National Geographic has long been an oasis from the world of political journals and magazines that so many of us seem to live in. Articles about trekking through the Serengeti or scaling the Hindu Kush are a welcome reprieve. Yes, National Geographic has slipped into the realm of political correctness on the issue of global warming; hardly an issue goes by without reading about rising sea waters, Co2 emissions, and perplexities on why the Americans have not signed the Kyoto Accords. But still, it is a nature magazine, so it gets somewhat of a pass on the climate change issue.
In that spirit, I just recently renewed my subscription. After all, the occasional fold out map is worth the cover price alone. But after reading the just released June issue, shame on me. It’s time to cancel. I welcomed the latest issue with the cover story, “The Christian Exodus from the Holy Land.” A topic that has long been ignored by the main stream press and only recently getting attention even in the conservative press, the plight of the world’s Christians, needs to be heard.
If I could build some suspense I would, but it only took three paragraphs for the reader to get a hint at the cause of this exodus. It would only take another two paragraphs for the author Don Belt’s intent to be made clear as we find out the true culprit in this tragedy. And, not to spoil the suspense, the culprit isn’t the Islamists or thugs, the PLO, Hamas or Hezbollah, who have taken over the West Bank, Gaza, and much of Lebanon. Or the increasingly powerful Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt or the oppressive dictatorship in Syria.
The first clue revealed was that things started to turn for the worse for the area’s Christians in the 11th and 13th centuries when the Crusaders came and “slaughtered the Arab Christians.” And according to the author, with the arrival of the raping and pillaging Crusaders, the Christians began a “long, steady retreat into the minority.” Apparently things were grand under Muslim rule for the previous 500 years. Seems even Don Belt would be able to figure that the “turn for the worse” for the area’s Christians just might have begun when the area was taken over by the Arab Muslim invaders in the 7th Century.
Before assigning the blame, the author does make one admission. He states that Christians are leaving for many reasons, among them to escape bad economic conditions, to join relatives in the West, and to flee the region’s violence. Region’s violence? What does that mean? Well, readers to FrontPage certainly know, but the casual reader is left wondering. The answer comes quickly.
We learn of Lisa and Mark, a Palestinian Christian family living on the outskirts of Jerusalem. They are getting ready for the Easter celebration in the city, a time of excitement. However the mood is brought crashing down as we learn of the horrible life they are forced to live. Israeli law, checkpoints, the “Wall”, permit papers, have made their life unbearable. As Mark states, “it’s like a science experiment. If you keep the rats in the enclosed space and make it smaller and smaller every day and introduce new obstacles and constantly change the rules, after a while the rats go crazy and start eating each other. It’s like that.” Huh??
Two long paragraphs are given to repeat this style of Hamas and PLO propaganda on the horrors of the Nazi Apartheid Israeli state. We have all heard this claptrap before of course, but now a great secret is revealed to us. The Christians are leaving because Israel is an anti-Christian tyrannical regime. Why of course, it’s the Jews fault!
Doesn’t the irony sink in with Lisa, Mark and Don Belt that these huge Easter celebrations are taking place in Jerusalem? Yes, Israeli controlled Jerusalem, home to hundreds of churches, where the infamous “Wall” was reconfigured so as to allow access to almost every Christian site in the area. It is indisputable that there is not a safer place for a Christian (or a Muslim for that matter) to live in the Middle East than in Israel.
The author does throw us a bone, stating that “a rising militancy is tied to regional Islamist movements that sometimes target Arab Christians.” (Emphasis mine). Sometimes?? Does the author mean, as Dore Gold states, “the many cases of land theft in which Christians were forced off their properties by an “Islamic fundamentalist mafia”? Or the many cases of monasteries being broken into to steal the gold or cemeteries being vandalized? Or the attacks on churches, including the Church of the Nativity where they looted church valuables, desecrated Bibles and planted bombs. They did all of this within range of the Israeli forces, knowing that the Israelis were loath to attack a Christian church. That last fact might shock Mr. Belt.
But just so the Jews are not alone in the blame game, there are other culprits. No, again, it is not the area’s suicidal Islamists who view Christians as infidels who need to be subjugated to inferior human status, converted by force or killed. No, further blame falls on the Christians in the West, the United States, George Bush (naturally) and his “regime change” wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And the Crusaders get thrown in again. Amazing what ills of the world those poor Crusaders have been blamed for. Genghis Kahn and Attila the Hun must be jealous.
You would think that as we move to the region’s other countries, the Jews would be spared. But no. As the author describes Lebanon we learn that the economy was ruined by the Israeli war of 2006, which of course has forced Christians out. Not to mention all the Israeli bombs that have rained down over Lebanon since 1975. The fall of the Lebanese Christians has nothing to do with Syria and Iran and their proxy, Hezbollah, which has destroyed this once beautiful democracy and sent the Christians fleeing. No, it is the Israeli bombs that have doomed the Christians.
In Syria we get a lecture on how swimmingly well the Muslims and Christians have always gotten along. How the Muslims venerate Mary, Jesus, even the Jewish prophets (really?), the “people of the book” etc… All the nonsense and lies that you can learn in a U.S. 7th grade history book on the “tolerant” Muslim reign over the Middle East. In fact, the author goes one further, and takes a good swipe at the Byzantines. He states, “Many Christians converted to Islam anyway, preferring its emphasis on a personal connection with God to the oppressive hierarchies of the Byzantine Church.” Yes, that personal relationship with God (isn’t that what Christianity is all about?) was the key factor, not the prospect of living in a dhimmi status as second class citizens with little to no rights and paying the oppressive jizya “Infidel” tax.
As JihadWatch.org editor Robert Spencer has pointed out in numerous articles and books, life for the Christians in the Middle East was at its rare best moments somewhat tolerable. In the worst of times, it meant rape, torture and massacres. Even a drunken, violently abusive father has his days when he buys ice cream cones for the little ones. I guess the children should be thankful for the “tolerant” times.
When we get back to Lisa and Mark, we learn that the Israeli settlements will mean “no more water for us” and in a moment of candor she states “I hate the Israelis, I really hate them. I think even Nate (their 3 year old son) is starting to hate them.” Maybe Lisa needs to search for a few New Testament passages to read to little Nate instead of spreading this vile anti-Semitic hatred that has so infected her people
National Geographic has forever shamed itself. By allowing Don Belt’s anti-Semitic hate screed to grace its hallowed pages they have sullied a well earned reputation as a journal that “inspires people to care about the planet” and “for the increase and diffusion of geographical knowledge.” It’s one thing for the some Leftist rag to write this filth, but a whole other to see it in this journal. Shame on them