Israel’s detractors cling on to the easily disproved accusation that Israel exercises policies of apartheid against her Arab population. Right next door to Israel, however, something worse than apartheid is taking place. A religious apartheid persecution of Christians by Arab towards Arab has been unfolding in Gaza that should be causing outcries from all the human rights NGOs (but of course it doesn’t, because it’s not Israel that’s doing it)!
Since Hamas forcibly took over in Gaza in 2007, they have progressively introduced more and more stringent Islamic laws and regulations as the leadership has “Sharia-ised” their domain. This is bad enough for the already-Muslim population of the zone, but nothing to what is being suffered by the minority Christian community. Historically, Christians or Jews living under Muslim rule have been classed as “dhimmis” – protected ones. The protection, of course, is at the cost of total submission to their Muslim masters. Historically, this has included stepping off the street before approaching Muslims, prohibitions on riding horses, paying the “Jizya” tax – in fact any measure that Muslim rulers might choose to apply to ensure Jews or Christians knew their place, firmly at the bottom of the societal food chain!
What is coming to light in Gaza, however, goes beyond dhimmitude and beyond the suffering of Christians in most parts of the Middle East. News is leaking out of the brutal erosion of an already shrinking Christian minority through forced conversions to Islam. An article in Israel’s Ha’Aretz newspaper on 17th July reports the traumatic effect this is having on a community that, at around 1,500, is now less than half the size it was a few years ago. In a region where family, community and religion are inextricably intertwined, this is splitting families and traumatising hundreds of terrorised Christians.
Reinforcing the Ha’Aretz article is a dramatic account by the area director of the Bible Society, an international organisation that serves Christians of many shades in Jerusalem, the “West Bank” and Gaza. We have obtained a radio interview, only recorded in the last few days, that explains in painful terms the effects of a brutal Hamas rule over their own “dhimmis”. The interview, 14 minutes long, is well worth listening to to pick up a flavour of what is going on right now under Hamas rule but which is only slowly (?reluctantly) reaching the Western media.
The anti-Israel campaigners in Britain include many from Christian groups and denominations. If they truly wanted to support the Palestinians they would be at the forefront of protests on behalf of the Christian populations of both the PA and Gaza, since both communities are suffering persecution. The supreme irony is that the only country in the entire Middle East that has true religious freedom for both Christians and Muslims is the one country the “Apartheid Israel” banner-wavers will not speak good of – Israel herself. We have to ask the question again and again – pro Palestinians or anti-Israel?