outflow [from Syria] of such a frightening rate since the Rwandan genocide.”

–  UNICEF, the UN agency for children, reports “the deterioration of education in Syria and among Syrian refugees is the worst in the history of the region. In Syria itself, three million children have ceased going to schools because of the fighting and the destruction of their schools.”

–  Still in Syria, Barrel bombs ‘kill 87 children’ in Aleppo. “More than 300 people, 87 of them children, have been killed in a week of air raids on the northern Syrian city of Aleppo and nearby towns by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, a monitoring group said on Monday. Many were killed by so-called barrel bombs dropped from helicopters, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.”

– One has to add: “Bugs Bunny is Jewish!” claims David Yehuda Stern, British cinematic historian. (Better not let President Abbas know!)

And finally, an honest and emotional plea from Prince Charles who recently said: “It seems to me that we cannot ignore the fact that Christians in the Middle East are, increasingly, being deliberately attacked by fundamentalist Islamist militants. Christianity was, literally, born in the Middle East and we must not forget our Middle Eastern brothers and sisters in Christ. “For 20 years, I have tried to build bridges between Islam and Christianity and to dispel ignorance and misunderstanding. The point though, surely, is that we have now reached a crisis where the bridges are rapidly being deliberately destroyed by those with a vested interest in doing so, and this is achieved through intimidation, false accusation and organised persecution, including to Christian communities in the Middle East at the present time.” 
.
As someone once remarked, “A new year is unfolding – like a blossom with petals curled tightly concealing the beauty within.” So, in 2014, let us conscientiously strive for less intolerance and religious hate. Let us work harder for more love and respect towards each other, regardless of our religion, our colour, or our birth country. One can just hope. Can’t one?

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