“Palestinian Christians and Muslims have been living together in harmony for centuries in what we call the Holy Land,” the Rev. Wagner boasted, in his own sugar-coated and truncated version of Islamic domination in Middle East history. “They also face the same brutal treatment at the hands of the Israeli occupiers, die from the same bullets, see their homes bulldozed and their lands confiscated and turned into illegal Jewish (only) settlements.” The Sabeel and typical Religious Left narrative is that only Israel can be faulted for any regional upheaval. “They live behind a 24-foot wall that chokes their towns and villages and cuts off farmers from tilling their lands, whether they are Christians or Muslims,” Wagner said of Palestinian Christians. “The Israeli occupation is an equal abuser of Palestinian Christians and Muslims.”
Wagner rehashed the narrative that Palestinian Christians are leaving the region exclusively because of Israel. This narrative almost never explains why the Palestinian Muslim population continues to grow, despite all the Israeli oppression. Wagner recalled that 13 percent of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip population was Christian prior to Israeli occupation in 1967 after its victorious war against attacking Arab armies. He notes today the Palestinian Christian population is perhaps not more than 1 percent. Of course, he omits the exodus of Christians from other Middle East countries, an exodus compounded by low birth rates.
“Some church leaders fear that at this rate there will be no Christians left in these parts of the Holy Land within a generation, unless something dramatic causes Israel to change its intransigence,” Wagner warns. But if Israel completely withdrew behind pre-1967 borders, would Palestinian Christians suddenly begin to thrive under full Palestinian nationalist or Islamist rule? Everywhere throughout the Middle East, Christian populations have been draining for the last century or more. That exodus is accelerating, as secular dictatorships that partly protected Christians are surrendering to Islamist movements.
Wagner excitedly pointed at the upcoming United Methodist and Presbyterian conventions, which he hopes will approve anti-Israel divestment, though both churches have rejected it in the past. He explains: “The churches are applying the same ethical principles for morally responsible investment as they have applied in previous cases such as Apartheid in South Africa, Sudan ethnic cleansing in Darfur, and divesting from corporations producing weapons or instruments that destroy lives or the livelihood of civilians.” How ironic that he morally compares Israel to Sudan’s notorious Islamist regime. “These sisters and brothers [among the Palestinians] are hoping and praying that the global church will not let them down in their hour of need and will begin to embody prophetic consciousness,” Wagner concluded.
Well, perhaps. Or just as likely, the remnant of Palestinian Christians is saying what they have to say in a struggle to survive as a tiny minority among Muslim nationalists and zealots. Compared to Wagner’s FOSNA and the angry March on Jerusalem, Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori almost sounds coolly reassuring when she told her Los Angeles audience: “I would urge you to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, to pray and work together for a society of peace with justice for that vision that is shared by all Abrahamic faiths. Salaam, shalom, peace.”
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