Palestinian persecution of Christians: Postscript to ’95 Guardian story on Israeli withdrawal from Bethlehem

A Guardian Archive story (which they republished today) from 1995, titled “Big day in the little town of Bethlehem” begins with the following celebratory passage:

There will be no star over Bethlehem this Christmas. The Israeli flag, which has flown over Manger Square for 28 years, was lowered yesterday for the last time, as the town was handed over to the Palestinian self-rule authority.

As the last small contingent of paramilitary forces moved out, Manger Square was filled with wildly celebrating crowds

 On the outside a thick crust of spectators responded gleefully to every [sign of Israeli withdrawal]

Jewish withdrawal from Christian Bethlehem: What’s there not to love?

Brown continues:

Last year the mayor of Bethlehem threatened to cancel Christmas because the Israelis would not let him fly one small Palestinian flag from the town hall. Now, the hall and most neighbouring buildings are all but obliterated by the national colours.

Yes, the Jews who almost stole Christmas.

Finally, Brown acknowledges Christian fears of Muslim rule:

There has been speculation that the coming of the PLO to Bethlehem will speed the exodus of Christians from the West Bank. But there was little sign of rivalry yesterday. Samir Sharer, one local Christian, said he was convinced that this year’s Christmas would be joyful. “Everything will be OK…”

As we can be assured that a follow-up report by the Guardian won’t be forthcoming, here are the sad demographic facts of Christian life under Palestinian/ Muslim rule.

Due primarily to religious persecution, the Christian population in the Palestinian Territories has dropped dramatically.

For instance, the persecution of Christians in Bethlehem has caused the population to slump to 7,500 from 20,000 in 1995, the year the IDF left the city. (Since Israel’s withdrawal Bethlehem and its surroundings also became hotbeds for Hamas and Islamic Jihad supporters and members.)

Today, Christians make up just 1% of the mainly Muslim population of the Palestinian territories, down from around 10% in 1948.

Inversely, the Christian population in Israel proper has risen from 34,000 in 1948 to over 150,000 today.

That the only growing Christian population in the entire Middle East exists in the sole country in which Islam does not prevail is essential to understanding the fate of Christianity in that part of the world – context about the contrasting religious freedom, tolerance and democratic values in the only Jewish state the Guardian will never report.

18 replies »

  1. The reappearance of that archived story seems rather gratuitious, i.e. crowbarring in an outdated story because they couldn’t find any negative current developments.
    The G. could easily have published e.g. an update – about how Bethlehem has been faring since the Israeli troops left.

    But …

    Jewish withdrawal from Christian Bethlehem: What’s there not to love?

    Oh come off it. It’s about the Israeli withdrawal.

    Yes, the Jews who almost stole Christmas.


    • Pretzel, please exercise due moderation in your choice of language. “WTF” indeed. There are ladies who read these comments.

    • As is so often the case,Pretzelberg, you miss the point being made, which is, that when the Israeli flag flew over Bethlehem there were Christian numbers to speak of. Today the numbers are down. The writer rhetorically asks why do you think that is so? And why does the Guardian today not think this news worthy, so happy to see the Jews leave when they did in 1995?

      pretzelberg’s intelligent comment: “WTF”

  2. And yet … it is Israel which is routinely accused of ethnic cleansing and attempts to “Judaise” Jerusalem and the “occupied territories”!

  3. I’ll bet the arab Christians who live in muslim occupied palestine rue the day they threw in their lot with the muslims.

    • The Guardian by Miss Sherwood conveniently forgot to mention that Jesus as a Jew has all the rights as Israeli citizen , as the law of return includes him to :)))

    • This Greenwood piece is an unbelievable piece of “journalism absolutely devoid of any attempt at context. Her only attempt at “balance” (i.e. a view from an Israeli source) is a quote from Peace Now!

  4. I can never understand why Israel gave Beit-Lehem on a silver platter to these palestinians….We never cease to shoot ourselves in the foot (head).

    What’s next Jerusalem…….