Israel: The Only Safe Place for Christians in the Middle East

Mark Tooley is President of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (www.theird.org) and author of Methodism and Politics in the Twentieth Century. Follow him on Twitter: @markdtooley.


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Oddly, Kairos Palestine surmises that Oren’s citation of Israeli protections for Christians implies Israel’s “lack of interest in ensuring the same for Muslims.” And of course they incredulously wonder why permits should be needed for visiting holy sites in Jerusalem.   Ostensibly, they claim, “Christians and Muslims lived together for the past 1500 years without major problems,” until Israel’s creation.   And naturally they fault the “roots of empire and colonialism,” and the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

“As Kairos Palestine, we refuse to be marginalized in the way Oren defines our marginalization,” they boast.  “We refuse to be pitted against our Palestinian Muslim neighbours and friends; and we refuse to let our collective oppression be manipulated in a way that fragments us, obscures us, or masks the oppression’s true cause, which is the Israeli occupation.”

How very brave.  But Kairos Palestine, like other supposed proponents of Christian Palestinians, doesn’t explain why the Muslim population in the West Bank and Gaza continue to grow while only the Christian population declines.  If exodus signifies persecution, then seemingly Israeli policies must favour Palestinian Muslims.

In fact, the vast majority of Palestinians, Muslim and Christian, live under the direct rule of the Palestinian Authority.  Palestinians do not have military control over the West Bank.  And Palestinians must contend with the inconveniences of security checks when they travel from one region to the next.  The much maligned Israeli security wall, which has saved so many lives from terror, has created additional inconveniences by separating some communities.  But travel and security inconveniences, compounded by the indignity to Palestinian nationalism of ultimate Israeli military oversight, afflict all Palestinians and do not selectively affect Palestinian Christians.

“Israeli obstacles and practices do not differentiate between Muslims and Christians, and are imposed over a whole nation,” admitted a Palestinian priest in a Palestinian news service story intended to rebut the Israeli ambassador. “The bullets that fired against Palestinians do not differentiate between Christians and Muslims.”  The priest boasted that Israeli oppression would “strengthen the ties between Christians and Muslims.”  How wonderful. Then why are Christian Palestinians leaving?  The priest jibbed that Israel should “offer freedom to the Christian communities under its occupation before criticizing Muslim oppression in other countries in the Middle East.”  And he insisted:  “No such oppression exists in Palestine.”  Right.  Critics of Oren’s op-ed further cited a Palestinian study showing Christians who emigrate are “aggravated by the lack of freedom and security.”   Will Palestinian Christians gain in “freedom and security” under a fully autonomous Palestinian state where Hamas is a likely co-ruler?

The tiny Christian minority among Palestinians, always struggling to survive, is hardly in any position to criticize its Palestinian Muslim overlords.   On a human level, they cannot be faulted for saying what they have to say and defensively burnishing their nationalist credentials.  But Western church groups, like the United Church of Christ’s Global Ministries, should be ashamed for exploiting their plight.  Ideally Western church groups would instead speak truth about why Christians are fleeing the Middle East.  But at least the Israeli ambassador is speaking on behalf of besieged Middle East Christians when too many Western churches refuse to do so.

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  • NONAME

    RUBBISH RUBBISH!
    The only country that is safe for Christians is Lebanon.
    Israel has a past for killing Christians!!!!

    • Elliott

      Dear NONAME,

      I have two questions:
      1) What's your name / where do you live?
      (My name is Elliott and I live in the "Eretz Yisrael".)
      2) Please explain "Israel has a past for killing Christians".
      Do you mean "Israel has a past HISTORY OF killing Christians"?
      If so, please provide some data.
      If not, what do you mean?
      As you comment stands, it is GIBBERISH.

      Chag Sameach

      • Elliott

        Sorry about my typing errors:
        a) should be 'and I live in "Eretz Yisrael"
        b) should be "As your comment stands.."

        • stern

          Elliot, no need to apologize. You ask outstanding questions – and I'm willing to bet you get no reply, because "NONAME" cannot honestly reply to you.

      • johnnywoods

        Elliot, His name is "NoName" and he has no sense.

    • Laura

      Is that why Lebanon's Christian population has fled to the point where Christians in Lebanon are now a small minority whereas once they were the majority?

      Whenever there is an article about Israel, the demented Jew-haters crawl out from under their rocks, spewing their lies and vicious blood-libels.

  • Bartimaeus

    Having visited Arab speaking churches in Israel, it is true that they enjoy freedom of religion. However, in the West Bank and Gaza there is far less freedom for real Christians. Professing Christians that are willing to pacify the Moslems by watering down the truth of Christianity will get by much better of course, but they pay a high price.
    Secondly, this whole concept of “illegal occupation” is actually a lawless term.
    It proves that the Arabs who were on the losing side in WW1 were not willing to accept international law that gave the right to deal with the land arrangements to the victors of that war. The Arabs of the region essentially started another war (or series of wars) showing that they were lawless as regards any arrangements by the west that would settle any Jews on their ancient homeland. They can play the victim card as much as they like but it does not change the facts. The Arabs of the region are their own worst problem.

  • Son-of-Chezwick

    Not just Christians. The Bahai faith, though its origins and majority of adherents are from Iran, has established its international headquarters in Israel.

    Why? Quite obviously, it was the only country in the region in which they wouldn't be persecuted. In Iran they are routinely harassed, fired from their jobs, imprisoned and sometimes executed…and all because their religion came AFTER Islam and is therefore seen by Muslims to be illegitimate.

    Christians seek refuge in Israel because it is a safe-haven from Muslim persecution. The same applies to the Bahai. But this beacon of tolerance is despised not only by the surrounding Muslim states, but by the European and American Left. It's jusr more evidence proving the symmetry of values between the Western Left and Islam.

    • Emanuel

      The Bahai faith had its headquarters in Palestine long before there was any earthly entity called Israel. So, stop peddling lies.

      • johnnywoods

        Was the Bahai faith headquartered in Palestine/Israel more than three thousand years ago? You need to check your facts Emanuel.

      • Son-of-Chezwick

        The Bahais had a presence in "Palestine" long before Israel, but it was only AFTER the creation of the Jewish State that the Bahai were allowed to obtain legal possession of their historical sites.

        "After `Abdu'l-Bahá's death, Shoghi Effendi was the head of the religion, and he directed the development of a number of separate projects in the area…in the 1950s secured legal possession of the lands around the building and created a number of gardens. He also obtained possession of other sites around Acre related to Bahá'u'lláh's life including the House of `Abbud. Around Haifa he expanded the Shrine of the Báb by developing the golden-domed superstructure around it from 1948–53 and he purchased lands surrounding the Shrine of the Báb and created gardens. Shoghi Effendi had also decided that the buildings housing the institutions of the religion indicated in Bahá'u'lláh's Tablet of Carmel, including the Universal House of Justice, the then future governing body of the Bahá'ís, would be designed on an arc and surrounded by gardens. The fulcrum of arc would be Monument Gardens, which hold the graves of some of the members of the Bahá'í holy family. During his own lifetime he started the construction of one of the building of the Arc, the International Archives building."

        The other buildings of the Arc, the Seat of the Universal House of Justice, the Centre for the Study of the Sacred Texts, and the Seat of the International Teaching Centre, were completed in 1982, 1999 and 2000 respectively.[8][13] The fifth and yet to be built building, the International Bahá'í library, is planned to be eventually built at the eastern end of the Arc.[13] The terraces around the Shrine of the Báb were also completed in 2001.[13]

  • Schlomotion

    The interesting moment in this article is when Tooley, citing Kairos Palestine, admits that Palestinian Christians don't actually want his help. But they are quickly branded as stupid. Still, admitting also that there is nothing he can do about that, Tooley spits venomously at the UCC for "exploiting" (e.g. making successful outreach where he failed to take over) the same group. Tooley apparently feels that IRD should be kingmaker in Palestine's Christian community, even though they don't want him. What naked arrogance.

    • fmd36

      The UCC, Christian Peace Conference, etc. has a very long history supporting leftist causes. I would doubt almost anything they have to say. Speaking from personal experience.

  • Marty

    The islamic strategy is to purify the middle east for muslims. Never mind that christians and other minorities have contributed culturally, economically, and scientifically for centuries. muslims much prefer to live in a medieval and primitive society that is stagnant and repressive. They are getting their wish. christians get to live in peace and prosperity in a democratic society in Israel. No other place in the middle east is able or willing to provide such an environment. Even christians from sudan are somehow making their way through egyptian torment and persecution to Israel to save their lives. The political left in europe and the United States, of course, sees nothing wrong with muslims slaughtering christians. For the left this is only payback because of the poor oppressed palestinians. The left and other totalitarians are capable of only throwing pity parties for islamic thugs and genocidal sociopaths.

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  • RonCarnine

    The Palestinian's have cut off their noses to spite their face (as Grandma used to say) They have control of Christian holy sites (like the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem) which would have brought millions in tourist dollars. They were chased their by IDF a number of years ago. While there they used Bibles for toilet paper and generally trashed the church. What if Christians had done something like that to a mosque? All hell would have broken loose. Israel is the only safe place for Christians in the Middle East. American Church organizations bad mouth Israel for being security conscience but who can blame them? UCC and others like them do not speak for the majority of Christians. They do not speak for me.

  • Viewpoint

    Israel is the first I pray for daily, and I’ve defended Israel more times than I can count… and will continue to do so…. however, although Christians are not routinely killed in Israel… as they are in Muslim nations… they are still persecuted in Israel on a regular basis… and has tragically resulted in some deaths. Christians, derogatorily called, “Missionaries,” in Israel have been sentenced to jail/prison sentences for merely mentioning the name of Christ over a casual cup of coffee. Christians in Israel routinely cope with menacing groups of Haredi Ultra-Orthodox Jewish extremists gathered in front of their homes with bullhorns demanding they immediately leave… this harassment is even extended to Messianic Jews. Businesses of Christians are routinely threatened, boycotted and burned by proud Israeli Jews.

  • Viewpoint

    Israeli Jews routinely collect New Testament Bibles and burn them in an annual bon fire. Every other group may obtain citizenship in Israel… including Muslims, Atheists, and even Satanists… only Christians are routinely denied Israeli citizenship. At one point, this led me to believe that Muslims have mimicked their extreme stereotypical intolerance from the Jews. Prime Minister Netanyahu has made attempts to protect the Christians of Israel… by highlighting the fact that no other group has been more loyal to Isael than American Evangelical Christians. This post is not meant as additional fuel to the fire of hatred that burns and consumes anti-Semitics, but the truth must be said… and must be good enough, worthy of being placed on the table of open discussion.

    Persecution Of Christians In Israel (www.oneforisrael.org) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1E7Ruusn1QM

    Persecution of Messianic Jews in Israel – Part 1 of 2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EII5Km3jN3U

  • Jessica

    Hello, my name is Jessica… i'm an American, and my husband has been currently living in Iraq and Afghanistan as a contractor. He's been doing this for three years just about and we've only seen each other 5 months total in 3 years. :-/ i'm 25 and he's 28. He loves his job!!!! and i could never take that away from him. I have been doing some research on a SAFE place for an American woman to live (we have no children) in the middle east. We've discussed this before, but I think after the 3rd year and never seeing each other… I'm willing to give up all I have here in the US to be closer to my husband. Give up my job, our car, our apartment which is so close to the ocean and i LOVE it… even the family dog. … just to be closer to my husband. Does anyone have any suggestions? I hear Kuwait and Dubai are good places… but i have no idea where to even start. Please email me if you could…. THANKYOU for all the support and answers. ja6mg13@gmail.com