Backgrounder: Leaving the Holy Land


Last month, the Digest reported on the steady stream of Christian Arab emigration from the disputed territories, a phenomenon frequently blamed on Israel. We argued that there is evidence to back the view that departing Christians leave far more often because of pressures from their Muslim compatriots than as a result of a hated Israeli administration.

The story continues ...

Media reports finger Islam

The mainstream media have published a number of reports over the last decade on the subject of the exodus of Palestinian Christians. While the "Israeli occupation" is not ruled out as a cause of tension, problems relating to Islam appear far more pressing. Some examples follow:


The steady exodus of Christians from the Holy Land began after Muslim Jordan conquered and ruled East Jerusalem and Judea-Samaria, and has continued steadily ever since. It has often been linked to the harassment of Christian Arabs by Palestinian nationalists and Muslim fundamentalists. Historically Christian towns are dominated by Muslims, not Jews. Even the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City today has a Muslim majority. Where churches are disappearing, they are being replaced or swamped by mosques, not synagogues. Yet many of the world's Christians have so completely swallowed the Arab-Muslim version of events in the Middle East that they fail to concede their brethren here are facing severe difficulties.

One argument by supporters of the Palestinian cause holds that Israelis want to drive Christian Arabs out of the country, and therefore subject them to blatant discrimination. Yet it would clearly not be in Israel's interests to create a situation in which all Arabs in Jerusalem and the disputed areas were Muslims. It has become evident that Israel's most dangerous enemies in the region are --or claim to be--militant followers of Islam.

The road ahead looks increasingly bleak for Palestinian Christians. As their co-religionists in Lebanon, Egypt and Sudan have learned, the "Sunday people" are squarely located in the cross-hairs of Islam.

Part One in the January 1999 Digest

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