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Plight of Arab Christians worsens thanks to world apathy
IT is amazing how Christians in the one country where Christianity is strongest, America, are so disconnected and so uncaring about the fate of their faithful brethren in their place of origin, Palestine.
In contrast, Israelis recognize the significance of their persecution of Christians in Palestine. Israel has mounted a massive propaganda campaign to thwart the truth, easily brainwashing Americans with ethically challenged propaganda. Just “Google” the words “Christians Middle East” and a plethora of propaganda emerges including by such renown racist bigots as Daniel Pipes, the current Israeli Foreign Ministry and many rightwing Israeli publications. Are not most Israelis rightwing and against peace these days?
There have been some minor gains. The CBS News Program 60 Minutes did a groundbreaking expose on Israel’s oppression of Christians in Palestine. The April 2012 report sparked an angry backlash from Israeli watchdogs in the US. The biased mainstream American news media all but ignored the report’s powerful points. So bad was the backlash that the CBS reporter, Bob Simon, who is Jewish, was pilloried as being “anti-Semitic.”
Reminding us how desperate the Christian Arab situation remains, this year the Catholic Pope finally, after many years of ignoring Middle East Christians, added Arabic to the languages in which the church offers its mass. These deficient and late actions have done nothing to reverse the collapse of Christianity in the Middle East. In 1948, Christians constituted nearly 33 percent of the population of Palestine. Today they are less than 2 percent.
Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus Christ (peace be upon him) and Christianity, is abandoned by Western Christians. Their apathy has transformed major Christian holidays like Easter and Christmas into commercialized pagan events. The belief in Jesus has been replaced by the need for an iPad. Jews have also abandoned Christians. Remember, Jesus was a Jew born in Bethlehem. The early Christians were Jews who basically converted to Christianity, the “New Judaism.”
This offers a fascinating challenge to Israel’s racist claims to Palestine. Who are today’s Jews? Those who continue to believe in the old Jewish religious teachings or the New Jews whom we call Christians? Do New Jews, or Christian Palestinians, not have more rights in terms of Biblical prophecy than Israelis?
It’s a fascinating argument because Palestinians like myself have more of a claim to “Israel” than Jews, many of whom are converts to Judaism who long ago lost any links to the Biblical Hebrew people. Hanania is a Hebrew word that means God has been gracious. What real Jewish ties do names like Netanyahu, Begin or Aubrey Solomon (the real name of the late Israeli orator Abba Eban) have in that context?
As a Palestinian Christian, I consider myself one of today’s “New Jews.” Yet Israel, which claims to be the “homeland of the Jewish people,” rejects all Jews who believe in Jesus. The logic continues along the same lines for those Jews who became Christians and who later, in the 7th century, became followers of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
Maybe that is why Muslims have shown more compassion for Christians, and why Israeli Jews hate Christians as much as they hate Muslims. (Hate is a strong word, but how else can one explain Israel’s vicious oppression of Christians and Muslims in Palestine?) Arab Muslims have done far more to protect Middle East Christians, mainly because they too suffer as a result of Israeli war crimes.
Today, Israel is doing everything it can to destroy not only the Muslim claim to Palestine but the Christian claim, too. In fact, for Israelis, destroying the Arab Christian presence in Palestine is more important than destroying the Muslim claim to Palestine. Arab Christians are a direct pipeline to Western Christians who underwrite Israel’s militarism. Israel has brainwashed Western Christians through years of repeated media manipulation. This extremist Western Christianity is driven in part by a lingering Crusader hatred of Islam. America is the cornerstone of this ironic and twisted Christian self-hatred. Without America, Israel would be just another apartheid South Africa.
The key to victory over Israel’s extremist policies and fanatic leaders is the Christian world. Arab Christians need support. Arab Muslims and the Islamic world need to change their attitudes toward Arab Christians.
Muslims should include Arab Christians in their organizations, recognizing them as the “New Jews” of today’s world. It might help awaken an enlightenment of the truth among Western Christians. For sure it would shame the inaction of the Christian world when it comes to Christian Arab rights.
If Western Christians do not want to embrace the truth of their history, then maybe Muslims should step in and declare the Christian sanctity of Bethlehem. Muslims should help restore Christianity to Bethlehem and the entire Middle East. It might be a powerful way to awaken the truth of what Israel is doing to Arab Christians, and by virtue of truth, what it is doing to Muslims, too.
— Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist. He can be reached at www.TheMediaOasis.com
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Hanania loves to write about American Arabs in politics, and focuses on Arab life in America.
Currently, he writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com. He writes on American politics for the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News newspaper and the Reporter Newspapers. He also writes for the online websites TheArabDailyNews.com and NewsAmericaNetwork.com (Illinois News Network at IllinoisNewsNetwork.com).
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Hanania began in journalism as an activist publishing Chicago’s first English-language American Arab Newspaper “The Middle Eastern Voice” from 1975 through 1977. In 1976, he was hired by the Chicago community newspaper The Southtown Economist (Daily Southtown) and in 1985 was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times and covered Chicago City Hall for both. In 1993, he launched the “The Villager” Newspapers which covered 12 Southwest Chicagoland suburban regions. In 2004, he published “The National Arab American Times” monthly newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East ethnic food stores in 48 American States.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. Formerly syndicated by Creators Syndicate, Hanania also has written news, features and Opinion Columns for Al Jazeera English, the Jerusalem Post, YNetNews.com, Arab News, Saudi Gazette, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star, the News of the World, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, and Aramco Magazine. His political columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald and Des Plaines Valley News, Regional News and Palos Reporter newspapers in Chicagoland. Hanania is the President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.
Hanania is Palestinian Christian from prominent Bethlehem and Jerusalem families. His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.
His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania
Email him at: RGHanania@gmail.com