Published in The Jerusalem Post , December 25, 2020; and in Israel Hayom , December 27, 2020.
This should be the season for a global defense campaign for beleaguered Christians in the Middle East. Instead, the Western media purveys the false impression that Christians are under assault by Israelis….and intersectionalists have risen to smash Israel for Christmas.
“Intersectionality” is the idea that race, class, gender, and other individual characteristics “intersect” with one another and overlap, and that all injustices are interconnected. Women and minorities (theoretically including Jews, but usually excluding them) are considered victims of white oppression.
Intersectionalism has risen to smash Israel for Christmas. Two weeks ago, the “Irish Unity Movement” tweeted that “If Mary and Joseph set off to Bethlehem today, they’d cross 15 Israeli checkpoints and a 30-foot wall,” setting-off a twitter-sphere storm.
Lahav Harkov, the Jerusalem Post’s diplomatic correspondent, responded that Mary and Joseph were Jews (!), who today would have been barred from visiting Bethlehem by Palestinian police. Others responded bluntly that “If Mary and Joseph somehow made it to Bethlehem they probably would be raped and lynched by a Palestinian mob.” Others noted correctly that the Christian population in Bethlehem has dropped drastically since the PLO took over.
Some twitter respondents who do not understand the irrationalities and venalities of “intersectionality,” innocently asked: What does Irish unity have to do Bethlehem, Israel, and the Palestinians?!
They do not understand that the so-called “woke” community links the Palestinian struggle against Israel to “the struggles of students of color, student survivors of sexual assault, and all others who on campus fight against oppression, whether imperialism, racism, patriarchy, police violence, or other systemic inequities.”
INTERSECTIONALISM ASIDE, the Western media annually devotes considerable Christmas ink, and many Christian NGOs dedicate their Christmas appeals, to purveying the false impression that Christians are under assault by Israelis. And worse still, that Jews are crucifying Christians smack in the heart of Bethlehem.
In 2012, the late Bob Simon produced a bash-Israel-for-Christmas propaganda masterpiece on “60 Minutes” in which he indicted Israel’s “occupation” for the decline of the Christian population in the entire West Bank. Later, a slam-Israel doozey was published by Harriet Sherwood in The Observer. She wickedly evoked Biblical and Christian imagery to savage Israeli settlement in and around Jerusalem.
Sherwood painted a picture of a pastoral “Christian biblical landscape” with “gnarled olive trees,” “bleating sheep and goats,” and “vine covered terraces,” “near the site where angels announced the birth of Jesus to shepherds in a field” – all tended to with love by Bethlehem’s remaining Christian heroes. She then contrasted this with the evil Israeli security fence – “Eight-meter-high concrete slabs casting a deep shadow, both literally and metaphorically, snaking around most of Bethlehem,” along with the monster “cranes, bulldozers, and concrete apartment blocks” – all of which are “strangulating” the Christian city.
Sherwood capped-off her tiresome slam by telling us lovingly about a Beit Jala parish priest who “leads open-air prayers under olive trees at sunset every Friday” to protest the route of the security fence; “a vast concrete and steel barrier with a long steel-caged corridor with multiple turnstiles” that chokes off the main exit for Palestinians who want to go to Jerusalem.
Similarly blowing-off all pretensions of journalistic respectability, Ben White of Middle East Monitor published a filthy piece entitled “Bethlehem Bantustan: Have Yourself an Apartheid Christmas.” White wrote that Bethlehem is “a microcosm of Israel’s colonization of Palestine.” The refugee camps are home to those expelled from their villages in the “ethnic cleansing” that enabled a majority Jewish citizenry; camps where “Israeli soldiers snatch residents and deploy lethal force” against youth raised in the shadow of the “apartheid, choking wall.”
These screeds demonize Israel and seek to cover-up for the real reason for Christian decline in Bethlehem: the Palestinian Authority and radical Islam.
It started with Yasser Arafat. Arriving from Tunis, Arafat immediately set out to suppress the Palestinian middle class across the West Bank, which he understood could be the only real opposition to his planned dictatorial authority. He nationalized most business sectors and squeezed Palestinian small businessmen out of business. Especially hard hit were middle class businessmen of Bethlehem, mainly Christian.
Arafat then sidelined the long-time Christian mayor of Bethlehem, Elias Freij, and Arafat’s henchmen led a campaign of terror and intimidation against Christian institutions and families in the city. Land theft, beatings, and intimidation of Christians in Bethlehem by PA security services and other gangs became routine. Forced marriages between Christian women and Moslem men were reported. In 2002, Arafat’s terrorists even took over and defiled the Church of the Nativity for 39 days, holding 200 priests as hostage as the terrorists sought to escape Israeli justice.
The result was an inexorable and ongoing Christian exodus from Bethlehem; a city captured by the PA and taken over by a very intolerant strain of Islam.
Nevertheless, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas annually releases a malevolent Christmas message in which he cynically calls Jesus Christ a “Palestinian messenger,” and goes on to blast Israel for denying “millions” of Christians their “right to worship in their homeland.”
This is an ugly attempt to apply “replacement theology” (in which Christians are said to have superseded the Jews in a covenant with G-d) to the Palestinian assault on Israel. In Abbas’ reversed and warped world, the Jewish-Christian Jesus has been replaced by a Palestinian Christ, and Christianity is under attack by the Jews, not the Arabs and Moslems.
NOT ONLY IS THIS untrue, but it ignores the radical Islamic assault on Christians across the Middle East, often with government encouragement and support.
According to a report commissioned in 2019 by then-British foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt, pervasive persecution of Christians “sometimes amounting to genocide” is ongoing in parts of the Middle East. Millions of Christians in the region “have been uprooted from their homes, and many have been killed, kidnapped, imprisoned and discriminated against,” the report finds.
It also highlights how states, and state-sponsored social media, incite hatred and publish propaganda against Christians, especially in Iran, Iraq, and Turkey. “The governing AKP in Turkey depicts Christians as a “threat to the stability of the nation. Turkish Christian citizens have often been stereotyped as not real Turks but as Western collaborators.”
Iraq has lost at least two-thirds of its Christians over the past two decades. More than 600,000 Syrian Christians have been displaced or fled Syria since the civil war began. Other Christians have been massacred and buried in mass graves.
In Gaza, Islamic militants have bombed churches, killed prominent Christians (mostly Greek Orthodox), and forced others to convert to Islam. In the West Bank, Arab Christians are better off than almost anywhere in the region, but only an estimated 50,000 live there – about two percent of the population, down from 10 percent in 1920.
Overall, Christians now make up only four percent of the population of the Middle East, down from 20 percent a century ago.
It should be the season for a rigorous world defense campaign on behalf of beleaguered Christians in the Middle East. Instead, ‘tis the season to nail Israel.