Mitri Raheb is a Palestinian Christian who was born in Bethlehem in 1961. He earned an undergraduate degree in Protestant theology from the Hermannsburg Mission Seminary in Germany in 1984, and a doctoral degree in theology from Philipps University Marburg, also in Germany. Upon completing his formal education, he returned to Bethlehem in 1988 and became pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church, a position he holds to this day.
In 1995 Raheb founded the International Center of Bethlehem (ICB) to help Palestinians become “actors and not mere spectators” in the creation of civic institutions. The ICB includes a state-of-the-art cultural and conference center, a 350-seat theater, a media center, a restaurant and bar, a guesthouse, and numerous meeting areas.
In 1998 Raheb opened the Dar al-Kalima School to offer Palestinian children “an alternative to the traditional curriculum.” Five years after that, he opened the Dar al-Kalima Aacademy, an institution of higher learning whose curricula focused on the arts, tourism, and Christian ministry.
The three aforementioned institutions — the ICB, the Dar al-Kalima School, and the Dar al-Kalima Academy — together have developed into the second-largest private employer in the Bethlehem area.
In late 2002 Raheb launched a website known as the Bethlehem Media Center, designed to “empower Palestinians to tell their story”; to “promote the human face of the Palestinian people”; and to counter what Raheb perceives to be media bias against Palestinians.
Raheb is one of the more prominent exponents of Replacement Theology, a doctrine which holds that Christians have replaced Jews in God’s master plan and have “inherited all of God’s promises, including the land of Israel.” The Catholic Church adamantly repudiated Replacement Theology after the Holocaust, but Palestinian Christians like Raheb have revived it.
Raheb has authored numerous theological articles as well as three books targeted for a more general audience. His 1995 book, I Am a Palestinian Christian, was an opening salvo in his effort to advance the notion that Palestinian Christian claims to the Holy Land are theologically and historically more valid than those of Jews. In two subsequent books (Bethlehem 2000: Past and Present , and Bethlehem Besieged ), Raheb emphasized the “plight” of Palestinians in Bethlehem during the Intifada, portraying them as innocent victims of unbridled Israeli violence.
In his writings, Raheb consistently minimizes or excuses Palestinian terrorism. He does not mention the Palestinians’ organized terrorist infrastructure, the corruption and criminality of the Palestinian Authority (PA), or the relentless anti-Semitic incitement that pervades his whole society. Rarely does he mention the harassment and persecution that Palestinian Christians face from radical Islamic groups and from the PA. On those few occasions when he does make reference to some of these realities, he manipulates them to make them appear to be the consequences of Israeli transgressions. Hence, he blames the steady emigration of Bethlehem’s Christian Arabs on Israel’s “occupation,” not on the PA or the Islamic dominance that has accelerated this centuries-long hemorrhage of Middle Eastern Christian Arabs.
Raheb presents the Arab-Israeli conflict as a black-and-white morality play, with Israel always the evil-doer, the Palestinians always the innocent victims. He and others have started a campaign to spread the doctrine of Replacement Theology among Evangelical Christians, in an effort to persuade the latter to end their longstanding support for Israel. Raheb has made progress in this regard with liberal Christian groups; he convinced members of the Presbyterian Synod to vote for divestment from Israel in the summer of 2004.
Over the years, Raheb has uttered many anti-Israel statements, including the following:
This profile is adapted, with permission, from Stand4Facts.org.