Before the latest Israeli government had even been sworn in, world leaders were scolding Prime Minister-elect Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing coalition and warning him that the “two-state solution” is the only way to peace with the Palestinians. Most Israelis consider that “dinosaur diplomacy”: unrealistic, outdated and naïve. Some under-reported examples of the true situation follow.
Christians are being persecuted in Bethlehem, the oldest Christian community in the world. It is incessant and it is terrifying. Few dare to say anything about it and nobody is doing anything about it.
Arab Christians are dhimmis (subordinate non-Muslims) and treated as second-class residents with limited rights. They are beaten up arbitrarily or jailed on trumped-up charges, their homes are looted and bombed, churches desecrated or burned, and property confiscated by the ruling Palestinian Authority.
In most cases, the victims themselves don’t bother reporting the incidents to the authorities for fear of mob attacks by Muslim neighbors. Arrests of the perpetrators seldom occur, or cases are simply dismissed. Certainly, the Christians never dare blame the Palestinian government for the attacks.
As reported by various sources, in April 2022 Palestinian Evangelical Pastor Johnny Shahwan was arrested by the PA and charged with “promoting normalization” with the “Zionist entity.” He had appeared in a photo taken in his ministry center, Beit Al-Liqa, standing with Rabbi Yehudah Glick, a former member of the Knesset (Israeli Parliament), and a group of German tourists. Shortly after the photo was posted on social media, gunmen appeared and fired shots at the center. The pastor was jailed for 40 days and the ministry shut down, supposedly for his own protection.
Such incidents, despite their frequency, are seldom reported by the international news media, states Muslim journalist Khaled Abu Toameh: “The attacks by Muslims on Christians are often ignored by the international community and media, who seem to speak out only when they can find a way to blame Israel” (Gatestone Institute, October 31, 2022).
The PA suppresses vandalism reports to the news media, permitting only depictions of victimization due to Israeli aggression and discrimination. Rabbi Pesach Wolicki, director of the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation, who has worked among Arab Christians in Bethlehem since 2016, says: “Christians have been under attack in Bethlehem for many, many years. There have been bombings. There are near-constant physical attacks against Christians. They’re going on on a regular basis, ever since the Palestinian Authority took over” (Israel365 News, November 21, 2022).
In the meantime, the Christians of Bethlehem, who had made up 85 percent of the population in 1947, were just 15 percent of residents by 2016 (ibid.).
During December, colorful lights are strung across Manger Square in the center of Bethlehem, some shaped into triangles resembling Christmas trees, but there are no religious symbols, no mangers, no Christ figures. It is merely a cultural festival, not a religious holiday.
“Due to ongoing but silenced persecution,” writes the journalist Raymond Ibrahim (Gatestone Institute, December 25, 2022), “Christianity is on the verge of disappearing in the place of its birth–Bethlehem, the scene of the Nativity. It is a silence that gives the Christmas song ‘Silent Night’ an ominous meaning.”
Throughout history, Jesus has been called Redeemer, Messiah and Prince of Peace.
In the Palestinian Authority, however, the emphasis lies elsewhere. Jesus is praised as a “Palestinian terrorist who was murdered by the Israelis, thus becoming the first Palestinian martyr, [and] who is now reveling in heaven with Allah, in the arms of 72 dark-eyed virgins” (Palestinian Media Watch, December 25, 2022).
In Palestinian parlance, martyrdom is the highest form of devotion, and the ensuing burial is considered a “wedding” allowing a terrorist to enjoy 72 virgins in heaven.
It is an old ploy by the PA to misinterpret the New Testament and rewrite history as propaganda to further the Palestinian cause. Jesus is consistently described as fida’i (self-sacrificing combatant) and shahid (Islamic martyr). These are the identical descriptions used as the supreme honor for suicide bombers (Palestinian Media Watch, January 14, 2022).
In the Palestinian Authority parliament, Fatah is the second-largest party (the Hamas terrorist organization is the largest). It was founded in 1959 by Yassir Arafat. The party chairman is Mahmoud Abbas, who began the 20th year (!) of a four-year presidential term in the PA on January 15.
At the United Nations, in European capitals and anywhere else that will give him an audience, President Abbas emphasizes the need for a just peace for the Palestinian people.
The struggle for peace, however, has hit some snags along the way. Take last year, for example. On one weekend alone, August 5 to 7, Hamas fired 1,100 rockets at Israel from Gaza.
Sometimes, we ourselves are close to danger. On July 19, as we reported at the time, there was a terrorist attack about a hundred meters from our home. On August 14, we drove home from the Kotel (the Temple Prayer Wall) in the Old City of Jerusalem, where we had prayed for hundreds of people who had written us in the previous week requesting intercession. A couple hours later, on the same spot near King David’s tomb, a bus was shot at, injuring eight passengers.
Then, on November 23, a bomb was detonated but failed to explode during rush hour, with scores of children waiting at a bus stop in our neighborhood, again just a hundred meters from our home.
The media-monitoring group Palestinian Media Watch revealed:
· On October 2, the Fatah Commission of Information and Culture published a report on its Facebook page boasting “more than 7,200 acts of resistance [terror incidents] since the start of 2022 in the West Bank.” Bombings, shootings and violent demonstrations are all part of the formula (PMW, October 26, 2022).
· On official PA TV on September 28, the host of the Topic of the Day show, Muhammad al-Lahham of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, bragged that already in 2022, “the number of those killed [i.e. Israelis] was 20” (PMW, December 8, 2022).
And in 2023?
· The Revolutionary Council declared in the official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, on December 7, 2022, that violent “resistance [is] an obligatory national duty for everyone, and…a necessary choice from which there is no return. Fatah will increase its participation in the resistance in all areas” (PMW, January 5, 2023).
· Al-Hayat Al-Jadida reported on December 30, 2022, that Fatah intended to “escalate, organize, develop and expand with all types of resistance remaining open to our people” (ibid.).
Does all the incitement and propaganda have any effect? A survey by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, published December 13, 2022, revealed overwhelming support among Palestinians (72 percent) for “armed struggle” against Israel (reported by Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, January 8, 2023).
One example: When Karim Younes, who finished serving a 40-year jail sentence for murdering an Israeli in 1980, was released on January 5, 2023, forty thousand letters with messages of “love, gratitude and appreciation” were collected for the unremorseful Younes from Arab students at the Bethlehem High School for Girls and numerous other schools (PMW, January 3 and 17, 2023).
All options are on the table for the PA. The media-monitoring group Palestinian Media Watch reported (January 4, 2023) on the PA’s use of animals in its propaganda war against Israel. It cites Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, which claimed in its December 27, 2022, edition that, in order to destroy Palestinian farmland, Israeli “settlers release herds of wild boars in the direction of the agricultural territories.”
Gullible organizations, such as Britain’s largest teachers’ organization, the National Education Union, dutifully picked up the story and republished it in their own bulletin, Educate (Honest Reporting, January 9, 2023).
Such slander should fail based on rudimentary logic alone. Jews in Israel do not raise pigs as they aren’t a kosher (biblically permitted) animal. The notion of corralling herds of wild boars is equally absurd.
It’s not just the swine, though. Bovines are also co-opted.
According to Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (December 27, 2022): “The [Jewish] settlements’ cattle randomly invade the lands of [the Arab village] Yanun and eat everything in their path. They do not distinguish between olive trees and oak trees.” Presumably, these cows have a special diet consisting of Palestinian olives, while the Israeli variety remains untouched.
There’s more, believe it or not. The cows are “recruited and trained, as on the neck of each cow they hang a medallion with an eavesdropping and recording device on it, and sometimes cameras, in order to monitor every detail in Khirbet Yanun.” No one should underestimate Israeli abilities, but the notion of a sophisticated surveillance operation employing “trained” cows near a farming village of 19 miles (30 km.) north of Jerusalem is simply silly.
The farce is a reminder of another fantasy published in the July 18, 2008, edition of the Palestinian daily. It claimed that Israelis in Jerusalem “have been bringing chests filled with rats and releasing them in the Old City’s [Arab] neighborhoods.” Like the cows above, these too were no doubt well-trained rats as they only threatened Arab residents while Jewish residents remained impervious to the infestation!