Greg Myre's "A sad new carol: go Ye from Bethlehem," which ran in the New York Times (12.23.04, A6), is an excellent example of how half a truth is worse than a lie.
Myre documents with empathy and sensitivity the flight of thousands of Christians from the once predominantly Christian city of Bethlehem, giving his readers some touching personal perspectives of Christian Palestinians whose livelihoods have been ruined by the 4-year long "intifada" and resultant collapse of the West Bank's tourist-dependent economy. This story is important. As one of his informants accusingly cries out: "Christians all over the world need to know this reality".
But in discussing the roots of this tragic exodus, Myre misrepresents this reality by omitting any reference to the real cause and instead making only brief mention of the violence, the bad economy, and the actions of the Israeli army (check points, road blocks, curfews).
The Christian exodus has been going on for almost a decade because of relentless Moslem terror threats against Christians. Moslem terrorists taunt Christians with chants of "al-yaum es-sabbat bas ghanem el-ahad" (today is Saturday, but tomorrow is Sunday), or "abel es-sabbat jibel-ahad" (after Saturday comes Sunday). The Christians are clear about what the terrorists mean.
Moreover, in 1996 Arafat redistricted Bethlehem, redefining by executive fiat its municipal boundaries so that they included many nearby Moslem villages. Overnight the Christian population found itself reduced from an 80 percent majority to a minority. Arafat's long-term plans for Bethlehem were clear.
And Arafat's long-term plans for the entire West Bank were clear as well. The preliminary draft of the not-yet-finalized Palestinian constitution refers to "Palestine" as a Moslem state, not the secular democracy that Arafat has promised the West. This puts Christians on notice that they can look forward to Shari'a (Islamic religious jurisprudence) instead of democracy, and dhimmitude (2nd-class non-citizens lacking legal status) instead of equality, in the new Moslem "Palestine"; just as Christians and Jews experienced for 1,350 years under Moslem rule throughout the Arab world.
In addition to concealing the Moslem terrorist role in the tragedy of Christian Bethlehem, Myre greatly under-reports the magnitude of the tragedy. He quotes a local source estimating that about 3,000 Christians have fled since the intifada started. Others put the figure at more than ten times that number. Prior to the intifada, Bethlehem was about 80 percent Christian. Now it is less than 20 percent Christian. Clearly tens of thousands have fled.
Myre also fails to note, in his list of destinations for these Christian refugees, that many flee to Israel....a free democratic society just across the street, where all can practice their religion without constraint.
By ignoring Moslem terrorist threats against Christians, Myre has concocted a grand lie that falsely implicates Israel and leaves unmentioned the lethal religious hatred against non-Moslems that beclouds the future of Christians in the city where they have lived for more than 2,000 years. By omitting the root cause of Christian flight from Bethlehem, Myre obfuscates the very reality that he is supposedly disclosing.
Those familiar with European history may be reminded of the flight of Jews from Nazi Germany and Austria in the late 1930's, as Hitler's plans became clear. Only this time it is Christians fleeing the frightening possibility of life under the Fascist rule of Moslem Palestinian terrorists.