By Giulio Meotti www.IsraelNationalNews.com
“Israel has become the only safe haven for Christians in the Middle East,” Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren wrote in a recent op-ed published in The Wall Street Journal.
“As 800,000 Jews were once expelled from Arab countries, so are Christians being forced from lands they’ve inhabited for centuries,” Ambassador Oren stated.
The numbers are telling. Today there is only one Middle Eastern country where the number of Christians has grown: Israel. As documented in the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, the Christian community that numbered 34,000 people in 1949 is now 163,000-strong, and will reach 187,000 in 2020.
In the rest of the Middle East, the drive for Islamic purity is banishing all traces of pre-Islamic pasts. Therefore, it is time for Christians to recognize Israel’s survival as critical and vital also for them. Instead, Arab Christians chose to react to Ambassador Oren by embracing Islam and demonizing the Jews.
“As Christian leaders in Palestine, we were appalled by the baseless allegations you published in The Wall Street Journal,” says one letter signed by many Arab Christians, published in the Palestinian media outlets. “Your attempt to blame the difficult reality that Palestinian Christians face on Palestinian Muslims is a shameful manipulation of the facts intended to mask the damage that Israel has done to our community. The Israeli occupation is the primary reason why so many members of the oldest Christian communities in the world have left the holy land, Palestine. Our reality is one of occupation, oppression, and loss.”
The letter is signed by Palestinian ministries, activists, priests, and mayors, and members of the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization).
Even more dramatic: the collapse of Christian Arab society following Israel’s handing over of large parts of Judea and Samaria to the Palestinian Authority. Christians suffered the most from the mafia-style rule of Yasser Arafat’s kleptocracy.
Christian sites and cemeteries were desecrated by Muslims. Slogans like “Islam will win” and “First the Saturday people, then the Sunday People” have been painted on walls, and PLO flags were draped over Christian crosses.
Ramallah was 90% Christian before the 1948 War of Independence and Bethlehem was 80% Christian. Today Ramallah is a large Islamic city and Bethlehem’s Christians are near extinction.
Given their common status as minorities within an overwhelmingly Islamic region, you might expect Christian Arabs to find common cause with Jews and Israel. But Eastern Christianity’s traditional hatred of Judaism, combined with the futile hopes for assimilation within the Arab world, has closed off that option.
As the letter clearly shows, Arab Christians are lost to Islam. This historical process has been explained by the pioneer Bat Ye’or, the most important historian of “dhimmitude” (the subjugation of non-Muslims).
Many Palestinian terrorists came from the Christian community. George Habash, who has been dubbed “the godfather of Middle East terrorism,” was a Greek Orthodox Christian who sang in his church choir as a boy back in the town of Lydda. His background was almost identical to that of his best friend, Wadia Haddad, the No. 2 in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the operational genius and passionate proponent of the group’s terrorist acts.
For years after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, the public face of that nation’s diplomacy was Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, who was born with the distinctly Christian name Michael Yuhanna.
British author William Dalrymple suggests that by the 1990s, five out of Hafiz al Asad’s seven closest advisors were Christian. Today, the suave symbol of the Palestinian cause in the West is a Christian, Hanan Ashrawi, who signed the letter against Oren.
Coptic Christians were prominent in the pioneering, nationalist, anti-Israel Wafd Party of Egypt in the 1920s. From the 1930s, Arab Christians were deeply influenced by the fascist and ultra-nationalist models they could see in Europe, and they formed their own parties in this mold.
One of the first was the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, founded by the Christian Antun Saadeh, who preached the establishment of a Great Syrian Empire covering not just modern-day Syria but also Judea, Samaria, Lebanon, Cyprus, and other stretches of the Near East.
In 1940, another Christian thinker launched what would be a still more influential variety of pan-Arabism, namely the Movement for Arab Renaissance (Ba’th). The key founder was Michel Aflaq, who had been educated at the Sorbonne.
The most prominent Palestinian intellectual in the world was a Christian, Edward Said (it was in Nazareth, in fact, that Said’s mother was born; his grandfather founded the city’s first Baptist church).
The use of the term “nakba” for the Israeli War of Independence was an innovation of Constantin Zureiq, the intellectual father of Arab nationalism. George Antonious’s book The Arab Awakening is one of the earliest intellectual expressions of Palestinian Arab resentment about Zionism. Antonious was far from alone as a Christian Arab who saw his future with the aspirations of the Muslim majority in the Arab world.
You also have the case of Azmi Bishara, the Arab MK (member of the Knesset) who betrayed the State of Israel, who comes from a middle-class Christian family from Nazareth.
Meanwhile, in Lebanon, the Christian movements of General Michel Aoun and Sleiman Frangieh are allied with Hezbollah.
Christians have also been part of municipal councils headed by Hamas. Now that the Nasserite mixture of socialism and secularism is replaced by Islamist fury, Christians are vanishing from their cradle.
Arab Christians are paying the anti-Israel appeasing choice: they feed the Islamic crocodile hoping it will eat them last. Nonetheless, it is devouring the Christian lamb. Indeed, the Christian era in the Middle East is coming to an end. After Arab nationalism failed to eliminate Israel, Arab Christianity and the Vatican are now building a Palestinian identity that is hostile to Israel and the Jews.
The Christian criminalization of Zionism, which Arab churches made a basic condition for “Muslim-Christian rapprochement,” grants the elimination of the Jewish State priority over defending the rights of their own beleaguered communities.
As was the case of the European Christians in World War II, Arab Christianity is now pursuing a joint cause with evil forces to buy temporary security. They will be responsible for their own destruction. When in 1991, the first Iraqi Scud missiles hit the Tel Aviv area, Palestinians in Judea and Samaria and Gaza, in defiance of the curfew, mounted rooftops and joyfully chanted: “Saddam, Saddam, ya habib, oodroob oodroob Tel Aviv” (“Saddam, Saddam, you darling, hit Tel Aviv”) over and over again.
A few rocket attacks later, a paraphrased version of that ditty spread around: “Saddam, Saddam, our boss, go ahead and hit the Cross.”
Arab Christians have been Islamicized. Supported by the Vatican and the Orthodox Churches, they choose the war against the Jews. They will be paid back with their own extinction.
Giulio Meotti is an Italian-Christian author and journalist, whose 2010 book A New Shoah, The Untold Story of Israel’s Victims of Terrorism has been widely praised.