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WHY IS SABEEL SILENT
ABOUT PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS
in the PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY?

Christians suffer persecution in the Palestinian Authority

· PA Christians presented their grievances to Christian authorities in Jerusalem, documenting 93 incidents of abuse and violence by the “Islamic fundamentalist Mafia.” “ Almost every day – I repeat, almost every day – our communities are harassed by the Islamic extremists in these regions. And if it's not the members of Hamas or Islamic Jihad, there are clashes with the 'rubber wall' of the Palestinian Authority…” Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa,Custodian of the Holy Land, Sept 4 2005 [i]

· “Hundreds” of Muslim men chanting “Allahu akbar” attacked the PA Christian village of Taiba, torching and looting over 16 homes and businesses, because a Taiba resident allegedly had a romance with a Muslim woman from their village. The PA released the Muslim men who were arrested. The Christian man remains in PA custody where, his family claims, he is beaten daily. September 4-5 2005 [ii]

· The militants who took over the Church of the Nativity in April, 2002, had “imposed a two-year reign of terror [on Bethlehem Christians] that included rape, extortion and executions, according to Bethlehem residents. ‘Finally the Christians can breathe freely,’ said Helen, 50, a Christian mother of four. ‘We are so delighted that these criminals who have intimidated us for such a long time are now going away.’” [iii]

· “In February 2002, Palestinian Muslims rampaged against Christians in Ramallah, burning apartments and stores owned by Christians and attempted to burn down the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches.” The PA failed to intervene, according to the Boston Globe. [iv]

· In August, 1997, Palestinian policemen in Beit Sahur opened fire on a crowd of Christian Arabs, wounding six of them. Arafat attempted to cover up the incident and warned the Arab media against publicizing the story. [v]

· When the Intifada began, the PA’s Tanzim specifically “positioned themselves in or near Christian homes, hotels, churches (eg St. Nicholas) and the Greek Orthodox club so fire would harm Christian institutions and homes,” according to an AP report. [vi]

· On July 5, 1997 Palestinian policemen violently took over Abraham’s Oak Russian Monastery - located in the Palestinian-controlled part of Hebron. In the process, Palestinian police forces beat both the Abbess and a monk severely causing both to be hospitalized. On another occasion, the PLO seized the Greek Orthodox Monastery adjacent to the Church of Nativity to provide Yasser Arafat with a Bethlehem residence. [vii]

The Palestinian Authority declared Islam its official religion and committed to Sharia law, not human rights standards, as the basis for its legislation.

· “The PA declared Islam its official religion. No Palestinian law protects religious freedom.” US State Department, International Religious Freedom Report, 2001 [viii]

· . ”[T]he sharia will be the primary source of legislation…” Palestinian Authority Draft Constitution, Article 5

· “In a recent poll, 69% of Palestinians preferred that the PA follow the Shari'a - Islamic religious law, while only 16% preferred laws passed by their own Palestinian Legislature. Another 11% wanted both.” [Palestinian Center for Research and Cultural Dialogue, March 3, 2005] [ix]

Muslim conversion to Christianity is a crime in the PA

· Ahmad El- Achwal, a Palestinian convert to Christianity, was repeatedly tortured, imprisoned and intimidated but refused to give up his new religious beliefs. He was murdered at the entrance of his home on January 21 2004.

· Muhammed Bak’r, a Muslim convert to Christianity, was jailed and tortured in a PA prison for distributing Bibles to Muslims. “His hands were tied behind his back to a rope connected to the ceiling and he was left hanging there for several days.” [x]

· The PA Information Ministry declared that “The Palestinian people are also governed by [Islamic] Shari’a law…with issues pertaining to religious matters…..any Muslim who [converts] or declares becoming an unbeliever is committing a major sin punishable by capital punishment.” [xi]

· The PA arrests Palestinian converts to Christianity. In late June 1997, the PA’s Preventive Security Forces arrested a convert to Christianity for regularly attending church and distributing Bibles. He is still in prison and has been subjected to physical torture and interrogations. [xii]

· In December, 2002, Saeed and Nasser Salamah, escaped from prison and from a death sentence for converting to Christianity in the PA and sought asylum in Israel. [xiii]

Persecution is forcing Christians to flee the Palestinian Authority and its increasing Islamic radicalism

· “Life in [PA-ruled] Bethlehem has become insufferable for many members of the dwindling Christian minorities. Increasing Muslim-Christian tensions have left some Christians reluctant to celebrate Christmas in the town at the heart of the story of Christ’s birth,” according to a December 1997 report in the London Times. [xiv]

· “The Christian rate of emigration from the Territories has accelerated and the Christian population of the Territories has dropped from 15% in 1950 to barely 2% today. Many fear that soon few if any Christians will be left in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, or in Nazareth though they once were Christian majority cities.” [xv]

· .45% of Christians polled reported that they feared growing tension between Christians and Muslims, according to a poll in 2001. Only 15% of those polled blamed Israel for the rising tensions. [xvi]

· Palestinian Christians are being “driven out by the steady persecution of the PA and the realization that they will face worse treatment under a possible future Palestinian state.” US Congressman J.C. Watts, 1997 [xvii]

· In July 1999, 30,000 Christians in Beit Jalla staged a protest strike against the PA’s unjust policies toward them. [xviii]

Christians face severe economic discrimination in the PA

· The Palestinian Land Law declares it a capital crime to sell land to Jews; this law is interpreted as forbidding sale of land to all non-Muslims, making it difficult for Christians to buy land or to sell it to Christians. [xix]

· Muslim boycotts of Christian stores crippled Christian businesses, especially those that surrounded the square at the Church of the Nativity. [xx]

· Extortion by Muslim militants cripples Christian businesses. “I know many businessmen who have been extorted. There wasn’t a Christian businessman exempt. Many of the are now out of business—nearly 90% Christian vendors near the Church of the Nativity have been forced to pay protection money to stay in business…” William Murray, February 11 2003 [xxi]

· "For the Christians here, life is full of abuses of power and humiliations. Those in charge are the ones who steal the land. The Muslims appropriate our goods and property through what can really and properly be called fraud, which is committed with the complicity of functionaries connected to the Palestinian Authority and its militias, the tanzim.” Samir Qumsieh, 2005 [xxii]

Christian holy sites and cemeteries are vandalized, and worshippers are prevented from attending services

· "There are frequent instances of vandalism against the churches, from which they carry away the crucifixes. They destroyed the statue of the Virgin Mary in the convent garden of the Salesian sisters. They have violated some of the tombs in the Christian cemetery of Bethlehem. Graffiti have appeared defaming Hanan Ashrawi, the former spokesman of the OLP, who is guilty of being a Christian and a woman." Samir Qumsieh, 2005 [xxiii]

· 150-180 Palestinian terrorists took over the Church of the Nativity on April 2, 2002, triggering a 39 day siege during which they ate all the stores of food, Bibles were torn up and used for toilet paper, many valuable sacramental objects were stolen, and the monks trapped inside were under a “regime of fear.” [xxiv]

· “ During these same days and weeks [of the armed Muslim occupation of the basilica of the Nativity in 2002], other armed groups occupied other convents of men and women religious, but the world heard nothing about these.” [xxv]

· “Cemeteries have been vandalized in Bethlehem. In Nazareth…property was damaged and Christian symbols were desecrated. Worshippers were prevented from attending religious services. An atmosphere of fear has been created.” Ghazali, 1999

· Muslim extremists have attacked Christian facilities and clubs, the Wall Street Journal reported in July 1994. Christian graves, crosses and statues have been desecrated. Christian cemeteries have been defaced, monasteries have had their phone lines cut and there have been break-ins at convents. [xxvi]

· In 1997, the Waqf (Muslim religious property) authorities attempted to break through into the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, which is adjacent to the al-Hanaqa Mosque in order to install toilets on the roof of the Church. The illegal construction was halted only after Israeli and world pressure. [xxvii]

PA Muslims threaten Christians, the “Sunday People”

· Graffiti in Bethlehem and Beit Sahur reads, “First the Saturday people [the Jews] then the Sunday people [the Christians],” according to the New York Times. [xxviii] The same lines are often chanted during anti-Israel PLO/PA rallies. [xxix]

· “Allah the almighty has called upon us not to ally with the Jews or the Christians, not to like them, not to become their partners, not to support them, and not to sign agreements with them.” [xxx] Dr. Ahmad Abu Halabiya, Friday sermon broadcast by the PA on October 13, 2000

· "Annihilate the Infidels and the Polytheists! Your [i.e. Allah's] enemies are the enemies of the religion!... Allah, count them and kill them to the last one, and don't leave even one." (Suleiman Al-Satari, PA TV, July 8, 2005)

· “Unfortunately for Middle East Christians…the extremists look on us as enemies, just as they look upon the Jews as enemies. I have heard fundamentalist groups in Palestine say, ‘After Saturday [the Jewish day of rest] comes Sunday [the Christian day of rest]—and my blood runs cold.” Bishop El-Assal, 1999 [xxxi]

Muslim militants harass and rape Christian girls, and coerce them to adopt Islamic clothing and behavior

· “In 2002, two sisters of the Amre family, 17 and 19 years old, were executed by gunshot by a group of men close to the Palestinian Authority. The accusation was prostitution. But the autopsy revealed two things: first, they were virgins; and second, they had been tortured by having lit cigarettes applied to their genitals before they were executed.” Dossier of abuses presented to Jerusalem Christian authorities, Sept 4 2005 [xxxii]

· “Rawan William Mansur, a 16-year-old girl from Beit Sahur, was raped in the spring of 2003 by four Fatah militiamen. None of them was arrested. The family was forced to emigrate to Jordan.” Dossier of abuses presented to Jerusalem Christian authorities, Sept 4 2005 [xxxiii]

· Inaz Jiries Hanna Muslah, a 23-year-old Palestinian Christian teacher, said that “public harassment of Christian girls began when the PA came to power ‘after 1993. Before, [there were] no things like this. We could go everyplace we wanted….[but now] I don’t walk alone on the street because of this bad thing….” Interview August 2002 [xxxiv]

· Sana Razi Nashash, a 24-year-old Christian woman from Beit Jallah, said sexual harassment became widespread only after the PA came to power. She feels she is a “virtual prisoner” in her own home due to the pervasiveness of harassment of Christian women, ‘so right now I could not go to the street, even 7 o’clock I cannot go to the street alone, but before [the PA came to power], I used to go and work with no problem at night.” Interview August 2002 [xxxv]

· “Some Muslim guys raped many girls, Christian. And…she can’t get married after that…People look at her as a raped woman. People will talk about her.” Inaz Jiries Hanna Muslah Interview August 2002 [xxxvi]

You do not hear about this persecution because Christians are afraid of reprisals if they speak out.

· “Christian Church leaders have long been desperate not to upset the delicate ethnic and sectarian balance in the region by blaming either Jews or Muslims for the decline of their once robust religious community. That self-imposed silence now appears to be crumbling.” Sept 2005 [xxxvii]

· “[I]ncidents like these are known to be widespread, but most go unreported or are denied by the victims for fear of retaliation by the PA.” JC Watts [xxxviii]

· “Last week, five Muslims beat up a Christian boy. We are afraid. They have knives [and] guns and can do whatever they want. They can kill you simply…[for] speaking bad about them.” Mar, a Palestinian Christian from Ramallah [xxxix]

· Palestinian Christians often say there are good relations with the PA because “There is fear. If I lived in London, I would tell you [my real name]. [Here], somebody will shoot me.” Abu Sumayah [xl]

· Former Florida Senator Connie Mack described the fear he found in Palestinian Christians. “Needless to say, these Christians me with me at considerable risk. They conveyed to me a message of fear and desperation.” [xli]

· A Christian cleric in Jerusalem “compared the behavior of Christian dhimmis to that of battered wives and children, who continue to defend and even identify with their tormentor even as the abuse persists.” [xlii]

You do not hear about this persecution because Christian leaders ally with the PA and are separated from their people.

· Latin Priest Rafiq Khoury’s “call to venerate the rule of Islam because it creates national unity ignores the heavy price Christians would pay…living under such a regime….It indicates acquiescence to an inferior position…and the abandonment of the Christian dream of a liberal, secular society that would accept them as equals.” Professor Tsimhoni [xliii]

· “You have to distinguish between the leadership [which was supportive of Arafat] and the people.” Christian resident of Bethlehem [xliv]

· “Our leaders are liars: They tell the newspapers that everything is OK. But when Christians go to the market, they’re afraid to wear crosses.” Christian man from Bethlehem. [xlv]

· “A public opinion poll performed by a Christian academic revealed that only 48% of Palestinian Christians trust their religious leaders.” [xlvi]



[i] Sandro Magister, “The Custody Must Be Doubled in the Holy Land,” Chiesa, Sept 7 2005 at www.chiesa.espressonline.it/dettaglio.jsp?id=38551&eng=y

[ii] Khaled Abu Toameh, “Muslims Ransack Christian Village,” Jerusalem Post, Sept 5 2005 at www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1125831262546 and Chris McGreal, “Homes Razed in Mob Fury at Couple’s ‘Affair,’ The Guardian, September 5 2005 at www.guardian.co.uk/israel/Story/0,2763,1562709,00.html

[iii] Sayed Anwar, “Exiled Palestinian Militants Ran Two-Year Reign of Terror,” Washington Times, May 13, 2002.

[iv] Charles Radin, “Mob Fears Grow in West Bank,” Boston Globe, Feb 6 2002 and the Christian site www.nclci.org/news/middle_east_news.htm

[v] Fact Sheet #7: Palestinian Treatment of Arabs at www.sullivan-county.com/id4/christian_arabs.htm

[vi] cited in David Raab, “The Beleaguered Christians of the Palestinian-Controlled Areas” at www.us-israel.org/jsource/Peace/christianpal.html

[vii] http://www.rapturechrist.com/newsletterjan15_2002.htm

http://www.orthodox.net/jericho/2000-03-22-open-letter.html

[viii] US Department of State, International Religious Freedom Report: Israel and the Occupied Territories, October 2001

[ix] Reported by Palestine Media Watch at http://www.pmw.org.il/

[x] Cited in Justice Reid Weiner, Human Rights of Christians in the Palestinian Authority, 2005, p.19

[xi] Palestinian Authority Ministry of Information, December 1997 at www.lawsociety.org/Reports/reports/1998/crz4html

[xii] Israeli Government Reports. Cited in David Raab, “The Beleaguered Christians of the Palestinian-Controlled Areas” at www.us-israel.org/jsource/Peace/christianpal.html

[xiii] World Net Daily, January 14, 2003 at www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=30483

[xiv] Cited in Jonathan Adelman and Agouta Kuperman at http://www.us-israel.org/jsource/arabs/christianme.html

[xv] Daphne Tsimhoni, “Christians Fleeing Palestinian Controlled Areas,” and Professor Jonathan Adelman and Agota Kuperman at www.us-israel.org/jsource/arabs/christianme.html

[xvi] Justice Reid Weiner, Human Rights of Christians in the Palestinian Authority, 2005

[xvii] J.C. Watts, “Yasser Arafat vs Christians,” Washington Times, December 4 1997

[xviii] Charles Sennot, “Christians Anxious Under Palestinian Rule,” Boston Globe, January 17 1999

[xix] Justice Reid Weiner, Human Rights of Christians in the Palestinian Authority, 2005, p. 13

[xx] Justice Reid Weiner, Human Rights of Christians in the Palestinian Authority, 2005, p. 13

[xxi] Interviewed in Justice Reid Weiner, Human Rights of Christians in the Palestinian Authority, 2005, pp.11-12

[xxii] Sandro Magister, “The Custody Must Be Doubled in the Holy Land,” Chiesa, Sept 7 2005 at www.chiesa.espressonline.it/dettaglio.jsp?id=38551&eng=y

[xxiii] Sandro Magister, “The Custody Must Be Doubled in the Holy Land,” Chiesa, Sept 7 2005 at www.chiesa.espressonline.it/dettaglio.jsp?id=38551&eng=y

[xxiv] Sources cited in David Raab, “The Beleaguered Christians of the Palestinian-Controlled Areas” at www.us-israel.org/jsource/Peace/christianpal.html

[xxv] Sandro Magister, “The Custody Must Be Doubled in the Holy Land,” Chiesa, Sept 7 2005 at www.chiesa.espressonline.it/dettaglio.jsp?id=38551&eng=y

[xxvi] [xxvi] David Raab, “The Beleaguered Christians of the Palestinian-Controlled Areas” at www.us-israel.org/jsource/Peace/christianpal.html

[xxvii] Ha’aretz, May 11, 1997

[xxviii] Andre Aciman, “In the Muslim City of Bethlehem,” NY Times Magazine, Dec. 24, 1995.

[xxix] David Raab, “The Beleaguered Christians of the Palestinian-Controlled Areas” at www.us-israel.org/jsource/Peace/christianpal.html

[xxx] MEMRI Dispatch at http://www.memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=archives&Area=sd&ID=SP13800

[xxxi] Bishop Riah El-Assal, Caught In Between, Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1997, p. 132

[xxxii] Sandro Magister, “The Custody Must Be Doubled in the Holy Land,” Chiesa, Sept 7 2005 at www.chiesa.espressonline.it/dettaglio.jsp?id=38551&eng=y

[xxxiii] Sandro Magister, “The Custody Must Be Doubled in the Holy Land,” Chiesa, Sept 7 2005 at www.chiesa.espressonline.it/dettaglio.jsp?id=38551&eng=y

[xxxiv] Interview reported in Justice Reid Weiner, Human Rights of Christians in the Palestinian Authority, 2005, p. 14

[xxxv] Interview reported in Justice Reid Weiner, Human Rights of Christians in the Palestinian Authority, 2005, p. 14

[xxxvi] Interview reported in Justice Reid Weiner, Human Rights of Christians in the Palestinian Authority, 2005, p. 14

[xxxvii] Sandro Magister, “The Custody Must Be Doubled in the Holy Land,” Chiesa, Sept 7 2005 at www.chiesa.espressonline.it/dettaglio.jsp?id=38551&eng=y

[xxxviii] J.C. Watts, “Yasser Arafat vs Christians,” Washington Times, December 4 1997

[xxxix] [xxxix] Interview reported in Justice Reid Weiner, Human Rights of Christians in the Palestinian Authority, 2005, p. 23

[xl] Abu Sumayah interview in Justice Reid Weiner, Human Rights of Christians in the Palestinian Authority, 2005, p. 23

[xli] J.C. Watts, “Yasser Arafat vs Christians,” Washington Times, December 4 1997

[xlii] David Raab, “The Beleaguered Christians of the Palestinian-Controlled Areas” at www.us-israel.org/jsource/Peace/christianpal.html

[xliii] Daphne Tsimhoni, Christian Communities in Jerusalem and the West Bank since 1948, 1993

[xliv] [xliv] Interview reported in Justice Reid Weiner, Human Rights of Christians in the Palestinian Authority, 2005, p. 23

[xlv] Yossi Klein-Halevi, “Squeezed Out,” Jerusalem Report, July 10 1997

[xlvi] Bernard Sabella, Middle East Study Association Annual Meeting, November 2001, San Francisco.



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