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This Christmas, Israel Intensifies Its War on Christians in The Holy Land

While it’s widely known about Israel’s systematic persecution of Palestine’s native Arab population, only a very few Americans or Europeans are really aware of the well-documented history of Israeli discrimination against native Christians in the Holy Land.

This morning, embattled Israeli Prime Minister and Likud leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, tweeted out this message to “Christians around the world.” Presumably he means his political support base of evangelical Christians, or more specifically, Christian Zionists, residing in America.

However, Likud’s traditional stance towards Christians is anything but charitable. Back in in 1977, Christians residing in Israel and the occupied territories rose up in protest of new law passed at the time by the Likud government of Menachem Begin, making it illegal for missionaries to try and proselytize Jews, as well as making Christian missionaries liable for up to five years in prison should they attempt to persuade any Israeli to change his or her religion. Incredibly still, there was also a three year prison sentence awaiting any Jew who dared convert to Christianity.

Donald Neff, former Israel Bureau Chief for Time Magazine wrote:

“Desecration of Christian property and churches—arson, window breaking, burning of the New Testament—had long marred relations between the two communities. A small but fanatical group of Jews wanted no Christians, whom they considered fallen Jews, in Israel. This virulent strain of prejudice had been present since before the Jewish state was founded.

For instance, after the capture by Jewish forces of Jaffa on May 13, 1948, two days before Israel’s birth, there was desecration of Christian churches. Father Deleque, a Catholic priest, reported: “Jewish soldiers broke down the doors of my church and robbed many precious and sacred objects. Then they threw the statues of Christ down into a nearby garden.” He added that Jewish leaders had reassured that religious buildings would be respected, “but their deeds do not correspond to their words.”

The exclusionary policies of Likud were not the exception, but rather the rule, and that tradition of intolerance endures to this day. While the Israeli state goes to great lengths to cater for visiting international Christian pilgrim-tourists, it offers no such hospitality for the remaining indigenous Arab Christians. The popular myth and media talking point of Israel being “the only democracy in the Middle East,” or that somehow ‘religious freedom’ is observed in Israel as in western countries, is just that, a myth.

Neff adds here:

Anti-Christian prejudice helps account for the fact that the number of Christian Palestinians in all of former Palestine had dwindled to only 50,000 in 1995. They no longer were a major presence in either Jerusalem or Ramallah, and they were fast losing their majority status in Bethlehem.

When Israel was established in 1948, the Palestinian Christian community had numbered 200,000, compared to roughly 600,000 Jews in Palestine at the time. Now the Christians are not even one percent of the population of Israel/Palestine. Of today’s estimated total 400,000 Christian Palestinians, most now are living in their own diaspora, mainly in the Americas.

This Christmas, it should be recognized that the same pattern of persecution and exclusion is still going strong in 2019, only it’s been obfuscated by ever more mainstream media and public relations noise.

There seems to be one major objective in all of this: by erasing Christians in the Holy Land, you also erase their history.

Redress Online writes…

It’s Christmas, but not as we know it: Israel ratchets-up religious war against Christians
.

Stuart Littlewood writes:

O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight

Happy Christmas, O prisoners of the Little Town of Bethlehem.

While carving the turkey for your family and merrily quaffing mulled wine ‘midst happy laughter, remember that the romantic Little Town of Bethlehem at the centre of our childhood Christmases is now “an immense prison” in the words of Michel Sabbah, former Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, and entirely surrounded by Israel’s ugly eight-metre separation wall bristling with machine-gun towers.

The good citizens of Bethlehem are cut off from their capital Jerusalem, only six miles away, and the rest of the West Bank – and the whole world.

Consider that the United Nations, for obvious reasons, designated Jerusalem and Bethlehem a protected international zone under UN administration. Israeli rule was not to be permitted.

Consider also that when Palestine was under British mandate Christians accounted for 78 per cent of the population in Bethlehem and how 71 years of Israeli terror, illegal occupation, dispossession, interference and economic wrecking tactics have whittled their numbers down to around 15 per cent. In occupied Palestine overall the figure is down to 2 per cent.

Consider that, at this rate, there will soon be no Christians left in the land where Christianity was born, thanks to the cowardice and inaction of our political leaders.

And how do the 26 bishops loafing around in our House of Lords explain that to their dwindling congregations?

As usual, many Palestinians in Bethlehem and the other cities and villages throughout occupied Palestine will be unable to reunite with their families or celebrate Christmas at their holy places in Jerusalem and Bethlehem due to cruel Israeli-imposed travel restrictions. Imagine for a moment what sort of Christmas the half-starved children in blockaded Gaza are having this year, and every year, and the dismal New Year prospects that face all the other Palestinian children struggling to grow up with the Israeli army’s boot on their necks.

This year Reuters reported that Christians in the Gaza Strip would not be allowed to visit holy cities such as Bethlehem and Jerusalem to celebrate Christmas.

Our politicians are either paralysed or deliberately obstructive, or complicit in Israel’s thuggery. In the New Year civil society must resolve to DO SOMETHING about it, one way or another, before the evil spins irreversibly out of control.

Israel grants Gaza’s Christians permits to travel abroad but not to the rest of their homeland in the occupied West Bank, including Jerusalem and Bethlehem, where many of their holy sites are located. I’ve seen one report today that the decision has been suddenly reversed after pleadings by Christian leaders, but no confirmations so far. Of course, it should not be necessary to plead in such matters.

Nor is it just about religion. This is also a struggle between justice and a criminal conspiracy of huge international proportions, the tentacles of which spread far beyond the Holy Land and impact on all of us, even here in the deepest recesses of Britain’s green and pleasant land.

Our politicians are either paralysed or deliberately obstructive, or complicit in Israel’s thuggery. In the New Year civil society must resolve to DO SOMETHING about it, one way or another, before the evil spins irreversibly out of control.

READ MORE PALESTINE NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Palestine Files

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