Except it was more ‘misery’ than ‘merry’ all thanks to Hamas
By David E. Kaplan
“Don’t celebrate and survive” was the 2018 Christmas greeting that Christians received in Gaza!
While across the world people wished Christians a MERRY Christmas; in Gaza they were threatened NOT to be merry.
The same Hamas that South Africa’s ANC government in November 2018 welcomed to Parliament in Cape Town, only a month later, allowed flyers to be widely circulated threatening Palestinian Christians not to celebrate Christmas – or else.
The terrifying flyer was penned by the Al-Nasser Salah al-Deen Brigades – a coalition of Islamist groups operating in Gaza – and it warned the 1,300 Christians living in Gaza, as well as Muslims looking to take part in the holiday festivities, that celebration of the Christian holiday is forbidden by Islam. The flyer included quotes from the Quran alongside a burning Christmas tree.
Needless to say, this shattering news did not appear in South Africa’s media or on BDS’s venomous website – it was too busy contriving nonsense like, “Santa will not be visiting Bethlehem,” because of Israeli activities.
Time for the Truth
While Israel promotes and welcome Christians to the Holy land – a total of 73% of Christians tourists said they would “certainly” or “probably” revisit Israel as revealed in a Ministry of Tourism report – Hamas has abandoned its Christian community.
The verse from the Quran quoted on the inside of the flyer was not only aimed at Christians but also at Muslims whom were warned “not to go the way of the Jews and the Christians, indeed God is not for the evil people.”
Can a message be clearer – Christians and Jews are “evil people.”
The flyer admonished that it is “absolutely forbidden” to celebrate the holiday in any capacity.
The Other Cheek
On the other hand, Israel welcomed over 150,000 Christians for the festive season, who celebrated at the many Holy Land sites such as Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth as well as other locations where the Christmas story unfolded over 2000 years earlier, over 600 years before the arrival of Islam. The most visited sites were the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, followed by the city’s Jewish Quarter, the Western Wall the Via Dolorosa, Mount of Olives as well as Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee and the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth.
Despite the tense situation and a number of Jews who had in recent weeks been murdered by Palestinian terrorists, Israel took special measures to assist Palestinian Christians in observing the holiday. A week before Christmas, the Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Maj. Gen. Kamil Abu Rukun met with various Palestinian leaders, including some residing in the Gaza Strip, presenting special measures such as more flexibility in granting permits for Christian Gazans to visit family members in the West Bank. Reports reveal that roughly 50 percent of all Christians living in Gaza received these special permits from Israel.
Enabling Christian to enjoy Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem, Israel’s Tourism Ministry, headed by Yaniv Levin, whose great-grandparents were South African from the Orange Free State, provided free transportation to and from Jerusalem from 2.00p.m. on Christmas Eve to 2 p.m. on Christmas Day.
Last Christmas, the Jerusalem municipality handed out complimentary “Christmas trees” to residents ahead of the holiday. During the distribution of the live, potted trees, Santa showed up and rode a camel, and mingled with children and others at the Old City’s Jaffa Gate.
President Reuven Rivlin extended his own Christmas greetings to those celebrating this year, wishing Christians around the world a holiday “full of peace, joy and love.”
Bearing False Witness
Israel’s spirit of celebrating Christmas stands in stark contrast to the toxic conduct towards Christians in Gaza. Dexter Van Zile, a Christian Media Analyst for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) writes that “It is time to evacuate the last remnants of Christianity from the Gaza Strip.” Referring to Gaza as having been turned “into an impoverished theocratic gulag by Hamas,” he writes that Christians who live there, “suffer from the threat of kidnappings and forced conversions at the hands of extremists.” These stories do not appear on news networks because, “Journalists who criticize Hamas are imprisoned and tortured.”
Van Zile expounds on the nature of this diabolical situation.
For Christians to remain in Gaza, “they and their benefactors in the West must conceal Hamas’s evil acts from scrutiny and condemnation.”
He cites the case of the 2007 kidnapping and forced conversion of Sana al-Sayegh, a professor at Palestine University that was “perpetrated by Hamas militiamen and that Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh was deeply involved in.”
Why is the truth suppressed?
As Van Zile reveals, citizens of Gaza “operate under the thumb of Hamas and have to watch what they say about life in the Strip.” It is much easier, “to blame Israel for the suffering Palestinians endure.”
Living a lie is a resident’s passport to survival!
Telling false narratives that absolve Hamas and condemn Israel, is the price of Christian survival in Gaza. In order to survive, “Christians and their benefactors must bear false witness,” or “lie by omission the sins of Hamas.”
Because of this untenable situation, Van Zile sadly advocates:
“It’s time to evacuate every last Christian from Gaza.”
However it’s not just in Gaza! The Gaza Strip is a microcosm of the plight of Christians living under Muslim rule.
Only a few weeks earlier, the head of the Church of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, wrote in The Sunday Telegraph that millions of Middle East Christians are on the verge of “imminent extinction.”
He lamented that “In the birthplace of our faith, the community faces extinction,” calling it, “the worst situation since the Mongol invasions of the 13th century.”
In the early 20th century, Christians made up to 20% of the population in the Middle East. That figure has now dwindled to around 5%. Its easy to understand why and that Israel has nothing to do with this exodus.
Before the ‘Arab Spring’, Christians in Syria were businessmen, engineers, lawyers and pharmacists. Now they are leaving the country in their droves. In Iraq, 300,000 Christians have fled persecution since the downfall of Saddam Hussein and in Egypt, Christians face harassment leading them to emigrate in record numbers.
Nasty Along The Nile
Egypt’s Christians or Copts as they are known, are facing “unprecedented levels of persecution and suppression,” according to The Open Doors 2018 World Watch List Report.
In 2017, more than 200 Copts were driven out of their homes and 128 were killed because of their faith.
Numbering approximately nine million, the Copts represent 10 percent of Egypt’s population and roughly half of the Christians living in the Middle East. Since 2014 their persecution has increased with the World Watch List Report listing Egypt “as the 17th most dangerous place for Christians to live.”
On the CBS News’s December 2013, ‘60 Minutes’ programme, the plight of Copts was revealed as having “suffered one of their worst periods in nearly 2,000 years.” Following the overthrow of Egypt’s first Islamic president in a military coup in 2013, Christians were the target of revenge by Muslim mobs, and over 40 Christian churches all over Egypt were gutted by arson and looted. Some of these churches were over a thousand years old and filled with priceless relics. Since then, Copts have been murdered in ongoing sectarian violence. An example of such murders was this 2018 report in Open Doors:
“Two young masked men entered the pharmacy and dragged my father outside. They told him to kneel in the street. They put two guns at my father’s head and told him to convert to Islam. But he shook his head. Then they shot him.”
Pattern of Persecution
Leaving Egypt, a quick flip across the Middle East reveals a pattern of persecution of Christians.
In a heinous incident in 2016 in Syria, jihadists slit the throat of a Christian man in front of his wife, giving a vent to their odium for Christianity. They mocked the woman in a derogatory way saying, “Your Jesus did not come to save him from us.” This odious incident took place in Syria’ ancient town Maalula; which was invaded by militants a few days earlier during the Civil War.
Another Christian woman resident of Maalula related to the media that “They arrived in our town at dawn and shouted ‘We are from the Al-Nusra Front and have come to make lives miserable for the Crusaders.” The woman who was identified as Marie, further narrated that after their first advance against the town, Christians started fleeing.
This is the new trend.
In Turkey, Christians are facing oppression by their government and while Christians were once a majority in Lebanon, that is no longer the case. From the civil war which began in in the 1970s, to the Syrian occupation, to ISIS aggression, Lebanese Christians have suffered and fear becoming extinct in their own country, given the sheer number of young, educated men and women emigrating.
In Iraq, the situation is far worse. There, the Christian population has dramatically dwindled; while there were once 1.4 million Christians, there are now less than 200,000. In Syria, Christians and Yazidis faced a full-scale genocide at the hands of ISIS, and even then, the TV news networks were reluctant to use the “g-word.” Truth be told, TV networks are far more interested in anything the Pope might say on gay marriage or contraception than genocide.
Why have these networks failed to spotlight the plight of Christians suffering increasingly under Islam? Correspondents have long connected the dots, writing of the hundreds of thousands of Christians “on the run” from their homes, of the mass graves been discovered, and Christians have been made to “convert or die.”
While Israel’s enemies like to joke that, “Santa will not be visiting Bethlehem”, who can forget what took place in the city in 2002 when terrorists affiliated with then PLO leader Yasser Arafat infamously raided and trashed the birthplace of Jesus Christ – the Church of the Nativity – holding 200 monks hostage for 39 days.
After the departure of the terrorist-occupiers and their hostages released, booby-trapped explosive devices were discovered in the Church. To even think of booby-trapping one of the holiest sites in all Christendom, and then to add insult to injury, altars, religious objects, and furniture were discovered fouled by urine, cigarette butts and human excrement by Arafat’s henchman.
Is it any wonder – following systematic and constant abuse – the Christian population in Palestinian controlled areas is constantly decreasing. Last year, Christians were only 2% of the Palestinian population in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, less than half their number a generation ago.
In 1950, 86% of the residents in Bethlehem were Christian. In 2017, they were only 12%.
Of all the countries in the Middle East, it is only in “evil” Israel that the Christian population has stayed stable, and in fact, has increased.
The world media should probe why in every Muslim country, the Christian community is dwindling – and in the words the Archbishop of Canterbury on the “verge of imminent extinction” – except in Israel where it is on the increase?
‘Turning the other cheek’ is a phrase in Christian doctrine from the Sermon on the Mount that refers to responding to injury without revenge and allowing more injury. This passage is variously interpreted as commanding non-resistance, Christian pacifism, or nonviolence on the part of the victim.
However, the way the trend is going, there will come a time when there will be no Christian cheeks in the Middle East – except in Israel – to turn!