Christians cry for help over Israeli persecution in Jerusalem

January 11, 2022 - 9:50

Palestinians Christians have sounded the alarm about the level of persecution they are facing from Israeli settlers backed by Israeli regime forces in the occupied holy city of Jerusalem (al-Quds) with a bid to drive out the religious community.

The Patriarch of Jerusalem who leads the Greek Orthodox church in the Holy Land has spoken out about the “darkness” Palestinian Christians are suffering in the holy land.

Speaking to British media, Patriarch Theophilos referred to the gloomy situation in Jerusalem warning “our presence in Jerusalem is under threat”.

He states “our churches are threatened by Israeli radical fringe groups. At the hands of these Zionist extremists; the Christian community in Jerusalem is suffering greatly. Our brothers and sisters are the victims of hate crimes. Our churches are regularly desecrated and vandalized. Our clergy are subject to frequent intimidation. The sworn intent of these radical groups is to extinguish the light of the Christian community from the Old City.”

He adds that by “working to exclude one community, the Christians, these radicals pose an existential threat not only to the Christian family but to the holy land itself”.

Experts say radical Israeli settler groups squatting on Palestinian land do not carry out such violations without a green light from Israeli authorities as far high as the Israeli cabinet.

Patriarch Theophilos does not speak for all Christians but he certainly echoes the warning by other Christians. For some time now, Church groups have reported attacks of vandalism and other crimes at their religious sites in the city.

Atallah Hanna, the head of the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem just recently spoke out about the struggles that Palestinian Christians have to face against Israel’s occupation.

In December, Hanna was hospitalized after Israeli regime forces struck him with gas canister attack at his Jerusalem church. From his hospital bed, he warned of his strong belief that the occupation forces had tried to have him assassinated, or at the minimum poison him to the extent that he is weakened and unable to continue his daily activities.

Hanna has been an outspoken critic of Israel’s occupation of Palestine, and its persecution of Christians as well as Muslims in the occupied territories. On many occasions he has made powerful speeches within occupied Palestine and abroad. He has promoted Palestinian unity and raised the issue that Christian Palestinians in the occupied territories are oppressed and terrorized just as badly as Muslim Palestinians.

Just a few weeks before the regime attacked him with injuries that left him in a hospital bed, he spoke at a conference in the Turkish city of Istanbul devoted to raising awareness about the Palestinian issue warning that Christians cannot stay silent regarding Israeli crimes.

He says “there is no disunity between Muslims and Christians in Palestine.. We are all one family. Muslims here are our closest friends. The only danger and persecution we face is from the occupation.”

“There is no disunity between Muslims and Christians in Palestine,” said Hanna in his speech. “We are all one family. Muslims here are our closest friends. The only danger and persecution we face is from the occupation… Many Christians in the West support Israel. Yet Israel’s actions go against all moral and religious values.”

Given Hanna’s highly vocal criticism of the occupation, Israel’s blatant attack on his church shows how keen the regime has been to crack down on any form dissent no matter what m faith the individual belongs to.

The regime has also gone to great lengths to avoid putting its apartheid crimes under the spotlight. For instance even those visiting the occupied Holy Land, Israeli tour firms operating in Bethlehem do not give a full guided tour of the city and its Christian sites to avoid showing the settlement wall built in the Second Intifada (uprising) of 2003.

This apartheid wall which has expanded so vastly and infringed on so many Palestinian rights including there ability to walk from town to town or village to village without making a massive diversion or being harassed at a checkpoint. It has not only infringed on Palestinians’ movement, but also their dignity and the quality of their life.

Israel has occupied the West Bank since 1967 following a military offensive against a defenseless population. Since then, Israeli settlement activity has continuously expanded with illegal settler communities squatting, which are segregated from the native Palestinian population.

All settlements are considered illegal under internal law.

Such a system has been likened to apartheid by much of the international community including UN bodies, human rights groups, and even U.S. government officials such as former Vice President John Kerry.

A Palestinian citizen of Bethlehem, Fadi Qattan says “I can’t visit the [Christian] holy sites…under the current [Israeli] separatist regime in Palestine with its checkpoints and separation wall”.

Jews, Muslims, and Christians had once lived in great peaceful harmony across Palestine, with religious freedom for all. Yet Israel’s illegal founding in the early 1920’s by the British, a regime that would go on to receive widespread support from the United States, forced a mass exodus of the Palestinians living there, and the Christian population has since dwindled.

There are approximately 400,000 Palestinian Christians who live in the diaspora worldwide. There are also roughly 50,000 Christian Palestinian who remain living in the occupied territories despite the atrocities they face. Many have also emigrated because of the difficulties they endured living under occupation.

Last Christmas, Israel initially blocked Palestinian Christian residents in the besieged Gaza Strip, who sought to visit Bethlehem for the holiday season. Eventually it allowed a number of Palestinians to leave, but only a small minority were given permits to leave, meaning that the majority were still barred from temporarily visiting Bethlehem the birth place of Prophet Jesus peace be upon him.

Similarly, in April last year, Israel imposed harsher restrictions on Palestinian Christians in Gaza hoping to visit Bethlehem for the religious Easter pilgrimage.

The challenges presented by radical Israeli settler groups backed by the regime’s forces in occupied Jerusalem (al-Quds) to both the Christian and Muslim communities have been met with condemnation by the international community, including rights groups.

The Israeli Palestine conflict has often been misrepresented as one between Jews and Muslims, however Christians are suffering just the same. The reality is Zionism has taken over the name of the peaceful Jewish faith and it’s extremist elements have deviated from the Jewish religion.

Experts widely agree that not all Jews are Zionists and not all Zionists are Jews. In fact many Zionists are Christian and Jewish extremists who have deviated from both the Christian and Jewish faiths and committed atrocities and war crimes and crimes against humanity in occupied Palestinian land.

However, there has been little action taken by the international community, no punitive measures or sanctions against the Israeli regime, that you would expect to see if this type of terror was practiced anywhere else in the world.

Critics argue Israel is literally getting away with murder as it has the backing of the United States which not only shields the Israeli occupation in the United Nations Security Council but America itself lives by the rule of the jungle.

The longer the world issues only statements of condemnation and takes no real action, the longer Palestinians will continue to suffer under the apartheid entity in the occupied lands; regardless of their religion.

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