Israeli persecution of Christians trumps persecution by Muslims

Israeli persecution of Christians trumps persecution by Muslims
especially when the criticism is from a rightwing Israel
By Ray Hanania – I can’t call Carolyn Glick my “colleague” at the Jerusalem Post, for a lot of professional reasons but mainly because we do not see eye-to-eye on anything. Glick represents the far right fringe in Israel, pandering to the growing anti-peace movement and hatred that separates Palestinians and Israelis and keeps them from peace.

I am sure she is a good person. But I am not surprised when she turns a blind eye to what is happening right around her involving the persecution of Christians by Israelis, maybe basing her experiences on her limited circle of evangelist friends and colleagues who share her rightwing agenda.

I understand the art of writing controversial columns. I do it all the time. A good columnist writes eloquently. A great columnist writes with the intent of an ethical or moral point driving and in my case, I always try to write with the goal of pushing for peace based on justice for Israelis and Palestinians. My columns advocate two-states, mutual recognition and an equitable and reasoned approach to the blame game signlging out Israel when it commits wrongs and singling out Palestinians when they commit wrongs.

I also try to focus on the wrongs of governments and avoid stereotyping.

But I can’t say the same for Glick, who ironically, is originally from Chicago. We’ve never met. But I don’t think it’s something I’d want to do anyway.

In her recent column, Glick asks why the Western Christian Churches have remained silent in the face of the brutal oppression of Orthodox Christians in Egypt in what is clearly a growing battle between Muslims and Christians. I agree with the point. Why are the Western Christian churches so lame when it comes to standing up for their Christian brethren in the Middle East?

The reality is that Christians face an uncertain and longstanding persecution in the Muslim World, not by Islamic teachings or by mainstream Muslims there, but at the hands of the growing extremist movement in the Islamic world. The extremists in the Islamic World are growing in strength, but ironically they are empowered by Israel’s actions and refusal to make a genuine effort to make peace with the Palestinians or to make genuine peace with the rest of the Arab World.

Israel is taking the salami approach. Slice and dice the Arab World and make separate, detached peace agreements or detente with Arab countries — Qatar has an informal peace with Israel, for example, as do a few other Arab countries. It won’t bring peace as salami is not Kosher. So there are issues out there, for sure that need to be addressed int he Islamic World about the abuses and mistreatment of Christians. But Christians are not just victims of extremists in the Muslim World. They are victims of extremists in Israel and by mainstream Israelis who have buried their heads in the sands of hypocrisy. (If I don’t look the immoral issue in the eye, then I can ignore it is a common Israeli attitude.)

And, anyone who reads Glick’s columns knows that it is not her concern for the Christian minority in the Muslim world that drives her writings or concerns. Her column is very clear on that. Her real concern is to bash the Muslim World. And I know that because I have never read Glick write a column about how Israel mistreats the Christian Arabs in Israel and in the Occupied Territories of the West Bank, and East Jerusalem, and the imprisonment of Palestinians, including Christians, by Israel in the Gaza Strip.

If Israelis are so concerned about the mistreatment of Christians — not just when the mistreatment takes place at the hands of extremists Muslims — why don’t they scold their own Israeli people and government for their abuses against Christians in Israel and in the occupied West Bank?

Israelis see Christians when they are outside of Israel and the occupied territories. But they do not see “Christians” when they are in Israel or the occupied territories. Instead, they lump Christians and Muslims together and make excuses for the government abuses that are heaped on them all. Christian and Muslim Palestinians suffer equally under Israeli policy. The worst Israeli policy is the closure of Jerusalem to Palestinians who live in the West Bank.

In fact, Jerusalem is more closed today under Israel than it was under the Jordanians when it comes to the Christian Palestinians in the West Bank. Christians who live in the holy city of Bethlehem, where my mother, her family a nd her ancestors going back hundreds maybe even thousands of years are from are prohibited from entering Jerusalem or visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. That is the equivalent — yes there is that word the Israelis dread, equivalency — to preventing Israelis from visiting the Wailing Wall.

The Israelis can argue that they are in a quasi-state of war with the Palestinians and the Palestinians must be banned from entering East Jerusalem, which is an occupied city and it is a security issue. But that is exactly what Jordan said when it banned Israelis — not Jews — from entering East Jerusalem when the hypocritical Jordanian regime controlled the city, too. Jews with passports from other countries like America were allowed to visit East Jerusalem but not from Israel.

That’s a truth that Israelis love to distort.

Arab Christians in Israel are the targets of Israeli land speculators and the Israeli government. They claim that Gilo was built on lands “purchased” from Arab owners. But they always say “some” of the land was purchased. What was the status of the rest of Gilo? Was it confiscated which is a bureaucratic term for theft? My land is also in the line of fire near Gilo and faces the same threat that other Christian Palestinian lands face. The Israelis are scooping up lands in the Christian sacred Shepherd’s Field. Land in Beit Sahour. Beti Sahour was bombed and attacked by the Israeli military repeatedly. I’ve been past the doctor’s home that is filled with cannon fire holes, and to the spot on the nearby road where Israeli soldiers and settlers massacred the Christian doctor.

Many rightwing Israelis go out of their way to turn the truth upside down and blame the departure from Israel and the Occupied territories on Palestinian practices and anti-Christian bigotry by Muslims. But the truth is that the Christians of Israel and the occupied territories are fleeing because of Israeli brutality, land theft and even attacks from the settler fanatics. At least accidentally, Glick undermines the Israeli canard that there are no Christians in the Gaza Strip anymore.  She deserves some credit for that accidental point. She writes that there are at least 3,000 Christians left in the Gaza, while most Israelis argue falsely that they have all been “chased out” by Islamic persecution.

This column isn’t about Caroline Glick. What she thinks or writes doesn’t impact my life at all. Her inability to embrace reason, fairness, justice or genuine peace is a problem she must confront. What this is about is the growing preponderance of extremist thought that is saturating Israeli lives and the inability or the refusal of mainstream Israelis to confront their own demons.

I speak out against the fanatics and extremists in the Palestinians and Arab and Islamic World all the time. Do any Israelis confront their extremists and their fanatics without holding back? Maybe a few, but that is not enough to stop the extremists in Israel from derailing the peace talks.

I confront Israeli and Palestinian policies in the Jerusalem Post where my column sometimes appears each week on Wednesday. I can challenge Israeli policy in a creative way. I can always criticize Palestinian policies without limitation. And I get a lot of grief from Israeli readers, even though my column seeks out the reasoned middle ground of truth not propaganda on either side.

I’ll keep writing about the need for peace and I will keep calling out the extremists among the Palestinians. And I won’t hesitate to defend the rights of Christians in the Islamic World or in Israel.

Maybe one day, Israelis will recognize that there will be no peace until they, too, confront their own demons and call out their fanatics, especially when they cross the line of hypocrisy so viciously as has been done.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist. He can be reached at www.TheMediaOasis.com.)



Categories: Middle East Topics

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