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, comparing the expulsion of Jews after the establishment of the state of Israel with the Arab countries’ current treatment of their Christian minorities.
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 going to banish all traces of pre-Islamic pasts. When the Islamists will have prevailed, the Middle East will be completely green, the colour of Islam.
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 Christian personalities 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.
Arab Christianity is near its extinction everywhere. “Christianity in Iraq could be eradicated in our lifetime, partially as a result of the US troop withdrawal”, declared Leonard Leo, chairman of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.
In Egypt, 100,000 Christians already have left the country - after Hosni Mubarak’s fall last year. The Egyptian Union of Human Rights is denouncing this “mass exodus”.
Even more dramatic is the collapse of Christian Arab society following Israel’s handing over of large parts of Judea and Samaria to the Palestinian Authority. Christians have 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 Jesus 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 the traditional hatred of Eastern Christianity for Judaism, combined with the futile hopes for assimilation within the Arab world, have closed off that option.
As the letter clearly shows, Arab Christians are lost to Islam. This unavoidable historical process has been explained by the pioneer Bat Ye’or, the most important historian of the “dhimmitude”.
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