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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

London's Saint James Church promotes Christian torment in 'Palestine'

London's Saint James Church is running something called the 'Bethlehem Unwrapped' festival in the heart of London. As I have noted previously, the festival includes what claims to be a replica of Israel's 'security fence,' on which visitors are invited to scrawl graffiti.

The Church is actually doing a disservice to Christians in the Middle East, leaving aside whether what they are doing is also anti-Israel.
The decision by a Christian church to cooperate with Muslim Palestinians in an anti-Israel Christmas exhibit focusing on Bethlehem will be seen as incongruous by some, given the record of oppression of Christians by Palestinian Muslims in that city and elsewhere.
Under the Fatah and Hamas regimes in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, the resident Christian Arabs have been victims of frequent human rights abuses including “intimidation, beatings, land theft, firebombing of churches and other Christian institutions, denial of employment, economic boycott, torture, kidnapping, forced marriage, sexual harassment, and extortion,” notes writer Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld.
As a result of this persecution, the Christian population of Bethlehem went from a 60 percent majority in 1990 to a 40 percent minority in 2000, to about 15 percent of the city's total population five years ago.
It was estimated that in 2000-2007, more than one thousand Christians emigrated from the Bethlehem area annually and that only 10,000 to 13,000 Christians remained in the city by 2008.
According to international human rights lawyer Justus Reid Weiner, the crimes committed against Christian Arabs reflects their inferior social status in Islam, known as dhimmitude. 
"As dhimmis, Christians living in Palestinian-controlled territories are subjected to debilitating legal, political, cultural, and religious restrictions. Muslim groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad have built a culture of hatred upon the age-old foundations of Islamic society. Moreover, the PA has adopted Islamic law into its draft constitution.
"In such an environment, Christian Arabs have found themselves victims of prejudice and hate crimes," he explains. "Tens of thousands of Palestinian Christians have left their ancestral homes and emigrated. They flee to almost any country that will issue them a visa."
Weiner points out that the first Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman, Yasser Arafat, determined the policy that led to this demographic shift. "After the PA gained control of Bethlehem, it redistricted the municipal boundaries of the city. Arafat also defied tradition by appointing a Muslim governor of the city. The Bethlehem City Council, which by Palestinian law must have a Christian majority, has been taken over by Muslims. Eight of the fifteen seats on the Council are still reserved for Christians, but Hamas controls the City Council with some Christian allies. Arafat crowned his efforts when he converted the Greek Orthodox monastery next to the Church of Nativity into his official Bethlehem residence.
Read the whole thing

The festival is so hopelessly anti-Israel that the Israeli embassy in London has canceled its participation in a debate there.

The church's behavior is completely in keeping with the spirit in London. Here's a letter that our ambassador, Daniel Taub, recently had published in the Times of London (the paper is behind a paywall and all I have is the letter, which someone sent me by email).
‘Jack Straw refuses to countenance the possibility that anyone other than Israel might have a part to play in the plight of the Palestinians’
Sir, Jack Straw (Opinion, Dec 26) asserts that Palestinian shacks in the South Hebron hills are being gratuitously demolished by Israel while their residents are charged exorbitant sums for water.
In fact, although these structures were built without regard to planning permission, the Israeli authorities, which under the Israeli-Palestinian agreements are charged with responsibility for planning regulations in the area, invited the residents to submit a master plan to regularise the situation.
The proposed master plan which was submitted was rejected. Not, as Straw suggests, because of gratuitous harassment, but because the planning committee found that it did not provide adequately for welfare services for the residents, and in particular would deprive Palestinian women of access to educational and professional opportunities. The committee has invited the residents to make an amended application.
The price of water is determined by the Palestinian Water Authority, not by Israel. Jack Straw refuses to countenance the possibility that anyone other than Israel might have a part to play in the plight of the Palestinians. Far more damaging than the castigation of Israel, however, is the effect of such condescension and low expectations on the Palestinian side.
Ultimately, the most effective way of dealing with the issue of the South Hebron hills is for the two sides to reach a final status agreement. But ignoring the fact that the Palestinians too have responsibilities will not help bring that agreement closer.
Daniel Taub
Ambassador of Israel to the Court of St James’s

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