I’m writing from Finland this week, where the omnipresence of snow and festive Christmas lights heralds another celebration of the birth of Jesus. In parallel, the descendants of the first Christians in Palestine – the “Living Stones” – are marking another year of abominable Israeli occupation.
Indulged with indifference to the collective sorrow cloaking the hearts of native Christians in the Holy Land, the West turns a blind eye, rejoicing instead in the birth of the “Prince of Peace”. However, in present-day Palestine, Jesus is no longer a prince and peace remains a phantom.
If Joseph and his pregnant wife Mary were to venture on their historic journey to Bethlehem today, they would have to navigate roads reserved for foreign settlers, overcome military checkpoints and scale high walls to get there.
More than 2,000 years ago they fled from Herod the Great, the “King of the Jews”, to save their baby. Nowadays, Palestinian Christians are fleeing from a descendant of the King of Khazar – an aspiring flat copy of Herod – who has a Polish pedigree and was born Benjamin Mileikowsky. He, course, morphed into Benjamin Netanyahu, the current Israeli Prime Minister whose main political ally is the Moldovan Evet Lvovich (Avigdor) Lieberman.
According to Israeli human rights groups, there was a portentous increase in religious hate crimes directed towards historical Christian monasteries, churches and graveyards in 2012. The most recent was a week ago, when suspected Jewish extremists (“Price Tag”) associated with Israel’s settlement movement defiled the Greek Orthodox monastery in Jerusalem with graffiti.
In July, elected Israeli MK Michael Ben Ari desecrated the Christian Bible on camera, calling it a “despicable book” belonging “in history’s trash can” and blaming it for “the murder of millions of Jews” in Europe.
Earlier in the year, the CBS News show 60 Minutes aired a compelling programme on Palestinian Christians in the Holy Land. Before the broadcast, Israel’s Ambassador to the US, Michel Oren, contacted the head of CBS News in an attempt to quash the report. In a rare gesture, CBS afforded the ambassador a unique opportunity to rebut the story before it aired. Veteran reporter Bob Simon told the diplomat, “I’ve never had a reaction before from a story that hasn’t been broadcast yet.” In reply, Oren said pompously, “There’s a first time for everything.”
The ambassador pre-empted the show in an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal, but instead of addressing Israel’s mistreatment of Christians, Oren blamed Muslims for oppressing and massacring “Christian communities throughout the Middle East”, claiming that Christianity is “thriving” in Israel.
Responding to Oren’s assertions, 80 native Christian leaders denounced his bid to blame Christians’ hardship on Muslims as “shameful manipulation of the facts intended to mask the damage that Israel has done to our community”. As for the “thriving” Christianity in Israel, they explained that the growth was attributed to a large number of “Russian Christians whom Israel was unable to distinguish from Jewish immigrants pouring into the country after the fall of the Soviet Union”. A native Christian activist, Philip Farah, challenged Ambassador Oren: “If your country is so good to Christians, why don’t you allow me, my family and thousands of Palestinian Christians to return to our home?”
In 1948, Israel indiscriminately razed more than 500 Palestinian villages, including predominantly Christian towns such as Iqrit and Kufr Bir’m, to name just two. Likewise, these days Israeli settlements and the “Separation Wall” are encroaching and confiscating land belonging to Palestinians of all religious persuasions.
This Christmas, new Israeli Herods abetted by Western powers are driving Christians from their land and transforming native churches into Israeli tourist attractions and grand “archaeological sites” like the Pyramids, detached from their original traditions. It’s oppression, not Christianity, which is “thriving” in the occupied Holy Land.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.