In what, historically, has been a well-established practice around the period of Christian holidays, Church clerics in Jerusalem released a statement in the runup to Christmas, obliquely accusing Jews of threatening the existence of Christian communities in Israel.
The statement appears to have been timed to align these Christian voices with those, including from the Palestinian Authority and left-wing Israeli politicians and journalists, that have recently been banging the drum of “settler violence.”
Overemphasising a small number of acts by tiny groups of Jews – the vast majority, when they do occur, against Muslim Arabs, extremely rarely against Christians – is a strategy proven effective at blanket-demonising the Jewish communities in Samaria and Judea. It is also designed to play on the left-wing-right-wing makeup of Israel’s coalition government.
Under the letterhead of the “Patriarchs and Heads of Churches of Jerusalem” the document charged unnamed “radical groups” (a term it used five times in the statements’ seven paragraphs) of carrying out “frequent and sustained attacks” on “Christians throughout the Holy Land.”
Specifically, the clerics said, these “radical groups” vandalised and desecrated Christian sites, assaulted priests and clergy, intimidated local Christians, and purchased property in the Christian Quarter “with the aim of diminishing the Christian presence.”
Church officials around the world have reportedly circulated the document, with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, pleading with the 26 million congregants of the Church of England to hear the “heart cry” of this “unprecedented statement.”
On Sunday, an article co-authored by Welby and Jerusalem Anglican Archbishop Hosam Naoum was published in the Sunday Times of London. It was headlined “Let us pray for the Christians being driven from the Holy Land.”
While limitless Muslim oppression and persecution of Christians is a well-known and documented reality throughout the Middle East, not least in Hamas-controlled Gaza and the Palestinian Authority-controlled parts of Samaria and Judea – the Scriptural heart of the Holy Land – the Jerusalem statement made no reference to this, neither directly nor indirectly.
It is from the areas under Islamic control – from Iran to Egypt – that Christians have been driven; Christianity rendered virtually extinct.
What both the Jerusalem statement and English op-ed leave their readers with, however, is the wholly false notion that Israel’s Jews are dispossessing Christians of the birthplace of Christianity.
Of course, apart from the fact that Israel’s Jews are doing no such thing, it should be pointed out that the Baby whose birth the Christian world is ostensibly geared up to celebrate is the Jewish Jesus, born to Jewish parents in the Jewish town of Bethlehem in the line of the great Jewish king – David.
About the particular charges related to Jerusalem:
- The Old City (which until 1860 contained the whole of Jerusalem) is divided into four, unequal quarters: the Muslim Quarter, which is the largest, the Jewish Quarter, the Christian Quarter and the Armenian Quarter – the smallest.
- At different periods in the 2000 years since the Jerusalem was taken from the Jews, the city – sometimes walled, sometimes not – housed either only Christians or only Muslims. Since the late 19th century Jews made up the majority of its inhabitants.
- Over time the positions and boundaries of these quarters have shifted, with properties exchanging hands, sometimes being sold, at other times being appropriated.
- In 1948, invading Arab forces drove all Jews out of the walled city, destroying their synagogues and forbidding their access to the Western Wall.
- Re-uniting the city in 1967, Israel instituted protection over, and freedom of access to its sites sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims.
- The land under Israeli sovereignty is the only place in the Middle East where the Christian population is free, protected and growing.