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An occasional Palestinian Christian encounter of Israeli intolerance
Published Tuesday 17/04/2012 (updated) 20/04/2012 14:54
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Trails of an Israeli F16 warplane are seen in the sky over the Church of the
Nativity during the traditional annual lighting ceremony of the main Christmas
tree in Bethlehem in 2010. (MaanImages/Luay Sababa, File)

The Israeli ambassador to the US appears to really believe that Palestinian Christians suffer significantly from Palestinian Muslims, and just occasionally from Israeli intolerance.

Palestinian Christians' reality is the complete opposite.

The ambassador's latest missives in the American press have provoked Palestinian Christian leaders to remind him and his readers that Israel really isn't all that friendly to its Christians.

Yet again, we have another irresponsible article coming out of a high profile Israeli diplomat, and yet again, Palestinians have to formulate a response while being deeply insulted and disturbed by these irresponsible opinions.

Of course, as an ambassador of Israel, he is expected to defend Israel’s crimes, serve its interests, and every now and then come out with something positive, just to give the impression that Israel is not only about murdering Palestinians, stealing their land, destroying their houses, restricting their movement, and denying them free access to their holy sites in Jerusalem.

But our reality tells a different story.

In recent years all Palestinians, regardless of their religious background, have been subject to Israel’s practices of oppression, including murder.

Palestinian Christians killed by Israel’s military and security forces include Samir Salman, 45, the bell ringer of the Church of Nativity, who was shot dead by an Israeli sniper during Israel’s siege of the church, which effectively placed the entire Christian and Muslim population under house arrest for more than six weeks.

Christine Saadeh, 10, was murdered when an Israeli military unit opened fire at her family’s car injuring her dad and sister and killing her.

Johnny Thalgieh, 17, was killed by the Israeli military near the Manger Square in Bethlehem.

Daniel Abu Hamameh, 23, was murdered by an Israeli unit during Easter of 2006, an act largely seen as Israel’s gift to his family in that occasion.

Having the representative of the state of Israel referring to such history as occasional acts of Israeli intolerance feels like representatives of US states like Georgia or Mississippi last century saying that lynching of Christian African Americans was an "occasional act of white supremacists’ intolerance."

While lynchings are visibly more barbaric, the nexus of murder and the racism is the same.

The "occasional" encounter of intolerance also falls down when reflecting on the predominantly-Christian town of Beit Jala.

Beit Jala has suffered continuous Israeli destruction, the latest example of which was two days after Palm Sunday of this year.

Four houses of Christian families in Beit Jala were demolished as well as the entire electrical network that provides power to the houses in the al-Makhroor neighborhood.

When the Israeli government sent its bulldozers to the area, they decided 4 a.m. was the time to begin the destruction. In the ambassador’s language is this is "occasional," but in reality it is intentional destruction.

Since 1967, Beit Jala’s Christian families have suffered loss and destruction of their property, while the Israeli settlements of Har Gilo and part of the Israeli settlement of Gilo are built on land stolen by Israel from the town's Christian community.

Israel’s construction of part of bypass road 60 is built on land taken from Beit Jala’s Christian families, as well as two tunnels and a bridge serving the road. Four kilometers of a 12-meter wide road is built on, above, and below property of Christians from Beit Jala.

Moreover, the families that lost their land for the road and the tunnels are prohibited by Israel from driving, walking on or having access to it.

More destruction of Christian property came as Israel built its wall in Beit Jala, Bethlehem and Beit Sahour.

In all three of these communities, Christian families have lost property for the construction of the wall, and have lost access to their property on the other side of the wall ever since it was built.

In Beit Sahour the wall was completed in 2006 and the olive fields and the Christian owners of these fields were denied access to them by the state of Israel since that year. This denial is not occasional; this denial is constant.

Every loss of life, property, shelter and freedom of access that Palestinian Christians suffer is a constant reminder of Israel’s occasional acts of intolerance.

The Anastas family in Bethlehem is one of the city’s Christian families that is reminded of that intolerance every morning. Entirely encircled by the wall, every time they dare to open the shades of their house's third floor, or even want to go to their rooftop, they greet intolerance face-to-face.

The ambassador of Israel in the United States, as well as his readers and those who praise him, should be reminded that Israel has never done anything to redress the injustices resulting from its occasional acts of intolerance.

Israel has never rebuilt a house for a Palestinian Christian that they destroyed, let alone allowed them the freedom to rebuild it themselves.

Israel never dismantled any section of the wall that is illegally built on the land of Christian families nor allowed them free access to their land on the other side of it.

Israel has not brought to justice criminals who have murdered innocent Palestinian Christians.

Israel’s ambassador should have been more honest with his readers, by either researching the reality his state imposes on Palestinian Christians as part of Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians, or perhaps by not tackling a subject he does not know enough about.

The credibility of the ambassador when commenting on Christian affairs equals the credibility of South African ambassadors in previous decades commenting on black South African Christian affairs.

In both cases their credibility amounts to zero.

Baha Hilo works for the Joint Advocacy Initiative.
1 ) Julie / USA
18/04/2012 06:08
excellent article, BRAVO to Baha Hilo! truth be told loud and clear and there is nothing the izraelis can do to falsify it with their lies and hasbara !!! readers of truth need to reference this article anywhere and everywhere they can.

2 ) steve ben jacob / usa
18/04/2012 06:09
anyone with interest should first and formost ask a lebonnese christian still in lebenon how they feel about isreali intervention as opossed to a hamas ruled lebonon.

3 ) southparkbear / usa
18/04/2012 06:38
stories are one thing facts are facts. christians are under constant attack in muslim societies especially palestinian

4 ) A / New York
18/04/2012 12:40
Good article Mr. Hilo. As Palestinian Christian I would say that your words are overly kind to this criminal "ambassador" of this criminal entity. One day we Christians along with our Muslim brothers and sisters will work hand in hand to put these criminals on trail and punish them for their murderous and hateful crimes.

5 ) Jim / UK
18/04/2012 16:04
For anyone looking for further insight into the lives of Palestinian Christians under Israeli occupation I recommend 'I am a Palestinian Christian' by Mitri Rahab - http://www.amazon.com/Am-Palestinian-Christian-Mitri-Raheb/dp/080062663X

6 ) James / UK
18/04/2012 16:24
I've met a number of Palestinian Christians in the West Bank who are a real inspiration to the rest of us living in the West. Their faith is simple, beautiful and a wonderful testimony of the power of love and forgiveness. It is easy to pass hatred and judgement, especially when it's warranted, but far more difficult (and powerful) to love one's enemies, which is what I witnessed. Unfortunately most of the Western churches aren't aware of the reality of the situation. This needs to change!

7 ) @southparkerbear / Palestine
18/04/2012 17:33
and for the other narrow minded ignorant people, Israel has murdered more Palestinian Christians than Palestinian Muslims have done! facts are facts, don't defend a criminal, just admit they are criminals and be proud of your support of them ... your facts are your facts! Don't be like Oren and talk about stuff you know nothing about.

8 ) @ Palestine #7 / USA too
19/04/2012 16:27
There is a difference between "Killed" and "Murdered", and
IF "Israel murdered Palestinian Christians" or even Muslims,
surely B'Tselem would present such statistics, but they don't*.
* http://www.btselem.org/statistics

Further, if you were really interested in Christian rights, then you surely know that the battle front is Muslim states, like Iraq & Egypt, where they are really murdered and flee for their lives by the 100s or 1,000s,
rather than harmed in Israel by rule of law !!!

9 ) another voice / Israel
19/04/2012 22:56
Can you even name the mutitudes of Arabs killed by their leader today in Syria? Name their name Shahidim!! Have any of you even been here? Today I visited the Holy City of Jerusalem . In the Old City an Arab of any religion can go anywhere unaffraid. When I as a non Muslim went today to visit the Dome of the Rock Mosque, I cannot enter because I am not Muslim. Yet i the same city Churches and Jewish Holy places no one asked my religion. Don't beleive ALL the hype. Love Jerusalem

10 ) Colin Wright / USA
19/04/2012 23:13
To Southparkbear #3 'stories are one thing facts are facts. christians are under constant attack in muslim societies especially palestinian' Let's assume that's true. Do you have a convincing explanation as to why they would pretend otherwise? Where are the legions of Palestinian Christians decrying Muslim oppression and thanking Jews for their tolerance and justice? People who defend Israel invariably involve themselves in absurdities. That's because they are defending a lie.

11 ) Colin Wright / USA
20/04/2012 01:03
To @ Palestine #8 '...rather than harmed in Israel by rule of law !!!' Don't be silly. Palestinians under Israeli rule don't enjoy the protection of the law.

12 ) @# 7 / Palestine
20/04/2012 09:27
Are you saying that Palestinians should stop caring about Christian Palestinians while being murdered by Israel, and try to help Christians is Egypt and Iraq? Only to prove to you that we care about Christian rights? like if you care about blacks rights, keep them discriminated against in your town but care for Africa! What type of a stupid murderer have suggested to you that Israel Kills, Israel doesn't murder? it is like you are suggesting that Murderers are guilty, Killers are not.

13 ) johnny benson / usa
22/04/2012 22:34
muslims have rid their countries of jews...a few left in turkey morocco tunisa.iran....a tiny few....egypt..syria..iraq will soon chase out their christians...maybe lebanons christians can hang on for a while....the only reason palestinian christians are still around , the muslims there are busy trying to kill israelis....there is no place for other religons in muslim lands.....that is a fact....that is the truth

14 ) @ Johnny Benson / Palestine
23/04/2012 15:11
The only reason for your inaccurate analyses is that you forget that Muslims have ruled the region for 12 or 13 hundred years! You forget that Palestine was the only place were Jews, Christians and Muslims lived ever since the start of their respective religions! You forget that while Crusaders & now the Zionists came to Palestine they are the ones that massacred and kicked out civilians, while Muslims have fought armies and let civilians stay at home! Just add that to YOUR facts and YOUR truth.

15 ) johnny benson / usa
24/04/2012 04:24
#14.....as usual....twist the truth,bend history...the muslims under the early caliphs and later ottoman empire...were not the islamist extremists of today....was i wrong about the condition of christans and jews in muslim countries of today??

16 ) @ Johnny Benson / Palestine
24/04/2012 11:44
You are wrong in seeking a black and white conclusions! Christians suffered under dictatorships supported by the USA! Islamic fundamentalism, Christian Fundamentalism, Jewish Fundamentalism are evil! we never accused Christianity or Judaism of the atrocities committed by their own fundamentalist, but we easily do about Islamist extremists. The question i pose is When did Israel's oppression begin and when Islamist extremism began in Palestine! It is not true to focus on one without the other!

17 ) @Johnny benson / Palestine
24/04/2012 11:50
Also remember that the murderers who are responsible of killing Christians in Syria r the ones NATO is desperate to support! Murdering Christians as well as many other minorities in Iraq escalated after USA intervention! disturbing the Christian Muslim relations in Egypt has been proven with documents that it was a cheap attempt to over turn the revolution in the country by the fallen regime (which received ultimate USA support). be a bit self critical & u will come to more accurate conclusions

18 ) johnny benson / sa
24/04/2012 21:09
#14....you bend the facts.....in iraq..just why the invasion of iraq suddenly caused the murders of christian arabs escapes me....tell your story about egypt to the copts....there is no comparison between jewish and christian extremists and muslim terrorists....9-11...bali...mumbai..spain..hundreds of attacks..targeting civilians..and babies...not in self defense...but in cold blooded murder......you draw odious comparisons....there are no more self critical people on this earth then the jews...

19 ) @Johnny Beson / Palestine
25/04/2012 15:31
facts are not bendable! same with reality! it is just visible, and you see it from whatever angel U want! Self critical Jews like Lenin, Einstein and Newton or like Sharon, Liberman, Jabotiski, Ben Gurion and all the other Zionist Supremacists, the latter lack it, and today's Zionists criticize themselves for how much they should or should not allow Palestinians to be free, or how much should we and should we not murder them? Stop mixing Jews or Muslims all in the same pot! People are different

20 ) @johnny benson / Palestine
25/04/2012 15:47
Also, Don't freak out that all extremists are the same! I don't think you would feel any differently if you were murdered by a bomber, by a drone or by a tank shell. You think it makes sense to believe that an extremist who drops a 50 tons bomb on civilians in Gaza is actually better than an extremist who opens fire on civilians in Bali! so believe it! I bet you felt good about USA bringing little Shakira from Pakistan to treat her from a drone strike burns in the face and the rest of her body!

21 ) Colin Wright / USA
25/04/2012 23:59
To @ #20 'I bet you felt good about USA bringing little Shakira from Pakistan to treat her from a drone strike burns in the face and the rest of her body!' To be fair, I imagine little Shakira felt it to be an improvement.

22 ) Colin Wright / USA
26/04/2012 06:19
To johnny Benson #19 '...there are no more self critical people on this earth then the jews...' Tut tut. Racism. However, perhaps this is why Jewish support for Israel is so weak. It's to their credit.

23 ) A christian in Bethlehem / Palestine
26/04/2012 16:07
It is true we have suffered under israli occupation but there is a lot of intimidation towards christians living in bethlehem from muslims and no one can say this in the open because it will get worse i know a lot of people have lost thier lands to muslims by intimidation or by force or they had to sell thier lands for little money .this is happening becaue christians in bethlehem are a minority .also christian girls have been kidnapped by muslims and they had to change thier religion so the par

24 ) Colin Wright / USA
26/04/2012 22:00
To 'A Christian in Bethlehem' #23. It's too bad there are so many Zionists posing as Palestinians -- you might actually be a Palestinian, but you'll never convince anyone you are. One point comes to mind: if this oppression exists to the extent you imply, why haven't more Palestinian Christians rushed to denounce it once they were safely in the US, Chile, etc?

25 ) Colin Wright / USA
26/04/2012 22:04
I doubt all is sweetness and light between Muslim and Christian Palestinians -- both groups might find it preferable to pretend it is, but traditional inter-religious relations almost everywhere else suggests it's unlikely. On the other hand, Christians and Muslims in Palestine have managed to both be there for thirteen hundred years -- obviously, to some extent, they've managed to co-exist. That differs sharply from the experience of both groups under Zionist rule.

26 ) Muslim-Christian son. / Palestine
27/04/2012 09:52
Rather than blaming the Majority of the Bethlehem Muslims on what few thieves do you should be reminded that Muslims too get involved in resolving the troubles you mentioned! Though I feel you have more tolerance to Israeli thieves than to Palestinian thieves. Also you know there is no tolerance to inter-religious marriages, call it by what it is! Not all Christian not all Muslims and not all Jews are criminals, though each group has its own criminal who give a bad name to the rest. Know better!

27 ) Colin Wright / USA
27/04/2012 22:48
To Muslim Christian son #26 '...not all Jews are criminals.' Indeed, at least half of all Jews aren't in Israel, don't strongly support the Zionist enterprise, and have no intention of doing so. Only 4% of American Jews rank Israel as their most important political concern.

28 ) A Christian in Bethlehem / Palestine
28/04/2012 23:06
IM actually a christian from bethlehem my family lived in bethlehem for 1500 years ..even when people leave Bethlehem they cant comlpain cause they have relatives still living in Bethlehem...and inter marriage ..how come a christian man is not allowed to marry a muslim women unless he changes his religion ..but a muslim man can marry a christian women thats wrong on a

29 ) Mel / USA
30/04/2012 17:22
Israeli Nazi Euro-white-supremacist(convert)Zionism won't even recognize historical black/orientalist HEBREWS,who come to Israel's 'promised land' &are forced to squat in the Negev on top of depleted uranium dumps around Dimona's illegal nuclear proliferation plants.As far as Zionist Israel is concerned,it's a "promised" land 4 WHITE Ashkenazi Jews only! Muslims,Arab Christians & Black Hebrews,can stay in Israel's ethnic concentration camps?

30 ) Mel / USA
30/04/2012 17:39
Cont: Christianity,Islam and Judaism are global FAITHS. Not particular RACES! The political/ideological Zionism which is allowed to control Israel,by its fellow-US-Euro sponsors,whose old history lays in colonial apartheid,have turned Israel's Judaism into a RACE,since 1948! Ergo, non-Zionists and Blacks/Browns are either not welcome,in Israel,or have to be 'unter menchen' subjugates!Judaism is global,just like Christianity &Islam.Israel made itself a RACE!

31 ) To Bethlehem Christian / Palestine
01/05/2012 18:58
#28 why don't you look for people who married from other religions and ask them? I know people who got married and kept their respected religions, others converted from Islam to be with their partners. Just look for couples who are married and ask them, instead of making judgments on their behalf! I agree that you should know better for a person who has lived for 1500 years in Bethlehem! Also, Israel forces Palestinians to leave, so people (Christian&Muslim) can either leave or exist & resist.

32 ) johnny benson / usa
01/05/2012 22:50
#30 mel...you are blinded by hate.......israel is a jewish land ...you have 3000 years of history.....jews are a people..they never tried to convert anybody....the african...spanish...jews are geniticly related to the russian and american jews...what is it about zionism you cant abide by...there never would be a problem if their muslim neighbors would have accepted them....they treated the arabs a lot better then we as americans treated the indians.

33 ) Colin Wright / USA
03/05/2012 03:00
To johnny Benson #32 '...there never would be a problem if their muslim neighbors would have accepted them...' Remind me to say that when I boot you out of your house and take it. I've cooked up this theory that it's mine, you see -- and indeed, if you 'accept it' there won't be a problem.

34 ) Ray Hanania / USA
21/05/2012 14:52
Israel targets non-Jews in its discrimination equally, but Christian Palestinians suffer more in reality because they are already a fragile community with no real substantive political voice. Israel also recognizes that Christians have a special connection to the United States and downplaying their suffering is important. Yes, Christians suffer in Muslim lands, BUT Christians suffer more in Israel and in the occupation because Israel and the occupied West Bank are their natural home.

35 ) johnny benson / usa
13/06/2012 22:49
ray....one simple question, is a christian arab better off as a citizen of israel....living in hafia...or as a west bank citizen living in bethlahem..is he safeer?....and so on?.....be honest

36 ) david / Usa
11/12/2012 15:05
The Christian is worse in the Jewish areas. When Christians are killed in Israel it is always by Jewish oppressors. You wanted honesty, you got it.
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