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Monday, December 24, 2007

The plight of Bethlehem

The Wall Street Journal publishes an appallingly one-sided article by Kenneth L. Woodward, a Newsweek editor, on the city of Bethlehem, blaming Israel's 'security fence' and restrictions for the sorry economic state of the town and making it sound like Christian - Muslim relations are and always have been hunky dory. Here's the one nod towards why Israel has instituted the security measures it has instituted - don't blink or you'll miss it:
Israel, of course, must protect its security.
But what's most astounding about this article is its picture of Christian - Muslim relations in the town, implying that but for the evil Jews, all those Christians who have packed up and left would be staying:
But it [Israel CiJ] cannot blame the Christians' dire circumstances on the second intifada: Muslims are suffering just as much as the tiny Christian minority. Indeed, Bethlehem has historically been one place where Muslim-Christian relations have been remarkably friendly. Now, however, urban Bethlehem finds itself encircled by Israeli settlements, and where the settlers go, there follows the concrete wall, topped in places by razor wire and snipers' towers.
Compare that with this description of Christian - Muslim relations which appeared in the JPost earlier this week:
In an 2005 interview with the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JPCA), Steven Khoury, of Bethlehem's First Baptist Church, reported that the church had been attacked by Muslims from a nearby refugee camp "…with Molotov cocktails 14 times. Our church vans have been burned. The church was broken into and defaced with graffiti five times." Others have reported the shooting of the Baptist Church's pastor.

In 2006, the UK's Daily Mail reported on the struggle of two Christians from the Bethlehem suburb of Beit Jala who were facing continuous persecution for their faith. George Rabie, a cab driver, said that he had been beaten by a gang of Muslims visiting from nearby Hebron, angered by the crucifix hanging on his windshield, and that he experiences persecution "every day." Jeriez Moussa Amaro told the Daily Mail that his two sisters Rada, 24, and Dunya, 28, had been shot dead by Muslim gunmen. "Their crime was to be young, attractive Christian women who wore Western clothes and no veil…" A terrorist organization, al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades, claimed responsibility for Amaro's sisters' murder.

OVERT violence isn't the only difficulty faced by Christians in areas under the Palestinian Authority. In recent weeks, Ramallah pastor Isa Bajalia, an American Christian of Arab descent, stated publicly that he has been threatened by a Palestinian Authority official, who demanded he pay $30,000 in protection money to ensure his safety. On November 11, Fox News reported, "Pastor Isa Bajalia is legally blind, yet he was also told by the official he would be crippled for life. The trouble started after church members held a prayer session for several Palestinians. Bajalia says he has been under surveillance and receiving threats." Isa Bajalia has since fled Ramallah.

Among the compiled JCPA interviews of West Bank Christians are reports of extortion by Arab Muslims, demands for protection money, seized properties, vandalized homes and shops, widespread rape of Christian girls, honor killings, and murders of converts to Christianity from Islam.
Did Woodward actually go to Bethlehem? Or is he writing this article based on the work of a local 'Palestinian' Muslim stringer? Inquiring minds ought to know.


At 6:16 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Carl, I know that Xian-Muslim relations in Beit-Lechem have been going from bad to terrible in the last decade or so. ("First the Saturday people, then the Sunday people" ;-))

But I do remember they got along better at one point. When did the tipping point occur --- when Yasser Archbandit was let back in?

At 12:19 AM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...


Yes. There has been a marked decline (and flight of Christians) since 1994.

At 2:11 AM, Blogger Unknown said...


He evidently hasn't been there since 2000. Note that he has been writing on religion for Newsweek for many years. His output today shouldn't surpise us, but WSJ's willingness to publish it is certainly new and ominous.

At 2:12 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

My link above should end

At 5:36 PM, Blogger VinceP1974 said...

Make sure you read the responses to the WSJ article. All of them were in criticism of the article, including one from me. Ignore the fact they managled with "Editors comment".. all of it is mine.


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