Israel Report

December 2001         

The Islamization of Bethlehem by Arafat

By Yoram Ettinger - December 27, 2001


Arafat has Islamisized Bethlehem, since assuming control in 1995, by changing the municipal boundaries of Bethlehem and its twin towns, Beth Jallah and Beth Sakhur. They used to constitute the Christian enclave in Judea & Samaria. He severely tipped demography there, by incorporating (into the 65,000 residents) additional 30,000 Moslems of three neighboring refugee camps, Dehaisheh, El-Ayda' and El-Azeh. Arafat has intensified the Islamization of Bethlehem, by adding to its population a few thousand Bedouins of the Ta'amrah tribe, located east of Bethlehem, encouraging Moslem immigration from Hebron to Bethlehem, and inducing Christian emigration/flight away from Bethlehem. The Christian population was reduced from a 60% majority in 1990 to a 20% minority in 2001 (23,000). Thus, more Beth Jallah Christians reside in Belize (Central America) than left in Beth Jallah itself! A similar process has also afflicted the Christians of Ramallah (20,000).


Since the 1993 signing of the Oslo Accords, until the 1995 transfer of Bethlehem to the PLO, Palestinian Christians lobbied Israel against the transfer. The late Christian mayor, Elias Freij, warned that it would result in Bethlehem becoming a town with churches, but no Christians. He lobbied Israel to include Bethlehem in the boundaries of Greater Jerusalem, as was the Jordanian practice until 1967. On July 17, 2000, upon realizing that then Prime Minister Barak recklessly proposed the repartitioning of Jerusalem, the leaders of the Greek-Orthodox, Latin and Armenian Churches sent a letter to Clinton, Barak and Arafat, demanding to be consulted before such action was undertaken. Barak's proposal triggered a flood of requests for Israeli I.D. cards by East Jerusalem Arabs, who dreaded about PLO's oppressive track record.


Slapping the face of Christians, and defying tradition, Arafat appointed to the governorship of Bethlehem, in 1995, a Moslem from Hebron, Muhammed Rashad A-Jabari. Arafat fired the Bethlehem city council (9 Christians and 2 Moslems) replacing them with a 50%:50% council. The entire top - and most grassroots - bureaucratic, security and political echelons, have been cleansed off Christians. The area is run by the local Moslem Fatah leader and his thugs, along with Tanzim gunmen, mostly Ta'amrah Bedouins. The PLO has seized control of the Church of Nativity, and has tightened the pressure on the Greek-Orthodox, the Armenian, the Latin and the Franciscan Order in East Jerusalem. Abraham's Oak Russian Holy Trinity Monastery in Hebron was seized by the PLO on July 5, 1997 (AP), violently evicting monks and nuns.


The chanting: "After we do away with the Saturday People, we shall take care of the Sunday People," has been heard during anti-Israel PLO/PA rallies. Mosques have mushroomed adjacent to - and usually taller than - churches, implementing the tradition of Saladin. He constructed two taller mosques, Al Khanqa and Abdul Malek, contiguous to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The curriculum at church schools has been altered, adding Islamic - and reducing Christian - studies. Loudly magnified Moslem sermons have been aired during Christian services, including the April 2000 Pope's address in Bethlehem, which had to be recessed until the purposely loud Moslem sermon was concluded. Abusing Church tradition, the PLO has transformed a Greek Orthodox monastery, located next to the Church of Nativity, into Arafat's official residence in Bethlehem. Christmas and New Year celebrations have become a personality cult of Arafat. Christian cemeteries, churches, convents and monasteries have been desecrated, their personnel intimidated, telephone lines cut, windows and sculptures blasted by rocks, and some of their (and their worshipers') land confiscated. Moslem gunmen, shooting at south Jerusalem (Gilo), have always located their positions next to, or in, Christian homes, hotels, churches (e.g. St. Nicholas) and the Greek Orthodox club in Beth Jallah. The military clash with Israel has harmed Christian businesses much more than the traditional Moslem sources of income.


The PLO has imported to Gaza, Judea&Samaria; in general and to Bethlehem in particular, its oppressive legacy of Lebanonization. That which plagued Lebanese Christians during 1970-1982, is currently afflicting Bethlehem's, Beit Jallah, Beit Sakhur and Ramallah's Christians. They are perceived by the PLO - as were Lebanon's Christians - a potential Fifth Column. Accused of wearing "permissive" Western clothing, Bethlehem Christian women have been intimidated, by PLO/PA personnel, since Arafat's takeover in 1995. Rape of Christian women have occurred frequently (especially in Beit Sakhur) as was the case in Lebanon. Islamic hostility, disregard for civil liberties and economic jealousy have been harnessed by Arafat and his 20,000 terrorists, imported from Iraq, Yemen, Sudan, Tunisia, Jordan and Lebanon, in their campaign against the Christian infidel. Christians who dare oppose PLO's oppression, are accused of "collaboration" with Israel, facing execution.


According to former Senator Connie Mack (R-FL), "[The Palestinian Christian] was arrested and detained [by the PLO] on charges of selling land to Jews. He denied the charge, since he owned no land. He was beaten and hung from the ceiling by his hands for many hours. After two weeks, he was transferred to a larger prison where he was held for eight months without trial... These Christians conveyed to me a message of fear and desperation." (Senate speech, March 3, 2000,

©2001 - GAMLA

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