60 Minutes' Christians of the Holy Land: Yes, it's a hatchet job60 Minutes did a segment on Sunday night about Christians in the Middle East, and specifically in Israel.
Let's go to the videotape.
I find it astounding that the segment criticizes Israel while letting the 'Palestinian' Muslims off the hook. Bethlehem was a Christian town until the 'Palestinian Authority' took over in 1994. And yet, the only hint that Muslims might have something to do with Christians leaving is 'Michael Oren says.'
But it's not Israeli Jews who are causing Christians to leave.
Since assuming control in 1995, Arafat has Islamized Bethlehem by changing the municipal boundaries of Bethlehem and its twin towns Beit Jallah and Beit Sahour. Together, they used to constitute the Christian enclave in Judea and Samaria. Arafat transformed the demography there by incorporating into the town three neighboring refugee camps, Dehaisheh, El-Ayda and El-Azeh. Thus 30,000 Muslims were added to the 65,000 residents in Bethlehem's municipal boundaries. He intensified the Islamization of Bethlehem by adding to its population a few thousand Bedouins of the Ta'amrah tribe, located east of Bethlehem, encouraging Muslim immigration from Hebron to Bethlehem, and inducing Christian emigration/flight away from Bethlehem. The Christian population has been reduced from a 60% majority in 1990 to a 20% minority (23,000) in 2001.I think those numbers speak for themselves.
As a result, more Beit Jallah Christians reside in Belize (Central America) than are left in Beit Jallah itself! A similar process has also afflicted the Christians of Ramallah, now down to 20,000.
Aware of what was likely to happen under Arafat, Christian leaders had sought to prevent the transfer of Bethlehem to the Palestinian Authority. Between the 1993 signing of the Oslo Accords and the 1995 transfer of Bethlehem to the PA, Palestinian Christians lobbied Israel against the transfer. The late Christian mayor, Elias Freij, warned that it would result in Bethlehem becoming a town with churches but no Christians. He urged Israel to include Bethlehem in the boundaries of Greater Jerusalem, which had been the Jordanian practice until 1967. On July 17, 2000, upon realizing that then Prime Minister Barak recklessly proposed to repartition Jerusalem, the leaders of the Greek-Orthodox, Latin, and Armenian Churches sent a letter to Clinton, Barak, and Arafat, demanding to be consulted before such action was undertaken. Barak's proposal triggered a flood of requests for Israeli I.D. cards by East Jerusalem Arabs, who dreaded PA rule with its oppressive track record.
Setting out to "religiously cleanse" Bethlehem, in 1995 Arafat, defying tradition, slapped Christians in the face by appointing a Muslim from Hebron, Muhammed Rashad A-Jabari, as its governor. Arafat fired the Bethlehem city council (nine Christians and two Muslims) replacing them with a council equally balanced between Christians and Muslims. The entire top level of bureaucratic, security and political officials have been cleansed of Christians. The area is run by the local Muslim Fatah leader and his thugs, along with Tanzim gunmen, mostly Ta'amrah Bedouins. The PA has seized control of the Church of the Nativity, and has tightened the pressure on the Greek-Orthodox, Armenian, Latin,, and Franciscan Order in East Jerusalem. The Abraham's Oak Russian Holy Trinity Monastery in Hebron was seized by the PA on July 5, 1997, which then violently evicted its monks and nuns.
In addition, Arafat and the PA embarked on a campaign of physical and psychological intimidation of Christians. During anti-Israel PA rallies the chant is heard: "After we do away with the Saturday People, we shall take care of the Sunday People." Mosques have mushroomed adjacent to--and usually taller than--churches, implementing the tradition of Saladin, who constructed two taller mosques, Al Khanqa and Abdul Malek, contiguous to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The curriculum at church schools has been altered, adding Islamic--and reducing Christian--studies. Loudly magnified Muslim sermons have been aired during Christian services, including the April 2000 address by the Pope in Bethlehem, which had to be recessed until the purposely-loud Muslim sermon was concluded. Abusing Church tradition, the PA has transformed a Greek Orthodox monastery, located next to the Church of Nativity, into Arafat's official residence in Bethlehem.
There has been congressional testimony on Arafat's oppression of Christians. According to former Senator Connie Mack (R-FL), "[The Palestinian Christian] was arrested and detained [by the PA] on charges of selling land to Jews. He denied the charge, since he owned no land. He was beaten and hung from the ceiling by his hands for many hours. After two weeks, he was transferred to a larger prison where he was held for eight months without trial... These Christians conveyed to me a message of fear and desperation." (Senate speech, March 3, 2000, www.senate.gov/~mack/issue/statement.htm).
The PA has imported to Gaza, Judea and Samaria in general, and most especially to Bethlehem, its oppressive legacy of Lebanonization. The Christians of Bethlehem, Beit Jallah, Beit Sahour and Ramallah are now undergoing the experiences of Lebanese Christians from 1970 to 1982. They are perceived by the PA--as were Lebanon's Christians--as a potential Fifth Column. Accused of wearing "permissive" Western clothing, Bethlehem Christian women have been intimidated by PA personnel. Rape of Christian women has occurred frequently (especially in Beit Sahour) as was the case in Lebanon. Islamic hostility, disregard for civil liberties and economic jealousy have been harnessed by Arafat and his 20,000 terrorists imported from Iraq, Yemen, Sudan, Tunisia, Jordan, and Lebanon in their campaign against the Christian infidel. Christians who dare oppose PLO oppression are accused of "collaboration" with Israel and face execution.
The Israeli guard tower that the kids see from their window in Bethlehem is the guard tower that protects Rachel's tomb. Until that tower was built, 'Palestinians' would shoot at Jews visiting Rachel's tomb.
I'll have the 'extras' and some additional comments a bit later today.