- Under the Palestinian regime Christian Arabs have been
victims of frequent human rights abuses by Muslims. There are many
examples of intimidation, beatings, land theft, firebombing of churches
and other Christian institutions, denial of employment, economic
boycotts, torture, kidnapping, forced marriage, sexual harassment, and
extortion. Palestinian Authority
(PA) officials are directly responsible for many of the human rights
violations. Muslims who have converted to Christianity are in the
greatest danger. They are often left defenseless against cruelty by
Muslim fundamentalists. Some have been murdered.
Arabs also fall victim to the chaos and anarchy typical of PA rule.
This situation is fostered by societal rigidity, criminal gangs, lack
of education, absence of due process, incitement, unreliable courts,
and the denial of these problems-all running counter to Israel's desire
for a prosperous and stable neighbor.
- Muslim attitudes
toward Christians and Jews are influenced by the concepts and
prejudices about their inferiority that the practice of dhimmitude has
spawned in Islamic society. As dhimmis, Christians living in
Palestinian-controlled territories are not treated as equals of Muslims
and are subjected to debilitating legal, political, cultural, and
- The human rights violations against
the Christian Arabs in the disputed territories are committed by
Muslims. Yet for political and economic reasons many Palestinian
Christian leaders blame Israel for these crimes rather than the actual
perpetrators. This motif of the transference of blame has been adopted
by several Christian leaders in the Western world. Others there who are
aware of the PA's human rights abuses choose to remain silent.
"The disputed territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have been administered by the Palestinian Authority (PA)-and recently, in part, by Hamas.
As a result of the Oslo peace process, the Palestinians were able to
establish their own quasi-government. Under this regime the Christian
Arabs in these territories have been victims of frequent human rights
abuses including intimidation, beatings, land theft, firebombing of
churches and other Christian institutions, denial of employment,
economic boycott, torture, kidnapping, forced marriage, sexual
harassment, and extortion.
"Muslims who have converted to Christianity are the ones most in
danger. They are often left defenseless against cruelty by Muslim
fundamentalists. PA and Hamas
officials are directly responsible for many of the human rights
violations. Christian Arabs also fall victim to the chaos and anarchy
that typifies PA rule."
Justus Reid Weiner* is an international human rights lawyer and a member
of the Israel and New York bar associations. His professional
publications have appeared in leading law journals and intellectual
magazines. Weiner lectures widely abroad and in Israel and teaches
international law and business courses at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
He remarks: "The human rights crimes against the Christian Arabs in the
disputed territories are committed by Muslims. Yet many Palestinian
Christian leaders accuse Israel of these crimes rather than the actual
perpetrators. This motif has been adopted by a variety of Christian
leaders in the Western world. Others who are aware of the human rights
crimes choose to remain silent about them."
Dhimmitude and Persecution
In Weiner's view the crimes committed against Christian Arabs result
from a way of thinking that dates back to the earliest days of Islam.
"Traditionally, Christians and Jews were given an inferior social
status known as dhimmitude in Islam. The dhimma is a legal contract of
submission that was imposed upon the indigenous non-Muslim populations
in regions conquered by the spread of Islam. Although Jews and
Christians were not forced to convert to Islam, they were not treated
as the equals of Muslims.
"As dhimmis, Jews and Christians were subjected to both legal and
cultural restrictions under Islamic law. For example, Muslims could
ride horses whereas Christians and Jews were limited to donkeys. Or,
Muslims were permitted to wear garments of fine cloth while Christians
and Jews were only allowed to wear clothing made from coarse fabric.
"To this day, Muslim attitudes toward Christians and Jews are influenced by the concepts and prejudices that dhimmitude has spawned in Islamic society. In Iraq,
for example, the ancestral community of Chaldean Christians has
recently become a target of vandalism, property theft, infringement of
privacy, harassment, arbitrary and prolonged detention, kidnapping,
rape, beatings, car bombings, torture, and even murder.
"There are many examples of Christian suffering in Islamic countries.
In November 2006, six Molotov cocktails damaged a Protestant place of
worship in western Turkey,
breaking windows and scorching the exterior of the building. This
attack followed months of harassment of Christians in the town of
Odemis, sixty-five miles east of Izmir. In a town near Mosul (in Iraq)
in October 2006, a fifty-nine-year-old Syrian Orthodox priest named
Father Boulos Iskander was beheaded. His kidnappers had demanded
$40,000 USD and required that the priest's church publicly repudiate
Pope Benedict XVI's remarks on Islam. It is interesting that this
demand was directed at an Orthodox Christian priest, who would have had
nothing to do with any statement by the Catholic Pope.
"In Egypt, in October 2006, a Christian teenager escaped her Muslim
kidnappers hours after they had drugged her on a public bus. They
threatened to rape her and convert her to Islam if her family didn't
leave their Nile Delta city of El-Mahala el-Kobra. In a similar story,
a fifteen-year-old escaped from being held captive in Cairo's southern
suburb of Helwan while her captors were away breaking their Ramadan
"Such attacks have evolved into an imminent crisis for the Christian
minority in every Muslim-ruled country of the Middle East, North
Africa, and Asia. Their Christian populations are in major decline,
they are constantly under threat of violence, and there is a general
feeling that they have no future. Some examples concern the Copts in
Egypt and the Maronites in Lebanon.
The scholarship of Nina Shea and Paul Marshall on the persecution of
Christians in Islamic lands brings many proofs of this.
"Israel is the only exception in the Middle East where the Christian
population since 1948 has increased. It has risen by more than 400
percent. This also includes non-Arab Christians, such as Russian
Christians who have come here as spouses of Jews and otherwise."
Weiner adds: "Similar troubles as for the Christians have emerged for a
whole range of nonconformists in the Islamic world. For example, in
July 2005, two alleged homosexual teenage boys were publicly executed
The threats are affecting many throughout the region, including owners
of internet cafes, of restaurants or stores selling alcohol, land
dealers, independent journalists, and even authors such as Salman
Rushdie. The international human rights community has thus far done
virtually nothing to protect such nonconformists."
A Culture of Intolerance
Weiner observes: "As dhimmis, Christians living in
Palestinian-controlled territories are not treated as the equals of
Muslims. They are subjected to debilitating legal, political, cultural,
and religious restrictions. This has become a critical problem for the
Palestinian Christians in the West Bank and Gaza. Muslim groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad have
built a culture of hatred upon the age-old foundations of Islamic
society. Moreover, the PA has adopted Islamic law into its draft
"In 2006, Hassan El-Masalmeh, a member of the Bethlehem City Council and local Hamas leader, publicly advocated implementing a discriminatory tax on non-Muslim residents, known as al-jeziya. The Koran requires the imposition of this tax on all dhimmis. It legalizes the second-class status of such residents. El-Masalmeh stated that, ‘We in Hamas
intend to implement this tax someday. We say it openly and we welcome
everyone to Palestine, but only if they agree to live under our rules.'
One example occurred in late 2007 when an evangelical pastor was forced
to leave Ramallah under threats from Tanzim gunmen; soon after, his
congregation dispersed. Clergy under threat by gunmen should at least
make a good-faith effort to use their media connections to publicize
their plight and thereby garner a degree of protection for themselves
and their followers.
"In such an environment, Christian Arabs have found themselves victims
of prejudice and hate crimes. Tens of thousands of Palestinian
Christians have left their ancestral homes and emigrated to North
America, Central America, South America, Europe, and Australia. They
flee to almost any country that will issue them a visa.
"A majority of the Christians living under PA and Hamas
rule are Greek Catholic or Greek Melkite. Others are Lutherans, Roman
Catholics, Anglicans, Syriacs, Armenians, Copts, Maronites, Ethiopian
Orthodox Christians, as well as several other denominations. The
Palestinian Christian population has always been concentrated in and
around the cities of Jerusalem, Ramallah, and Bethlehem."
Developments in Bethlehem
"The demographics in these areas have changed drastically. Bethlehem is
a prime example. Estimates show a sharp demographic Christian-Muslim
shift. The Christian population went from an 80 percent majority in
1950, to a 60 percent majority in 1990, to approximately a 40 percent
minority in 2000. Today the population of Christian Arabs in Bethlehem
is hovering at about 15 percent of the city's total population. It is
estimated that for the past seven years over one thousand Christians
have been emigrating from the Bethlehem area annually. At present an
estimated ten to thirteen thousand Christians remain in the city.
"Neither the Palestinian Christian leaders nor the PA want to reveal
accurate statistics. That would mean the extent of the emigration would
become publicly known. They would then have to face questions about the
reasons for this decline."
Weiner points out that Yasser Arafat determined the policy that led to
this demographic shift. "After the PA gained control of Bethlehem it
redistricted the municipal boundaries of the city. Arafat's motivation
for the change was to ensure a Muslim majority in any elections to be
held in the area. By doing so, he annexed an additional thirty thousand
Muslims and a few thousand Muslim Bedouins in adjacent areas. This,
combined with substantial Muslim immigration from the nearby city of
Hebron, dramatically transformed the demographic reality.
"Arafat also defied tradition by appointing a Muslim governor of the
city. The Bethlehem City Council, which by Palestinian law must have a
Christian majority, has been taken over by Muslims. Eight of the
fifteen seats on the council are still reserved for Christians, but in
the latest municipal elections of May 2005 a coalition with crucial
support from Hamas emerged victorious. Hamas
today holds six of the fifteen council seats and their Christian allies
hold four. Arafat crowned his efforts when he converted the Greek
Orthodox monastery next to the Church of Nativity into his official
"The problems for Christians in Bethlehem are typical throughout the
Middle East. The Lebanese Christian community faced similar problems
during the 1980s. The assassinated Christian prime minister of Lebanon,
Bashir Gemayel summed up the situation: ‘A Christian, like a Jew . . .
is not a full citizen and cannot exercise political rights in any of
the countries which were once conquered by Islam.'
"In Palestinian society Christian Arabs have no voice and no
protection. It is no wonder they have been leaving. Because of
emigration-some of it dating back two or three generations-seventy
percent of Christian Arabs who originally resided in the West Bank and Gaza
now live abroad. Tens of thousands live in Sydney, Berlin, Santiago,
Detroit, and Toronto. The emigration of Christian Arabs has multiplied
over the last decade, with no end in sight.
"It is currently estimated that the number of Christians living in Gaza totals only 1,500-3,000 amid 1.2 million Muslims. Probably less than fifty thousand Christians remain in all of East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza together.
"Taybeh, a village located deep in the West Bank, is the only
all-Christian village left in the PA. As a result of the perpetual
violence, many residents of Taybeh have gone abroad and only 1,300
remain. The situation of these Christians has become grim."
The Abuse of Human Rights
Before giving examples of human rights abuses against Christians in the
PA, Weiner remarks: "Over this ten-year period, my research assistants
and I have interviewed scores of Christian victims. Many of those
interviewed were too terrified to tell their stories. In an effort to
reassure them, I promised to conceal their real names, professions, and
places of residence.
"My first example concerns the routine extortion of Christian
businessmen by PA officials and street thugs. It involves an Armenian
Christian jewelry- store owner from Jerusalem. During a business trip to Gaza
he was taken into custody and extorted by the Palestinian police. He
showed the officers the necessary licenses and permits to sell his gold
jewelry. Nevertheless, he was forced to hand over all his money and
gold jewelry and was subsequently beaten for more than six hours.
"After refusing the offer of the police to leave with half his gold, he
was beaten for another two hours in the police station. His watch, his
rings, half his gold jewelry, and the $6,000 USD he was carrying were
taken from him before he was allowed to leave.
"The Armenian complained to the PA's minister of industry and
commerce. He was then told he had no recourse but to speak with
Arafat. Further efforts were futile. As a Christian he didn't have the
necessary connections to get back what was stolen from him in the
police station. Nor were the perpetrators charged or punished."
Kidnapping and Seduction of Christian Women
"Incidents of Muslim men ‘seducing' or kidnapping Christian girls have
caused growing anxiety among the Christian population. In May 2004, a
sixteen-year-old Christian girl from Bethlehem, who was a U.S. citizen,
went missing for five days. She was kidnapped by a
twenty-three-year-old Muslim man. When the family lodged a complaint
with the PA police, little was done to help them. The police accepted
the testimony of the Muslim kidnapper at face value. He claimed that
they wanted to get married.
"The girl's family knew that the Muslim man had a brother who was a
high-ranking officer in the PA security services. They feared that the
PA police's unwillingness to act on the family's complaint was due to
this officer's connections.
"The kidnapper sought refuge in Hebron where he had an extended family.
Because their families are large, it is easy for Muslims to get away
with crimes against Christians who lack strength in numbers. In
desperation the girl's family contacted the American Consulate in Jerusalem. Thanks to their intervention, the girl was rescued and left for the United States with her family.
"When a crowd of Christian men tried to stage a demonstration outside
the kidnapper's house, the Palestinian police-all of them Muslims-used
excessive force against the demonstrators. They fired into the air in
an attempt to disperse the crowd. At least thirty-five Christian men
were injured. The episode received virtually no international media
Weiner explains that this is far from being an isolated case: "A Muslim
family appeared uninvited on the doorstep of a wealthy Christian family
in the West Bank. They brought along a sheikh and demanded that the
Christian family's daughter, known for her beauty, marry their son. The
father of the Christian family asked for a two-day reprieve to think
things over. The Muslim family agreed, but then apparently
reconsidered. They reappeared-again uninvited-the following day. Their
son was dressed up for his wedding, accompanied by the sheikh and
fifteen Muslim men. To protect his family the Christian girl's father
opened fire on the Muslim entourage, killing three and wounding ten.
The girl's family immediately abandoned their home and fled abroad."
Persecuting Converts to Christianity
"In compliance with the sayings (Hadith)
of the Prophet Muhammed, Muslim converts to Christianity are ruthlessly
persecuted for changing their faith. It is a common tactic to try
to force Christians-by-choice to repudiate their beliefs. One
example involves two brothers whom I will call Saliba and Najib, both
converts to Christianity from the northern West Bank.
"After taking part in a Christian prayer session with German tourists,
Najib received a summons to appear before the Palestinian secret
police. During questioning he was accused of collaborating with Israeli
and American intelligence. After the interrogation the Palestinian
police placed a cardboard sign on his back upon which was written,
‘Najib the Christian.' Then he was told to ‘curse Jesus.'
"Najib was told by the secret police that from then on his life would
be nothing but suffering. He was released at the end of the day and
fled when Palestinian police came to his house to detain him for more
questioning. As a fugitive from the PA, Najib made contact with
Israelis who arranged for him to hide in a bomb shelter in a Jewish
settlement. He ended up staying there for three years until he was
granted asylum in Norway, where he lives today.
"Najib's brother Saliba spent twenty-one months in a PA prison-from
August 2000 to May 2002-after being arrested on fabricated charges. He
was held for seven months in underground solitary confinement. Saliba
testified to me and my assistants about his suffering in that jail:
I was beaten with sticks; they stripped me naked and
made me sit on bottles, and on the legs of chairs that they turned
upside down, and many, many other sadistic things that I am even
ashamed to say. Many times they allowed lynch mobs like the Al-Aksa
Brigades to come in and pull prisoners out of the cells. They were
taken out and shot on the spot, their bodies then dragged through the
streets for all to see.
Although complaints of Israeli misconduct are loudly voiced, Weiner is
not aware of any such complaints about these examples of Muslim
"The PA had sentenced Saliba to be executed. However, before they could
carry this out he and others were liberated from prison by the Israel
Defense Forces, which entered the disputed territories in response to a
wave of suicide bombings that had killed hundreds of Israelis.
"After Saliba's liberation he was able to secure a temporary permit to
live in Israel. However, he was unable to obtain similar permits for
his wife and eight children. They remained behind in the disputed
territories under constant threat of harassment. Today Saliba lives in
the town of Ramle in Israel, unable to safely return to his family and
hoping to find asylum in Norway to join his brother."
The Murder of a Convert
"Of another Christian convert, Ahmad El-Achwal, the real name can be
given because he was murdered. He was married, a father of eight, and
lived in the Askar refugee camp near the West Bank city of Nablus. The
PA set out to make Ahmad's life unbearable after he became a Christian.
"Ahmad was initially arrested on fabricated charges of stealing gold.
The only gold in the entire family was his daughter's delicate
necklace, which had been given to her for her birthday by her
grandfather. The family still had the receipt from the store where it
was purchased. Ahmad was kept in a tiny cell and regularly left without
food or water for days on end. The torture he sustained during the
interrogation required lengthy hospitalization.
"When I interviewed Ahmad, he gave me photos of his injuries taken
while he was recuperating in a hospital. It was clear that he had been
tortured. Ahmad had suffered extensive and serious burns on his back,
buttocks, and legs. The heated torture implement that was applied to
his skin reminded me of similar medieval instruments.
"After he was released from prison, Ahmad began to use his apartment as
an informal church. He distributed booklets on Christianity and spoke
to Palestinian Muslims about his newfound faith. Ahmad did this despite
his fears of harassment and persecution.
"Over a seven-year period, Palestinian security forces repeatedly
arrested him and searched his home. Sometimes they confiscated his
Bibles and other religious books. Ahmad was again imprisoned for
various periods that, together, totaled over a year. Promises were made
that if he reverted to Islam he would be freed from prison and given a
senior job in the PA with a large office.
"Not all his suffering emanated directly from the PA. Ahmad operated a
falafel stand in Nablus. His Muslim landlord refused to continue
renting it to him because of his conversion to Christianity. He then
moved to Jerusalem
to find work because of the ongoing harassment. However, when Ahmad
went back to visit his family in Askar, he was beaten by a group of
masked men. Palestinians affiliated with the PA security services also
torched his car. His residence was firebombed. On 21 January 2004,
Ahmad was shot dead by masked gunmen. His murderers have not been
brought to justice."
Yet Another Murder
"Rami Khader Ayyad is another victim of murder motivated by religion. He lived in Gaza
City with his two children and his wife, who was pregnant with their
third. His Teachers Bookshop sold Bibles and Christian literature.
Ayyad was associated with the Palestinian Bible Society, which promotes
Christian presence in Muslim areas.
"In April 2007, Ayyad's store was firebombed by a Muslim ‘vice squad'
that was attacking targets they connected with Western influence.
According to Ayyad's family and neighbors, he had regularly received
anonymous death threats from people angered by his missionary work.
"Ayyad was abducted on the evening of 6 October 2007 after closing his
store. He called his family to let them know he would be returning late
in the evening. Ayyad's lifeless body was found early the next
morning with visible signs of torture, including a gunshot wound in the
head and numerous stab wounds. Witnesses and security officials stated
that they watched three armed men, two of them wearing masks, beat
Ayyad repeatedly with clubs and the butts of their guns while accusing
him of spreading Christianity in Gaza. These witnesses said that after the three men beat Ayyad, each of them shot him.
"Sheikh Abu Saqer, leader of Gaza's
Jihadia Salafiya Islamic program, asserted that while his group did not
carry out the Ayyad murder, ‘Christians engaging in missionary activity
in Gaza would be dealt with harshly.'"
"Pastor Isa Bajalia contacted me in autumn 2007. I had interviewed him
four different times over the past eight or ten years. The pastor
called me because of death threats he was receiving. If something were
to happen to him, he wanted me to have a video testament explaining the
true source of his demise. He is an understated individual who never
before had revealed to me this sense of urgency concerning danger to
his own life or anyone else's from his congregation.
"Bajalia served for sixteen years in Ramallah and is primarily involved
with counseling and humanitarian efforts in the area. Over two months
before he called me Bajalia had been receiving threats to pay extortion
money in the amount of $30,000 USD. They also demanded that he sign
over a portion of his family land to their ownership.
"The men threatening Bajalia intimidated him on a daily basis. Their
harassment has made it impossible for Bajalia to function in his normal
pastoral capacity in Ramallah. He was threatened as follows: ‘If you
don't do what we want, we can get you no matter whether you are in the
States or here.' They threatened to break his arms and legs and said to
him, ‘We will do to you what was done to Rami in Gaza.'
"Pastor Bajalia was forced to disconnect his cell-phone line because of
the relentless threatening calls. He knew that the men making the
threats were capable of violence, so as a U.S. citizen he sought
assistance from the American Consulate. Thereafter he also asked for
help from three PA officials. They, however, demanded thousands of
dollars to protect him. One of them offered, ‘I'll be your bodyguard.
Our group will back you up. We'll get this resolved for you; just give
"Pastor Bajalia explained to me how a few weeks before he was forced to
leave Ramallah, one of those threatening him was closing in on his
trail. About fifteen minutes after Bajalia departed a friend's house in
Ramallah, a green-uniformed militiaman of the Tanzim-a violent,
aggressive faction of the Fatah movement-showed up at the friend's
house bearing a pistol.
"Following continued and intensified threats of violence, Pastor
Bajalia fled to the United States in fear for his life. He stayed
in Alabama for more than a month, thereafter returning in January 2008
to Jerusalem. Bajalia is still extremely concerned that these men might locate him."
"Harassment of Christian Arabs is widespread under the Palestinian
regime. On an ever-increasing scale, they have been losing their jobs,
have had their land taken over by criminal gangs in cooperation with
the PA Land Registration Office, and Christian women have resorted to
wearing conservative Muslim women's garb so as not to be harassed.
"Palestinian gunmen set fire to the YMCA in the West Bank city of
Qalqilya. A seventy-six-year-old Greek Orthodox monk was beaten up in
Bethlehem by Muslim villagers, his olive trees uprooted, and his
monastery was defaced with graffiti depicting nuns being raped.
"In February 2006, an explosive device blew off the doors of the Bible Society in Gaza.
The attackers then moved on to the nearby Greek Orthodox Church, which
they then shot up. Pamphlets were left at the bookshop threatening the
landlord for dealing with ‘infidels.' This was followed by the bombing
of the bookshop in April 2007 along with three other Christian
"In protest against the remarks by Pope Benedict XVI about Islam and
the Prophet Muhammad in 2006, seven churches were attacked in the West
Bank and Gaza
by Palestinians carrying guns, firebombs, and lighter fluid. This
included a shooting attack on a church façade in the Zeitoun
neighborhood of Gaza City as well as the firebombing of an Anglican church in the West Bank city of Nablus.
"Since the election of the Hamas government in 2006, and the coup by which Hamas took over Gaza in June 2007, religious tension has only intensified. Hamas
has enacted policies that are turning the PA into an Islamic theocracy,
and the Christian religion and its followers are consistently
discriminated against. The situation erupted on 15 February 2008 when
Muslim militants bombed the Gaza City YMCA library and on 16 May when a bomb went off in a Christian school."
Hiding the Problems
Weiner says he became aware of the many crimes against Christian Arabs
under the Palestinian regime when, ten years ago, a Christian lay
pastor said to him, "You're a human rights lawyer, what are you doing
for the Christian Arabs?" Weiner replied that he was not doing anything
for them as he was not aware they had any problems. The pastor then
said: "Let me send you some people to interview and once you've done
that make up your own mind."
Weiner remarks: "That began my education process on this subject. The
problem I had the most difficulty understanding was why the large,
powerful, populous Christian world has permitted this to go on for so
long. This is the more surprising as the PA is in such need of funds
and political support. Ten years down the road I can only say that it
is a sad testimony for contemporary Christianity.
"I discovered a wide gap between the Palestinian Christian leadership
and their flock. The former tended, for many years, to put on their
nice robes and hats to meet Arafat for religious occasions. They are
the same people who keep touring around the United States and being
feted in different locations where they repeat the false story that
everything is fine.
"These patriarchs and archbishops of Christian Arab denominations who
are currently deceiving the international community are self-interested
people. They collaborate with the Muslim perpetrators of intimidation
and violence. Against all evidence they claim that the Christians Arabs
are living comfortable and prosperous lives. In fact the present
situation is growing worse by the day."
Putting Their People in Danger
"These Christian leaders obfuscate the truth and put their own people
in danger. This is often for personal benefit or due to intimidation.
In the Palestinian areas the Anglican, Lutheran, Catholic, and many
other leaders will all sing the tune of the Palestinian Authority-at least publicly. Others who are not senior will describe the reality in private because they live it."
Weiner observes that a number of Palestinian Christian leaders deny the
human rights crimes perpetrated against their flock. "Often in
cooperation with the Palestinian leadership they claim that the
situation is not bad for the Christian Arabs. In response to Rami
Khader Ayyad's death, Monsignor Manual Masallam, head of Gaza's Roman Catholic community, asserted-against all the evidence-that the attack was not religiously motivated.
"When asked if Christians in Gaza
feel oppressed in their own cities, Musallam answered that,
‘Palestinian Christians are not a religious community set apart.... Our
relationship with Hamas
is as people of one nation.' He also explicitly stated that Christian
emigration has nothing to do with the Muslim population and that the
Christians in Gaza still enjoy all the same rights as their Muslim neighbors.
"The dilemma is how to get the world to listen to and respect the
experience and the warnings of the ordinary Christian, the ordinary
priest and reverend, and to disregard the endorsements of the PA that
are mouthed by their religious leaders.
"In private a variety of Christians will tell you that they are
suffering from the pressures by Muslims. In public these same people
will berate Israel for the security fence and the occupation. It has
become an old game and Israelis understand it. One wonders when foreign
journalists and NGOs will finally start to understand it."
The Verification Process
As to the veracity of his information, Weiner explains: "I am often
asked how I verify what I am told. The answer is that I began this work
ten years ago. I now look at cases over time, having learned that
witnesses usually become more candid as you get to know them better.
One of the last questions in any interview is who else can confirm,
reinforce, or explain further what the witness provided. The result is
a fairly good perspective of the iceberg effect. In these cases one is
seeing only a little bit of the crimes that go on under the Palestinian
regime. People usually are afraid or intimidated and aren't willing to
describe everything that happened.
"Pretty much across the board the Christian Arabs that I interviewed
were reticent to tell their story. I had to track them down and prove
that I was a reliable person they could talk to. I also had to promise
them to use a pseudonym and to change their city/town/village of
"There is a huge difference as compared to the human rights situation
in Israel. When I worked at the Israeli Justice Ministry (1981-1994, as
director of the Department of American Law and External Relations) we
heard many human rights allegations against the government, the army,
and the prison service. Often the people making these complaints, or
the organizations representing them rushed to call press conferences.
They were looking for an instant headline. With the Palestinian
Christians everything that concerns human rights is hushed up."
The Israeli Security Situation
"Part of the Christian Palestinian emigration also stems from problems
relating to Israel. There are two primary issues. The first is that the
Israeli Interior Ministry has not been forthcoming enough in issuing
visas to foreign Christian clergy wanting to come and work in Israel.
It has become quite difficult for individuals to obtain visas to work
in schools, embassies, or churches here in Israel, a point that has
poisoned some clergy attitudes.
"As a result of a new single-entry visa rule, Christian church workers
currently in the country are also finding it difficult to travel
between their parishes and their churches' offices in Jerusalem.
Father Jack Abed, a parish priest of the Melkite Catholic community
near Ramallah, claimed that these new rules violate understandings
between Israel and the Vatican. He stated that: ‘One of the agreements
is the freedom of movement and worship. There is no freedom of
movement if Israel wants to limit visas to a single entry.'
"These visa restrictions have resulted from the major security threats
to Israel, some of which come from the Christian community itself. For
example, Archimandrite Atallah Hanna, an Israeli Arab serving as the
official spokesman of the Greek Orthodox Church in the Holy Land, is
reported to have praised Palestinian suicide bombers as heroes in a
closed-door meeting in Haifa. Hanna is quoted as stating, ‘These
martyrdom freedom fighters are the heroes of the people and we are
proud of them.' According to the report, Hanna urged Christian Arabs to
‘join the resistance against the Israeli occupation in all forms and
methods.' Hanna later denied having made these remarks.
"A second issue that has increased the emigration of Palestinian
Christians involves a combination of the building of the security fence
and the political anarchy that plagues the Palestinian-controlled
areas. Many Palestinian Christians point out that besides the
disruptions from internal Palestinian instability and lawlessness, the
economic hardship and unemployment is caused by the cutoff from outside
aid due to Israeli security measures that bar most Palestinians from
working inside Israel. Villagers are allowed to cross the
separation barriers only if they hold special permits."
The International Christian Community
Weiner states: "Many in the international Christian leaderships
knowingly remain silent about the suffering of the Palestinian
Christians. Others, rather than identify the true Palestinian
perpetrators of crimes against their people, take the politically
correct path by blaming Israel. All unrest and suffering in the region
is routinely attributed to actions-or omissions-by Israel without
acknowledging or condemning Muslim violence. In particular, church
officials often criticize Israel for the decline in Christian
populations in the West Bank and Gaza as well as for the hardships the Christian Arabs endure under Fatah and Hamas rule.
"The Western Christian leaders who spread this message include leaders
of American Episcopalians and Presbyterians. Thus the former leader of
the Episcopal Church (USA), the Reverend Edmond L. Browning, frequently
oversimplified the very intricate reality in the Middle East by
implying that the conflict can be resolved by a few simple concessions
by Israel. Meanwhile he and his church remained silent about the unique
evil of suicide bombing and have yet to demand that Hamas recognize Israel or dismantle its terrorist infrastructure.
"Supplementing its well-known anti-Israel agenda, the Episcopal Church
maintains strong ties with Friends of Sabeel-North America. For
example, Browning donated $10,000 to the organization. In addition, the
Episcopal Church has passed resolutions pressing Motorola to prohibit
sale of its products or the provision of services to persons living in
the disputed territories. There was no parallel demand that
Palestinians cease their terrorist violence. Nor were U.S. companies
urged to ensure that what they sold to the Palestinians was not used in
violent attacks on Israelis.
"Among the other one-sided resolutions of the Episcopal Church was a
condemnation of Israel's security barrier that was not accompanied by
any parallel demand on the Palestinians to stop the terrorist attacks
that prompted the construction of what is more accurately known as a
fence. Leaders of other North American churches including the
Methodists, the United Church of Christ, and the Lutherans have also
gone to great lengths to offer up one-sided condemnations of Israeli
policies. Most of these perennial critics are linked to the Sabeel
Center." *Justus Reid Weiner is an international human rights lawyer, a member of
the Israel and New York bar associations, and a fellow of the Jerusalem
Center for Public Affairs. He received his Juris Doctor degree from the
School of Law (Boalt Hall), University of California, Berkeley.
Weiner's professional publications have appeared in leading law
journals and intellectual magazines. He is currently a fellow in
residence at the JCPA and an adjunct lecturer at the Hebrew University
of Jerusalem. Weiner was formerly a visiting assistant professor at the School of Law, Boston University.
 Bat Ye'or, Islam and Dhimmitude (Teaneck, NJ:
Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2001), 50. Dhimmis were treated
as second-class citizens and were often discriminated against. Muhammad
ordered and practiced ethnic cleansing by removing all Jews,
Christians, and pagans from the Arabian Peninsula. Walid Shoebat, Why I Left Jihad: The Root of Terrorism and the Return of Radical Islam (Top Executive Media, 2005).
 Jerusalem Post Christian Edition, http://www.jpost.com/ce%20February%202007.
 Paul Marshall and Lela Gilbert, Their Blood Cries Out (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2007); Nina Shea, In the Lion's Den: A Shocking Account of Persecuted and Martyrdom of Christians Today and How We Should Respond (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2007).
 "2006 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices," U.S. Department
of State, released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor,
6 March 2007, www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2006/.
 Sandro Magister, "The Mayor of Bethlehem Is Christian, but It's Hamas That's in Charge," 21 May 2007, http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/dettaglio.jsp?id=44202&eng=y.
 "Bethlehem Belongs to Hamas," Israel Today, 20 July 2005.
 Aaron Klein, "Media's Two-Faced Christmas Coverage: Muslims Driving
Christians out of Bethlehem, but Media Outlets Choose to Blame Israel,"
Ynetnews, 24 December 2007, www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3486144,00.html.
 Bat Ye'or, Islam and Dhimmitude, 247-48, cited in Jerusalem Post Christian Edition, http://www.jpost.com/ce%20February%202007.
 Julie Stahl, "Gaza Bible Society Surprised by Bomb Attack," Cybercast News Service, 16 April 2007, www.cnsnews.com/ViewForeignBureaus.asp?Page=/ForeignBureaus/archive/200704/INT20070416e.html.
 Isabel Kershner, "Palestinian Christians Look Back on a Year of Troubles," New York Times,
11 March 2007,
 The highest of Islamic sources unequivocally calls for the killing of converts. This came from the Hadith (sayings) of the Prophet Muhammad. Ruth Gledhill, "Whoever Changes His Islamic Religion-Kill Him," Times Online, 21 March 2006, www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/article743382.ece.
 In the case of a Christian Arab named Aiman, such incentives
(release from custody, a job, an office) were offered. He recalled:
"The jailors demanded that I revert back to Islam...go to a religious
Islamic school in Saudi Arabia or Gaza...and
then go up to the minaret and say: ‘Allah is great and God has no son'
over the loudspeaker...and to confess the names and addresses of the
people that I had converted, or were involved in evangelism."
 "Palestinian Christian Activist Killed in Gaza," Kuwaiti Times, 8 October 2007, www.kuwaittimes.net/read_news.php?newsid=MTIwNDI3NDc5MQ.
 Eric Young, "Witnesses: Slain Palestinian Was Tortured for Spreading Christianity," Christian Post, 11 October 2007,
 He was also visiting a seriously ill relative there.
 Stahl, "Gaza Bible Society."
 "Militants Bomb Gaza YMCA Library," BBC News, 15 February 2008, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7246454.stm;
 Associated Press, "Bomb Explodes at Christian School," JPost.com, 17 May 2008, www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull&cid=1210668651761.
 Mohammad Omer, "Coexistence in Gaza," The Electronic Intifada, 28 November 2007, http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article9126.shtml.
 Associated Press, "Israel Rescinds Arab Christian Clergy Travel Rights in West Bank," Haaretz, 27 October 2007 (last update), file:///A:/www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/917437.html.
 Khaled Abu Toameh, "Greek Orthodox Church Spokesman Says Suicide Bombers Are ‘Heroes,'" Jerusalem Post, 12 January 2003.
 Kershner, "Palestinian Christians."
 Brian J. Grieves, No Outcasts: The Public Witness of Edmond L. Browning (Cincinnati: Forward Movement, 1997).
 According to their website, Friends of Sabeel-North America
(FOSNA) works in the United States and Canada to support the vision of Jerusalem-based
Sabeel, a Christian liberation-theology organization. FOSNA cultivates
the support of American churches through cosponsored regional
educational conferences, alternative pilgrimage, witness trips, and
international gatherings in the Holy Land (www.fosna.org).
 Daniel Pipes, "Christianity Dying in Its Birthplace," New York Sun, 13 September 2005," www.daniel pipes.org/article/2937.