May 7, 2012 1 Comment
A few weeks ago, a section of the Palestinian church sponsored a controversial conference, “Christ at the Checkpoint” (see our post here). Last week, CBS News aired one of their “60 Minutes” segments on “Christians in the Holy Land“. Both these public events highlight some important issues in the relationship between Palestinian Christians, the Muslims they live among and the State of Israel.
The traditional denominations in the Palestinian Church (as represented by the ecumenical organisation Sabeel) have been quite successful in raising support in the Western church by casting themselves as victims of Israel’s “illegal occupation” of the West Bank. Just to confuse things, the evangelicals in Britain and Europe who support Sabeel’s critical stance on Israel are (literally and figuratively) an ocean away from the generally pro-Israel stance of American evangelicals.
Palestinian Christians do suffer, of that there is no denial. But is their suffering primarily down to nasty old Israel’s occupation or to the more widespread Muslim persecution of Christians that goes on across the whole Middle East? Sabeel and its supporters go to great lengths to assure the West that there is no persecution of Christians by Muslims in the West Bank. They are all brothers and sisters suffering together under Israel’s “apartheid” and “genocidal” policies. Hanan Ashrawi is seen as an example of how Christians can reach high places in the PLO and PA (although this is more likely because her father was a founder of the PLO)!
Unfortunately, the cries to the West by Palestinian Christian leaders about their suffering because of Israel are mitigated by some equally unfortunate realities on the ground. These largely concern the way in which both international critics of Israel and the Palestinians themselves have blurred the distinction between Palestinians living in Israel as citizens (Israeli Arabs) and those living in the West Bank territories, who are not Israeli citizens. We need to comprehend three major issue here; the difference between Christians in Israel and Christians in the West Bank, the actual extent of Muslim persecution of Christians in the PA areas and the real reason Palestinian Christians can push a perception of persecution by Israel.
For the first issue, take an example from the 60 Minutes programme mentioned above. Read more of this post