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Analysis: How Israel really treats Christians
Published Thursday 15/03/2012 (updated) 20/03/2012 10:50
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Christian Palestinians leave Erez border crossing in the northern Gaza Strip
Dec. 22, 2011, as they make their way to the West Bank town of Bethlehem to
celebrate Christmas. The Israeli army gave permits to some 500 Christians from
Gaza to celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem. (Reuters/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)

In a recent op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, "Israel and the Plight of Mideast Christians," Ambassador Michael Oren presents Israel as a tolerant, dove-like, and peaceful democracy. This is belied by the facts.

I am one of those Palestinian Christians living inside Israel to whom Oren refers. At no time in my life have I ever felt the "respect and appreciation" of the Jewish state, which Oren so glowingly references.

Israel's Christian minority is marginalized in much the same manner as its Muslim one or, at best, quietly tolerated. We suffer the same discrimination when we try to find a job, when we go to hospitals, when we apply for bank loans, and when we get on the bus -- in the same way as Palestinian Muslims.

Israel's fundamental basis is as a racist state built for Jews only, and the majority of the Jewish population doesn't really care what religion we are if we're not Jewish. In my daily dealings with the State, all I have felt is rudeness and overt contempt.

Oren's statement that "The extinction of the Middle East's Christian communities is an injustice of historic magnitude" is outright shocking to anyone familiar with even the basic history of how Israel was founded.

I would like to remind Oren and others that this founding expelled thousands of Palestinian Christians from their homes in 1948 and displaced them, either forcing them to flee across the border or making them internal refugees. The ethnic cleansing of Palestinians that comprised the founding of Israel is, too, an injustice of historic magnitude. A man living in a glass house -- or a house stolen from Palestinians -- should think very carefully before tossing stones.

My cousin's husband, Maher, is from Iqrith, a village a few miles from mine in the Galilee. His family, and all of Iqrith's inhabitants, were expelled from their village in 1948 and Iqrith was razed to the ground by Israeli forces on Christmas eve, 1950, in a special "Christmas gift" to its people. The timing of this destruction leaves one to wonder at the intended message.

Maher was born years after his family took shelter in Rama, a village nearby in the Galilee. Today, he struggles with finding a place to build a house to live in with his wife and children. Israeli policies that severely restrict the building zones in Arab towns and villages result in land shortages impeding the population's natural expansion. Limiting land to residents of the same town or village means that internal Palestinian refugees face severe housing discrimination.

The return of people like Maher has been made impossible by Israel, which refuses to negotiate on the right of refugees to return to their homeland. If Oren is so concerned for Palestinian Christians, would he kindly give the green light for the return of Christian refugees from Iqrith, Birim, Tarshiha, Suhmata, Haifa, Jaffa, and tens of other Palestinian towns and villages that they were expelled from in 1948?

The answer, I assure you, is no. Many of these refugees are living in refugee camps in nearby countries, where Israel and Oren are happy to leave them.

The terrorists referred to in Oren's statement that "Israel, in spite of its need to safeguard its borders from terrorists, allows holiday access to Jerusalem's churches to Christians from both the West Bank and Gaza," are in fact Palestinian Christians living on the land that Israel has occupied -- in flagrant opposition to all human rights charters -- and from which it is refusing to withdraw its soldiers and illegal settlers.

To applaud Israel for giving people permits to travel across what by law is their own country is the height of hubris.

His claim that "In Jerusalem, the number of Arabs -- among them Christians -- has tripled since the city's reunification by Israel in 1967" fails to mention Israel's relentless policies of cracking down on Jerusalem: building unending settlements; building a separation wall that slices right through the city, severing its families, neighborhoods and businesses and hitting hard at its Arab economy; seizing Arab lands and expelling families that have lived on them for generations; and revoking the citizenship of any Palestinian resident who travels abroad for too long.

Imagine the outcry if an American citizen traveled abroad for two years and upon return discovered that his citizenship was revoked and that he had lost his American ID and passport.

Israeli officials don't care whether the Palestinians they discriminate against are Christian or Muslim. It is true that inter-religious strife is on the rise in a region long tormented by poor living conditions, for which the West bears significant responsibility having aided the region's many dictators.

Oren's faux tolerance and crocodile tears over the plight of Christians fool no one. Were he serious, I would urge him to have a close look at Israel's policies of occupation and racial discrimination.

As Jesus said in Matthew 7:3, "Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?"


Fida Jiryis is a Palestinian writer from the Arab village of Fassuta in the Galilee. She is the author of the forthcoming book, My Return to Galilee, which chronicles her return from the Diaspora to Israel.
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1 ) Ardent Zionist / Arkansas
16/03/2012 06:25
Welcome to Jewish State, Fida. I hope you will enjoy and prosper. If you decide that living in the Jewish State is emotionally difficult for you to handle, you may choose to move to 50-odd nation-states who claim to be exclusively Muslim, or move to the Western states where Christianity is a majority. My very best to you. Good luck!

2 ) Christian / Israel
16/03/2012 07:46
???? ????? ??? ?????? , ????? ????? ?? ?????? ??? ?? ????? ?? ?????? ????????? ... ??? ???? ?? ??????? ?????? ????? ????? ?????? ?????...

3 ) Ben Barka / Tanzania
16/03/2012 08:08
So much for the Christian evangelists who rave and rant about defense of Israel as the so-called chosen race for the promised land. Crazy somji40@yahoo.com

4 ) Paul Moore / Galilee
16/03/2012 11:45
I Live in harashim not far from fassuta, and i look forward to reading this forthcoming book . Having friends from fassuta who have a lot of difficulty with state institutions , i understand the situation. We lack leadership in this country , i dream that one day things will change , we will all have to find common ground . many people here be they Jews, Arabs, Christians Druze ,Muslim.. get on well on a daily basis. Paul http://ukulelesforpeace.com/ http://paulmooremusic.com/

5 ) George / Beit Jala, Palestine
16/03/2012 14:11
Brilliant Op Ed! We should all thank Mr. Oren for raising the issue.

6 ) Mel / USA
16/03/2012 14:28
Any1 who expects anything else from Michael Oren,is deluded,LOL! He's an ARDENT ideo/political Zionist! A US-Israeli dual citizen,who puts Israel BEFORE the USA,which undermines his profession. Zionists are extremist racists,supposedly of the Jewish &Christian faiths,lol? Moderate,secular Christians worldwide,associate more with moderate,secular Islam,than any brutal Zionists,or myopic fringe of any ideo-politic-cults.As a US white Christian,I relate MORE to Palestine than brutal Zionist Israel!

7 ) @ Mr. Jirfis / / Tibi\Tubas
16/03/2012 14:55
1- Look at all the Christian Holy Sites in Israel & the territories, that are left Intact, with believers freely Worshipping there In Peace, AND

2- It is unfortunate & unfair that the Christians of Palestine paid the same
price, as the Muslims of Palestine, when the joint Muslim armnies marched
into Israel in 1948, and maybe a remedy to the situation now would be a population swap, with Christian Arabs coming to Israel & the territories, in exchange for Muslim Arabs leaving !!!

8 ) Jihane / Palestine/France
16/03/2012 16:56
Maybe our fake Palestinian "Tibi from Tubas" should change his pen name. We've already known for a while that he's a Zionist propagandist, and addressing Fida as a Mister is just one more proof that he doesn't have a clue !!! His attempt of dividing Christian and Muslim Palestinians is a waste of time: we are ONE people ! Go read Hawatmeh, George Habash, Azmi Bishara, Hanan Ashrawi.... ONE people !

9 ) Colin Wright / USA
16/03/2012 21:42
To Ardent #1 'If you decide that living in the Jewish State is emotionally difficult for you to handle, you may choose to move to 50-odd nation-states who claim to be exclusively Muslim, or move to the Western states where Christianity is a majority...' (I) I take it you would approve if the US, for example, treated Jews the way Christians and Muslims are treated in Israel. After all, us being a majority Christian state and all, that would seem to be what you are advocating.

10 ) Colin Wright / USA
16/03/2012 21:47
re 'Ardent' (II) Actually, thinking about what 'Ardent' advocates, it should be pretty easy to install the appropriate regime in the US with regards to Jews. To treat them about the way Christians and Muslims are treated in Israel, I suggest adopting the legislation on the books in Germany through about 1938. That should put us on about the same footing as Israel, practically speaking. Severely restricted property rights, effectively no civil rights, severely restricted...

11 ) Colin Wright / USA
16/03/2012 21:51
To Mel #6 'Any1 who expects anything else from Michael Oren,is deluded,LOL! He's an ARDENT ideo/political Zionist!' As I said before, the crime doesn't really lie with Mr. Oren. He's Israel's ambassador: he's SUPPOSED to be an ardent Zionist. The crime lies with those who choose to believe him, and to propagate his lies. With the Wall Street Journal, which published his piece, but which we can rest assured will not permit a rebuttal. Etc.

12 ) lindsey / Arkansas
17/03/2012 03:05
hear hear Colin! THANK YOU. Mr. Arden Zionist isn't representing my state very well. I guess African Americans in Arkansas should have moved out and settled somewhere else, as well, when it was "emotionally difficult" for them to live here as well. What poor justification for treatment to other human beings.

13 ) southparkbear / usa
17/03/2012 18:59
hehehe, we respect and protects christians unlike musi arabs. i bet all pals envy chritians

14 ) Joseph / Palestine
17/03/2012 19:14
We are, First palestinians, and the Israeli oppression affect all of us, it's horrible the life under the israeli apartheid and military occupation

15 ) Israeli / Israel
17/03/2012 19:29
The author of this piece Moved to Israel, voluntarilly of her own free will. And the christian population of Israel has steadily increased since 1948. in the muslim world, it steadily decreased. Why? As the americans say, money talks and bull---- walks. We see what people actually DO.

16 ) Peter / Isrsael
17/03/2012 20:33
As a christain that lives in Isael, I must say this article is a farse a lie and a spit to the face of the Jewish people who treat us amazing and with respect on the contrary of our other fellow christains who live in the middleast who are being persecuted and murderd by Intolorant Islam...i say, why don't you move to egypt syria or gza...lets see what happens when you write this in an Islamic country (that of course if you are lucky enough to have Internet)...Bottom line Fida Jiry u r pathetic.

17 ) Robert / US
17/03/2012 21:50
Paul great program , I really hope its a success !!!. Coming to the US would help the cause a great deal..

18 ) Freedom Calls / US
18/03/2012 00:42
@ 16 peter. your full of it. just google how christians are treated in israel.. see how rabbis and their robots spit on priest and rev. Look open up your eyes . You fake now be a light not a dark demon

19 ) Tibi / Tubas
18/03/2012 01:11
Look around the Middle East, and you see real ETHNIC CLEANSING of Christians, Kurds, and other minorities SUDAN, IRAQ, EGYPT, but NOT SO IN ISRAEL, where Christians, Druze, Bahai, Samaritans, and other minorities are doing just fine, and more cross into Israel illegally every year, because in comparison to the Arab world, living in ISRAEL IS A PARADISE.

20 ) Tibi / Tubas
18/03/2012 01:48
Look around the Middle East, and you see real ethnic cleansing of Christians, Kurds, and other minorities in Darfur, Iraq, Eypt, but in Israel the Christians, Druze, Bahai, Samaritans, and other minorities are just fine

21 ) Debra / USA
18/03/2012 02:10
Propaganda for the palestinians who would, in a minute, do as all their muslim brothers in the ME have done, expel the jews and steal their lands, houses etc. I agree with Peter.

22 ) Jihane / Palestine/FRance
18/03/2012 03:20
@ Israeli No, she didn't move to Israel; ISREAL MOVED TO HER, as the late Emile Habibi said, another Palestinian Christian who lived within the State of Israel (former member of the Knesset for Hadash). The author lives on her ancestral land, her family lived there for hundreds of years before Zionists came from Poland and Russia to resettle in their "mythological homeland" ! @ Peter If you're a Christian, you're NOT a Palestinian Christian but some American or European Christian, that's sure !

23 ) Colin Wright / USA
18/03/2012 04:12
Funny how so few of those claiming that things are just great for Palestinian Christians in Israel are Palestinian Christians themselves. On the face of it, that's rather odd.

24 ) Joe Fattal / USA
18/03/2012 15:51
Israel is using an intiimidation approach, they have the weapons and the manpower. Since in reality they can't force Christians and Muslims to leave Palestine they can encourage the Palestinian population Christians or Muslims to leave by using that approach. The reason why Israel hasn't came up with borders except the one in Gaza which they break daily is because they are still Palestinians in the area, and until all Palestinians leaves the situation on the ground will remain the same.

25 ) Jihane / Palestine/France
18/03/2012 17:02
? 23 I don't think Peter is Palestinian. Probably an Anglo Christian Zionist ! It's hardly a name used by Christian Palestinians. Just like "Tibi from Tubas" is a fake Palestinian, spinning Hasbara from the Likud.

26 ) Colin Wright / USA
18/03/2012 23:14
To Israeli #15 'The author of this piece Moved to Israel, voluntarilly of her own free will. And the christian population of Israel has steadily increased since 1948. in the muslim world, it steadily decreased. Why? As the americans say, money talks and bull---- walks. We see what people actually DO.' The argument here is identical to that employed by White South Africans to justify their treatment of Blacks under apartheid. 'They're better off', etc.

27 ) Colin Wright / USA
18/03/2012 23:19
'Peter' #16 is indeed a Zionist or some species of pro-Israelite -- and certainly not a Palestinian. Notice the contrived illiteracy and deliberate misspellings. There are some posters who are authentically illiterate, and you can tell. This guy isn't one of them. He's faking it. Why are Israel supporters so relentlessly dishonest? It really gets old.

28 ) Colin Wright / USA
18/03/2012 23:23
To Jihane #25 'Just like "Tibi from Tubas" is a fake Palestinian, spinning Hasbara from the Likud.' It's merely the most extreme form of Zionist dishonesty. The whole thing is a lie -- and to top it off, its supporters are so relentlessly dishonest. I think it's what infuriates me most about Zionism. It's not actually MY country that they're taking. It's just that they LIE so much. Drives me right up the wall...

29 ) @ Colin Wrong #28 / USA too
19/03/2012 16:15
Yes, perhaps it is "Hasbara (propaganda) from the Likud",
BUT IT IS ALSO THE TRUTH that :
- "Christian worship freely at Intact Holy Sites" (They Do.), and that
- "real ethnic cleansing of Christians and other minorities occurs in
Muslim countries Darfur/Sudan, Iraq, Eypt, while in Israel Christians and other minorities (including Muslims) freely worshipping" (They Do.) !!!

So, hasbara or not, it is still THE TRUTH, which IS VALUABLE,
where YOUR DISHONESTY IS NOT !!!


30 ) Lana / Usa
22/03/2012 05:59
My family is a product of war both from my mother and father's side. We now live in Chicago and I'm surrounded by orthodox Jews. I am friends with people of all religions. I think we should respect the author's blog. We should tolerate all religions and ask our government or demand that more should be done without hate in our heart.

31 ) Sherri Munnerrlyn / US
25/03/2012 21:26
To Ardent Zionist from Arkansas , I am a Christian from Arkansas, who fails to understand why you, a self proclaimed Zionist,would be telling a Christian from Palestine, who might well be a descendant of the earliest Christians, to leave their indigenous home and move to a Muslim country. As a Zionist in Arkansas, you certainly are a minority, should I recommend you immigrate to Israel?

32 ) Deborah / USA
27/03/2012 06:45
Michael Oren is a joke.

33 ) Claudia / Argentina
27/03/2012 07:36
is very funny that mistreat Jews Muslims and Christians when they are scattered all over the world and demand to be treated better than the citizens of that country, Argentina is the 2nd largest Jewish community in the world, what if my country discriminate them as they do with Christians?? It's a shame he wants respect must lead by example, but Israel does not even respect themselves.

34 ) x.g. / quds
27/03/2012 14:19
why do zionists hasbarats have a hard time with Palestinian christians ..don;t forget we hate you the same

35 ) @ Claudia #33 / USA
28/03/2012 15:56
The Bible is full of reminders to us to treat the poor, strangers, widows and orphans fairly, and next week's Passover (Last Supper) Liturgy also reminds of this, particularly since we were slaves in Egypt.

Please consider how difficult it is to act accordingly when under attack by those same people, and that essentially all of the discrimination arose from the self-defense responses forced upon Israel, by the joint Arab invasions (1948, 67, & 73) and countless terror attacks !!!

36 ) @ x.g #34 / "Zionists hasbarats"
28/03/2012 16:17
1- This Zionist "hasbarats" hates no one !!
2- This Zionist has neither a "hard time with Palestinian Christians",
Nor with Palestinians, Christians, Muslims, etc., BUT
3- This Zionist feels that evil must be confronted, and that
people who use hate to justify murder and terrorism must be fought,
and guess what - THE WHOLE WORLD FEELS THE SAME WAY !!!!


37 ) @ Colin #9 / USA too
29/03/2012 00:57
I think you are right, 'If Christians or Muslims decide that living in the Jewish State is emotionally too difficult for them to handle, they may choose to move to 50-odd Muslim states, or to the Western states where Christianity is a majority", but - THERE IS ONLY ONE JEWISH STATE, and it is located on the Land, that God promised to His People, and - the Muslim states should fund relocating the 4 million Muslims, and - the same for the few 1,000 Christians, if they wish !!!

38 ) peter nat Ellis / England
10/04/2012 21:21
So can I take a cross , set of new testaments, christial literature, even film of Life of Brian into the majority of Arab airports without being detained and quickly deported (if not far worse) ? Come on readers face it christans are much freer to practice their religion without hinderance in Israel than any otherr Muslim country. I recall how the Jordanians deliberatly smasked old Jewish gravestones when part of Jerusamem was under their control. Nobody wanted a state then?
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