Condition of Christians inside the Palestinian areas

    02-Dec-2020
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Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
 
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Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who is known for his hesitation and inability to make historical decisions have become more aware than ever that the Palestinian Authority (PA) would not survive for long without help from Israel. Meanwhile, a vast majority of the Arab nations that subsidised PA have visibly abandoned Palestinians aspirations for statehood and decided to normalise relations with Israel, while some of them have already established diplomatic relations. With the growing speculations of the statehood aspiration of the Palestinians disappearing into air, Christian population there are facing dilemma vis-à-vis their sense that they lack personal security and safety.
 
According to Samir A. Zedan is a former Senior Counter-Terrorism Analyst at the US Department of State, and a former Development Outreach and Communication Specialist at USAID/Iraq: “A major taboo among Christians living under the control of the Palestinian Authority has been always the internal debate over whether or not they should reach out to the State of Israel for citizenship in exchange for their full allegiance, a step that was taken by another minority — the Druze — who live in Northern Israel, after the establishment of the Jewish State in 1948.
 
Previously, the search for an identity among Christians who live in Israel and who were registered as Arabs led a group of people to initiate a legal battle at Israeli courts, which culminated with Israel recognizing them as Arameans rather than Arabs. They strongly argued that Arabism had been imposed on them when Muslim Arabs invaded Jerusalem in the seventh century, a fact not many can easily deny. Nowadays, many of these Christians are staunch members of Jewish parties, such as the Likud party (of the current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu) and Yisrael Beiteinu, a secular nationalist political party. The number of Christian teenagers who voluntarily serve in the IDF are steadily rising.
 
Intriguingly, the same search for a new identity emerged among the Christians of Judea and Samaria, who live under the Palestinian Authority. There is a growing sense among the Palestinian Christians of the need to remedy what some believe to have been a broken alliance with Israel. Increasingly, they believe that it is their only option to survive the threats of the growing Islamic radicalization in the Palestinian areas.
 
And to make them feel more adamant about the need for such an alliance, regular attacks against Christians were carried out by members of the Fatah movement (which always claimed to be a secular movement). During an attack on a Christian town near Ramallah two years ago, Fatah militants threatened Christian civilians and demanded that they pay jizya (a tax paid by non-Muslim populations to their Muslim rulers).
 
Furthermore, in the Bethlehem area, Christians have been subject to serious incidents of violence and constant violations of their rights that go back as far as October 2000, when the Camp David peace negotiations failed after the Palestinians vehemently refused to accept any proposal.
 
Another example of such savagery was seen last year, when a Christian woman was killed in an unjustified raid by the Palestinian police on her house in the town of Beit Jala near Bethlehem. The raid was a vivid example of the brutality and belligerent behavior that only could be practiced against helpless people such as the Christian residents.
 
When Recep Tayyip Erdogan had converted Hagia Sophia Cathedral in Istanbul into a mosque, Palestinians came out on the streets cheering and lauding the decision, which was a clear sign of their mindset and it poses an imminent danger to the churches and Christian religious sites within the Palestinian areas. Both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah welcomed Turkey’s decision, which led to strong resentment among the Christian Palestinians due to the special Christian symbolism that the Church in Constantinople represents to them, as Greek Orthodox Christians make up the majority of Palestinian Christians.
 
Statehood of Palestinians will only mean the creation of a ruthless and senseless launchpad of jihadism and Islamist terror in the Middle East. If we at all care about peace and denounce radical Islamic terror, Muslim nations should immediately abandon decade-old wrong hood of distancing from the State of Israel.
 
(The writer is an internationally acclaimed multi-award-winning anti-jihadist journalist, counter-terrorism specialist and editor of Blitz)