Christian Suffering Under Palestinian Authority

Courtesy Palestinian Media Watch

Jerusalem-----December 28......As a service to our subscribers, we have translated an article that appeared recently in Hebrew daily Ma'ariv, describing the fear and oppression under which Christians in the Palestinian Authority live, resulting in many of them leaving Bethlehem.
The following are excerpts from the article, written by Hanan Shlein.

"Make no mistake - Arafat's insistence that he would go to the Midnight Mass in Bethlehem, "even on foot" if Israel doesn't permit him to take off from Ramallah, does not necessarily reflect great love between Muslims and Christians in Palestinian Authority-controlled areas. In fact, the opposite is the case.

The Christians suffer greatly just by being in PA areas, which is evident from what transpired during the exchange of fire between Palestinians in the Christian town of Beit Jala and IDF troops in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo. At the height of the firing, the Christians of Beit Jala received a particularly painful bear-hug: Tanzim activists, Muslims of course, chose their firing positions as close as possible to Christian religious institutions. The Christians instantly understood the ploy - one slight deviation of Israeli retaliatory fire on Beit Jala would suffice to harm the Christian institutions or homes. In such an event, Israel would receive grave reactions from the world's Christians and the gain would be two-fold: both Gilo and Israel's relations with the international Christian community would suffer a blow.

"One resident of Beit Jala remembers sadly: 'We frequently were humiliated by the Muslims in Bethlehem. We Christians used to constitute 50% of the population in the city. Today, we make up maybe 20%. Anyone who was able to do so, left."

"Out of fear for their safety, Christian spokesmen aren't happy to be identified by name when they complain about the Muslims' treatment of them.
Off the record they talk of harassment and terror tactics, mainly from the gangs of thugs who looted and plundered Christians and their property, under the protection of Palestinian security personnel.

"Relations between Muslims and Christians deteriorated after the Israeli Army withdrawal from Bethlehem. It was then that PA security forces, all Muslims, entered, and the sentiments and frustration on the part of the
Muslims turned into actions. Israel began receiving complaints from Christians about damage to churches and the smashing of crosses, without any real preventive measures taken by the local police. In addition, [bodily]
harassment against Christians began, which reached its peak when Muslims sexually molested young Christian girls from Beit Sahur." [Ma'ariv, Dec. 24, 2001]