Some 150 Israeli Arabic-speaking Christians on Sunday demonstrated outside the EU mission in Tel Aviv, demanding that the international community stop nitpicking against Israel and start combatting the severe persecution of Christians everywhere else in the Middle East.
Israel Today “Nations, organizations and international missions are quick to raise an accusing finger against Israel at every opportunity,” said Father Gabriel Nadaf, spiritual father of the Israeli Christian Recruitment Forum, which organized the rally. Those same nations and organizations “don’t life a finger against the ethnic cleansing of Christians in the Middle East,” the priest continued.
Father Nadaf went on to explain that from Syria to Egypt to Iraq to the Palestinian Authority, Christians on a daily basis suffer intimidation, harassment, desecration, coercion, torture, rape, physical abuse and murder. “According to the statistics, a Christian is murdered every five minutes [in the Middle East], and the Western world is silent about this,” he lamented.
In messages posted to its Facebook page during the Tel Aviv rally, the Israeli Christian Recruitment Forum insisted that “there is no place but Israel that is safe for Christians in the Middle East!”
While the rally was largely ignored by the mainstream Western media, the Israeli press took great interest, and forum spokesman Shadi Khalloul, a veteran of the IDF, was interviewed by various television and print media outlets. Khalloul has spoken numerous times with Israel Today regarding the Christian awakening within Israel, and the bonds of brotherhood than bind local Christians to the Jewish people and the Jewish state.
Last month, Israel’s Knesset took the first important step toward recognizing local Christians as an independent minority separate from the Arab Muslims. Both Nadaf and Khalloul say this is necessary, since local Christians were here before the Arab Muslim conquest around 600 AD.
A growing number of Israelis, including lawmakers and opinion shapers, are likewise waking up to the strong Christian minority in their midst, a minority that has been long neglected, but which is now beginning to boldly take its place alongside the Jews.
Neither Israel, nor those whose acknowledge its right to exist, are to blame for the suffering of Christians in the Middle East.
The reality is that Israeli is the safest place in the Middle East for Arab Christians. A September 30, 2013 column by Steve Apfel in The Commentator notes that “in 1949, Israel had 34,000 citizens of that faith [Christian]. Today the number is 168,000.” Exclaiming over the irony that although Israel is the only country in the Middle East where Christians are protected and thriving, Western Christians are more focused on condemning Israel and championing the cause of Palestine (including those Palestinians that are killing their co-religionists), Apfel writes:
If Muslims are off limits and sacrosanct; you’re allowed to say what you like about Jews, provided you call them Israelis or, better yet, Zionists. And you can write a made–to-order record of that people, replete with blood libels, ethnic cleansing, Apartheid and all manner of crimes a Jew can inflict upon humanity. Say about Zionists or Israelis whatever you like, only avoid the fatal ‘J– word trap.’
In a gentler vein, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, also wrote in a March 2012 Wall Street Journal opinion editorial, quoted byArutz Sheva, that Israel has become the only safe haven for Christians in the Middle East. This is not an idle boast – Oren based his statement on facts concerning the treatment of Christians and their increasing flight from the ancestral homelands where they were once the majority population.
Twenty percent of the population of the Middle East was Christian a century ago according to Oren. Today only five percent are Christians, with the numbers continuing to go down, he continued. But he was writing in early 2012, before the most recent pogroms against Christians throughout Egypt by the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists, and the intensified victimization of Syrian Christians by the Obama administration-supported jihadists of the Free Syrian Army.
Strikingly, although Arab Christians “are granted full rights and privileges within Israel’s borders, the treatment they receive by the ‘Palestinian’ population is quite different,” Oren said. He said that “since the Hamas takeover of Gaza in 2007, half the Christian community has fled.” In the Palestinian state, “Christmas decorations and public displays of crucifixes are forbidden,” Oren revealed. What’s more, ”In a December 2010 broadcast, Hamas officials exhorted Muslims to slaughter their Christian neighbors,” the Ambassador reported.
Although you would never hear it from the anti-Israel Left, Christians are persecuted and forced to convert to Islam in the Hamas-controlled Gaza strip. It has nothing to do with anyone’s perspective on Israel. In July 2012CBN News reported that Christian men, women, and sometimes whole famlies, were disappearing for extended periods of time and then there would be an announcement that they had converted to Islam and they would reappear with armed people around them for “protection.”
One especially brutal case was the kidnapping and murder of Arab Christian, Rami Ayad, in October 2007. The Guardian reported how the body of Ayad, who worked in Gaza’s only Christian bookstore, was found in the street. He had multiple stab wounds and had been shot in the head.
The reaction of Arab Christians living in Israel to the treatment of Christians elsewhere in the Middle East demonstrates the difference in their situation. The July 2013 Israel Today article reported that in Israel, ”local Arabs see what is happening across the Middle East and realize that Israel is the only place in the region where Christians can feel safe and belong.
The paper quoted Arab Christian Moran Khaloul who said,”We don’t live in Syria, where Christians are not allowed to speak…or in Iraq, where churches are bombed. We live in a Jewish state, which is democratic and free. As Israeli Christians we see ourselves as part of this state and not as part of those who oppose it.”
The Israel Today report also told of the growing number of Arab Christians that are serving in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF), saying ”For a number of years now, a group of Nazareth Christians who are officers in the Israeli army have been actively recruiting young local Arabs to follow in their footsteps and serve the Jewish state.” Many Arab politicians oppose Arab participation in Israel’s defense forces for fear it will “legitimize the existence of the Jewish state (which pays their paychecks).” But, as one Arab Christian said, “more and more of us are realizing that there is no other country here that is worth fighting for.
Arab Christians are becoming increasingly emboldened. The paper reveals that some “even refer to themselves openly as ‘Israeli Christians.’” And one teenager who plans to join the IDF explained that “Ultimately, from a religious point of view, we are one. Jesus was a Jew, his mother was a Jew, and his 12 disciples were Jews.”
But guess what? To point out the difference between Israel’s civilized, respectful treatment of Christians and the savage, supremacist treatment they receive elsewhere in the Middle East that is causing the region to be emptied of Christians is. . . Islamophobia!