Op-Ed: The Palestinian Grinch Who Stole Christmas
Christmas in the City of Bethlehem located just south of Jerusalem, the Capital of Israel, has - since the Oslo agreement - been standard holiday fare on television news all over the world.
The Palestinian Arab Authority has always made a big deal out of the Christmas celebration, broadcasting quaint pictures of Manger Square and the Church of the Nativity and giving viewers the impression that Christianity is both protected and cherished by the Palestinian Arab Authority (PA).
PA leaders also use the occasion to try and make the argument that the Palestinian Arabs, rather than the Israelis, are the true descendants of the Jewish nation that produced Jesus of Nazareth two thousand years ago.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Modern day Christians face harassment and exclusion throughout the Middle East where the Arab Spring has brought Islamists to power, and nowhere is that more true than in the areas controlled by the Palestinian Arab Authority and in all of Hamas-controlled Gaza .
Moreover, the assertion that Jesus was a Palestinian Arab first aired by Yasser Arafat and often repeated by his successor Mahmoud Abbas is nothing less than a mendacious attempt to delegitimize the Jewish people and to steal Jewish history.
In a recent report by the British newspaper, The Telegraph , Christianity was said to be “close to extinction” in the Middle East. While the plight of Coptic Christians in Egypt, who face the prospect of life under the Muslim Brotherhood, has garnered some attention in the past few months, Palestinian Christians have already been subjected to this sort of situation under the Palestinian Authority and Hamas and the result is the decimation of their community.
Since the time of the Oslo agreement in 1993, violence and persecution against the Palestinian Christians has been steadily on the rise. For the Christian population living in the areas controlled by the PA and in Gaza, life under the thumb of Islamists threatens their existence as a community and has forced many Christian families with deep roots in their villages to flee for their lives and abandon their homes.
In recent years, as a result of the penetration of Hamas and Islamic religious extremism, the communities of Christian Arabs have been purposely marginalized, resulting in social and economic discrimination against Christians; boycotts and extortion of Christian businesses; violations of real property rights; crimes against Christian Arab women.
As a result, 35 percent of the Christian population of the areas controlled by the PA and in Gaza has emigrated between 1967-1992 (47 percent to the United States) versus only 16 percent of the Muslim community during that period.
Despite this blatant attempt by the PA and Hamas to exterminate the Christian community, it must be noted that many Palestinian Christians leaders are Israel's most active and dangerous critics, denouncing Israel at every occasion - especially during Christmas. In a reality where it is crucial to fit into an Arab Islamic world where the Muslim faith is the principle source of identity, Christian Arab leaders use their criticism of Israel as a litmus test that serves as "proof" of their belonging to the Muslim Arab world in which they live.
As for the “Jesus is a Palestinian” claim; not supported by any empirical historical source other than fictional Palestinian history books, it is a ludicrous misuse of history that few people take seriously, but it ought not to be ignored.
Denying the historical ties between the Jewish people and the land of Israel has always been integral to anti-Zionist propaganda. The point is to depict Israelis as foreign thieves who have stolen Palestinian land rather than as Jews who have returned to their ancestral homeland. The use of this lie is a reminder that the ultimate goal of Palestinian Arabs as well as the Islamists of Hamas (who have made the lives of Christians in Gaza untenable) is to destroy Israel, not to live in peace alongside it.
Within Israel, the Christian experience a wholly different reality. Israel is the home to some 150,000 Christians, of which 80 % are Arabs, constituting 2.1 % of the total population. Israel is the only country in the Middle East that welcomes Christians, offers them freedom of worship and consequently is the only place in the whole Middle East where the Christian population has grown.
The Christmas season, in most places of the world, is a period of joy and celebration, for the Christian Arabs who live among Muslim Arabs under control of the PA and Hamas, Christmas is a time in which we are all reminded of the continuing persecution of Christian Arabs.