Christian Suffering Stands in Way of Middle East Peace

The underlying problem isn’t between Israelis and Palestinian Arabs – It’s between Islamists and everyone else.

Paul Miller

OpEds Paul Miller
Paul Miller

You’re either a Muslim or not a Muslim. And the latter can have deadly consequences.
“I’m ready to accept their existence in their country; why don’t they accept me?” asked Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, addressing a German television audience last month. 

Although Netanyahu’s rhetorical question was in reference to the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, the implications extend well beyond the State of Israel, impacting all people living in the Middle East who don’t practice Islam.

The crisis in the Middle East has for decades been referred to as the Arab/Israeli conflict. Is that really the case? As the New York Post editorial board pointed out last week, “Being Arab does not insulate Christians from attack in today’s Middle East. Indeed, such has been the persecution — from Iraq to Egypt and the Palestinian territories to Syria — that ancient Christian communities are fleeing their ancestral homes.”

Islamists don’t differentiate between ethnic groups. Their Arab brethren are given no special pass.  You’re either a Muslim or not a Muslim. And the latter can have deadly consequences.

The plight of Arab Christians in the Middle East has been largely ignored by the mainstream press. In contrast, Conservative and Christian news organization as well as the Israeli press have not hidden behind euphemisms and half truths in reporting the atrocities committed by Islamists against Christian communities throughout the region. But while the legacy media is on top of every disagreement between Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama, when the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (abbreviated as ISIS) storms a Christian community, forcing the citizens to pay protection money called “jizya” and forbidding Christians to publicly practice and display their faith, barely a word is printed.

As horrific as that may be, the ISIS can be construed as the good neighborhood gang. They at least give their communities a choice. Most Islamist invaders demand Christians convert to Islam or “face the sword.” Others just force their way into churches and open fire.

While the media has been silent, world leaders have spoken out against the violence. Pope Francis, after meeting patriarchs from Syria, Iraq and Iran, declared, “We will not resign ourselves to imagining a Middle East without Christians.”

In the United States, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed legislation, which will “provide for the establishment of a Special Envoy to Promote Religious Freedom of Religious Minorities in the Near East and South Central Asia.” This measure, championed by Christians United for Israel, has been placed on hold by Sens. Mike Lee (R –UT) and Tom Coburn (R-OK). Both men told the Washington Free Beacon last month that they have lingering concerns about the legislation.

The obstacle to Middle East peace could not be clearer. It’s all about intolerance and the refusal   of Islamists to live side by side with people who simply practice a different faith. Yet this administration, just like the ones before it as well as the European Union, persists in trying to force peace without confronting a problem they know exists but isn’t politically convenient. They also refuse to acknowledge that this underlying problem isn’t between Israelis and Palestinian Arabs – It’s between Islamists and everyone else.

Still, it’s easier for politicians and the press to blame Jewish settlements for stalling the peace process.  It’s the easier position because it’s more popular; because it circumvents the tedious job of actually checking the facts; and because it conveniently provides a pretext for demanding more and more concessions from Israel. Never mind that Israel’s successive concessions since the Oslo Accords in 1993 have only brought the terrorists’ rocket launching pads closer to their target:  Israeli civilians.

World leaders can’t be that naïve. They know their efforts for Middle East peace are futile and hypocritical as long as governments are failing to safeguard freedom of religion and basic human rights, allowing Islamist terrorist gangs to practice their savagery with impunity. Yet when communities are massacred just for being Christian and busloads of Jews are blown up just for being Jews, they still won’t acknowledge that these attacks – terrorism – is neither random nor generic but targeted specifically and solely at people who simply attend a different House of Worship.

That is the true obstacle to peace in the Middle East. But the world would rather blame it on Jews who build room additions to their homes.

Paul Miller is an op-ed contributor to the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity. He serves as principal of Pauliegroup LLC, a Chicago-based new media and political consulting firm. Follow Paul on Twitter @Pauliespoint.