Latest update: April 25th, 2012
Veteran 60 Minutes correspondent Bob Simon on Sunday presented “Christians of the Holy Land,” a piece of complex, anti-Israeli propaganda that was clearly intended to cause Israel damage among US Christians. It throws unfair accusations at Israeli Jews—who are essentially blameless in the story of the vanishing Arab Christians—while practically ignoring the active role of Palestinian Muslims in pushing Christians out of Bethlehem, to name but one city.
Fifty years ago, Christians were easily 70 percent of Bethlehem’s population; today they make up less than 15 percent. It’s the same in Egypt, Lebanon and Iraq. In fact, the only place in the Middle east where the Christian population is growing is inside “green line” Israel.
But the 60 Minutes piece, and the “scary” document it keeps referring to, “The Kairos Palestine Document,” have virtually no Muslim villains in them. At most it is “Jewish and Muslim extremists,” a nicely balanced package of crazies, who are to blame for Christian suffering.
There’s a fleeting reference to the fate of Israeli Christian Arabs, who may be equal citizens in a Western democracy, but, trust Bob Simon, they, too, suffer. They may be thriving, unlike their brethren from Casablanca to Tehran, but they’re still crying all the way to the bank.
The classic segment within the piece concerns the security wall – look for it around minute 4. Simon acknowledges that the wall was built to stop Palestinian terrorism, and concedes that it is working, having reduced terrorism by 90 percent. Then the story proceeds to detail how tough it is for Palestinian Christians to be living in the shade of this wall, which has come to be known as an “open air prison.”
“How do you live with this?” Simon asks in horror.
The piece also shows the long lines of Palestinian cars at Israeli checkpoints, and the fact that Palestinians must obtain Israeli permits to be moving about at all. Now the case is complete: Christians are leaving because of the hardship of Israeli occupation.
There are two logical problems here. One is of simple fairness, as Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren actually spells out: which would Bob Simon prefer, continued Jewish bloodshed on buses and in restaurants and hotels, or Arab inconvenience?
The other is even simpler: assuming Muslims are subject to at least the same level of hardship by the Israeli “occupiers,” why has the Muslim population of Bethlehem gone up to 85% while the Christians are fleeing?
If the reason for the emergence of a Christian Diaspora in Michigan is the occupation, there should be a corresponding percentage of Palestinian Muslims leaving Judea and Samaria.
But we haven’t seen 70 percent of Muslims leaving the “disputed territories,” because—and that’s the bit of harsh reality completely absent and, in fact, being denied, in Bob Simon’s piece—it’s the Palestinian Muslims doing much of the pushing.
In 2008, human rights attorney Justus Reid Weiner wrote “Palestinian Crimes against Christian Arabs and Their manipulation against Israel” for the Jerusalem Institute for Global Jewish Affairs. He summed up his argument : “Under the Palestinian regime Christian Arabs have been victims of frequent human rights abuses by Muslims. There are many examples of intimidation, beatings, land theft, firebombing of churches and other Christian institutions, denial of employment, economic boycotts, torture, kidnapping, forced marriage, sexual harassment, and extortion. Palestinian Authority (PA) officials are directly responsible for many of the human rights violations. Muslims who have converted to Christianity are in the greatest danger. They are often left defenseless against cruelty by Muslim fundamentalists. Some have been murdered.”
Read this interview by “Christianity Today” with Weiner. He tells these anecdotes:
There is a Greek Orthodox Christian who was so tight with the Palestinian Liberation Organization that during the first intifada, Israel expelled him from the West Bank. Arafat brought him back to the West Bank after the Oslo process began. He ran a TV station that he built in Bethlehem. Despite that connection, he gradually got fed up with what was going on with the Christians. About two months ago, he went public with a dossier that he had previously delivered to Arafat and then Abu Mazen. The dossier gives 70 detailed examples of attacks on specific Christians—beatings, sexual harassment, all nature of theft, stealing land—and 140 cases of land theft where Muslim gangs in cahoots with the Palestinian Authority showed up, poured a slab of cement, built apartment houses, and sold them right under the nose of the land’s Christian owners.
Since going public, he’s gone abroad for a trip. That’s a clue as to how long he would likely be alive if he were to show up in the Middle East anytime soon.
There’s a pastor in Bethlehem whose name I haven’t used, but one day a couple years ago he came home from work at his church, and as he parked his car, he saw a masked man jump over the fence into his front yard. The man had a pistol and took three shots, hitting the pastor once in the shoulder. The pastor fell to the ground and pretended to be dead, and the man jumped back over the fence and left.
A great deal is made by Bob Simon of the fact that Ambassador Oren had called CBS to complain about the anti-Israeli hatchet job in his piece – before the piece had aired. In fact, he practically yells at Oren, that this is the first time a subject had ever called to complain about him to his bosses before the finished piece had a chance to air.
Oren, who is not a timid man, appears dumbfounded by this direct attack and mumbles, “There’s a first time for everything.”
I would have said something about bullies not deserving the benefit of the doubt. Simon’s agenda is clear, he’s looking to damage Israel’s relationship with American Christians who support it wholeheartedly, even if, on occasion, for all the wrong reasons.
But, judging by the “Christianity Today” interview with Justus Reid Weiner, US Christians already know the real story.
About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.
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