Oddly, Kairos Palestine surmises that Oren’s citation of Israeli protections for Christians implies Israel’s “lack of interest in ensuring the same for Muslims.” And of course they incredulously wonder why permits should be needed for visiting holy sites in Jerusalem. Ostensibly, they claim, “Christians and Muslims lived together for the past 1500 years without major problems,” until Israel’s creation. And naturally they fault the “roots of empire and colonialism,” and the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
“As Kairos Palestine, we refuse to be marginalized in the way Oren defines our marginalization,” they boast. “We refuse to be pitted against our Palestinian Muslim neighbours and friends; and we refuse to let our collective oppression be manipulated in a way that fragments us, obscures us, or masks the oppression’s true cause, which is the Israeli occupation.”
How very brave. But Kairos Palestine, like other supposed proponents of Christian Palestinians, doesn’t explain why the Muslim population in the West Bank and Gaza continue to grow while only the Christian population declines. If exodus signifies persecution, then seemingly Israeli policies must favour Palestinian Muslims.
In fact, the vast majority of Palestinians, Muslim and Christian, live under the direct rule of the Palestinian Authority. Palestinians do not have military control over the West Bank. And Palestinians must contend with the inconveniences of security checks when they travel from one region to the next. The much maligned Israeli security wall, which has saved so many lives from terror, has created additional inconveniences by separating some communities. But travel and security inconveniences, compounded by the indignity to Palestinian nationalism of ultimate Israeli military oversight, afflict all Palestinians and do not selectively affect Palestinian Christians.
“Israeli obstacles and practices do not differentiate between Muslims and Christians, and are imposed over a whole nation,” admitted a Palestinian priest in a Palestinian news service story intended to rebut the Israeli ambassador. “The bullets that fired against Palestinians do not differentiate between Christians and Muslims.” The priest boasted that Israeli oppression would “strengthen the ties between Christians and Muslims.” How wonderful. Then why are Christian Palestinians leaving? The priest jibbed that Israel should “offer freedom to the Christian communities under its occupation before criticizing Muslim oppression in other countries in the Middle East.” And he insisted: “No such oppression exists in Palestine.” Right. Critics of Oren’s op-ed further cited a Palestinian study showing Christians who emigrate are “aggravated by the lack of freedom and security.” Will Palestinian Christians gain in “freedom and security” under a fully autonomous Palestinian state where Hamas is a likely co-ruler?
The tiny Christian minority among Palestinians, always struggling to survive, is hardly in any position to criticize its Palestinian Muslim overlords. On a human level, they cannot be faulted for saying what they have to say and defensively burnishing their nationalist credentials. But Western church groups, like the United Church of Christ’s Global Ministries, should be ashamed for exploiting their plight. Ideally Western church groups would instead speak truth about why Christians are fleeing the Middle East. But at least the Israeli ambassador is speaking on behalf of besieged Middle East Christians when too many Western churches refuse to do so.
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