It turns out there are Christians in the Holy Land

It turns out there are Christians in the Holy Land April 21, 2012

Tomorrow night, 60 Minutes will be doing a story on some of these strange, exotic creatures nobody knows anything about. We can only hope and pray that they do not blaspheme the sacred state of Israel, immaculately conceived and preserved from all sin original and actual, which is the only thing that really matters there. For some reason, a community that has been there for 2000 years has, in the past 60 years, suddenly become whiny about oppression and begun to leave in droves. Much like the Chaldean Church, which has also benefited from our just and wise Middle East policies so richly, the clear lesson to be learned is that those foreign swarthy Christian types need to stop being so selfish and get out of the way as Western secularity marches toward its inevitable triumph. You have to break eggs to make that omelette of the democratic capitalist culture of death that will save us all.

HT: la Nouvelle Theologie

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  • Christians in the Holy Land. Who knew?

  • William

    Hey, my wife and I lived there for two years and before we arrived, we didn’t know! They are amazing people of great faith and witness. They need our prayers.

  • Dan C

    Catholics in Latin America smacked hard against US interests 30 years ago, too. Priests died and evangelicalism grew. The oppressed faithful changed as will these folks.

    The Church is once again caught between US interests and the faithful. May it choose well.

    • I think the religious dynamics in South America are more complex than that.

    • Edgewise

      Odd… You seem to be saying “US interests” as if that was some sort of “bad” thing…

      • Ted Seeber

        Replace string US with Wall Street, and you’d be closer to the truth.

  • Glen H

    So my take on these articles is that the small Christian community was perfectly happy to live as dhimmis amongst the Arabs, but the pushy Jews came along and ruined it for everyone. No ant-semitism there.

    • Mark Shea

      Yes. The defenceless Christians being driven out of their homes are the *real* oppressors. Excellent recitation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the State of Israel. The victims are to blame. Standard boilerplate.

      • Thomas R

        Hmm as he indicated below that wasn’t his point. Making Israel the cause of all bad things is also pretty common in the world. It’s comparatively rare in the US, sure, but the idea Israel is worse to minorities than about any nation on Earth is fairly common among the Left and in Europe.

        I dislike the US Right indicating we must always support Israel no matter what, but that the US and Israel are always stupid or the cause of all problems in the Mideast is also wrong/glib. I don’t think you were doing that, but I get the concern.

      • I’m still reading over and over and over the part of Glen’s response that suggests Glen is saying that the Christians in question are the real oppressors.

        • Mark Shea

          It’s the part where mean mean Arab Christians (and anybody who sticks up for them) are anti-semites because they don’t like being pushed out of their homes and off their property. Clearly Israel is the victim of mean Christians who call them “pushy Jews”. Of course, nobody actually *said* “pushy Jews” except for Glen, but you have to read between lines of all that Arab Christian talk about “property rights” and “deserving a place to live” to get at the *true* anti-semitic subtext. The dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the State of Israel means, by definition, that anybody who says Israel has treated Arab Christians badly is *really* saying “All Jews are pushy and bad”. In short, any and all criticism of Israel is, as Glen makes clear, anti-semitic. The vanishing and oppressed Arab Christians are the real bad guys here.

          • Thomas R

            Where do you get that in what he said? I think he’s responding to that article saying things like “Christians and Muslims have gotten along very well in the region until recent years” and blaming the creation of Israel for any change.

            This is, at best, inaccurate. I know “but a guy there said it, you claiming you know more than him?” Not exactly, but I’m willing to acknowledge that many Christians there are Arab Nationalists who don’t like Jews. I’m willing to acknowledge that because it’s pretty much undeniably true seeing as many of them say that. The Baath Party was originally found, in part, by a Christian named Michel Aflaq.

            And I’m not any kind of ultra-Zionist or anything. I’m not sure Israel should have been created. I think at times they play the “pity card” because “we’re so small” when in reality they’re a wealthy and vibrant nation with a military that beat the Arabs multiple times. I think an element of Israeli society is full of itself and looks down on other peoples. All that said it doesn’t mean that when an Arab Christian criticizes Israel my faculties desert me and I just agree with everything he says because we’re both Christian. Or that I automatically side with Palestinians.

            • Mark Shea

              Personally, I go on the Palestinian Christians I know, as well as several friends who have been there, who report Israeli oppression of Palestinian Christians. When the eyewitness narrative is always the same, I tend to think the narrative has a basis in fact.

              • Edgewise

                It may have been argued somewhere that the post-WWII “narratives” of Sudetenlanders and East Prussians also had a basis in fact… (And the argument would have been plausible, too…)

                • Mark Shea

                  Are you seriously trying to compare Arab Christians to Nazis? Or what? I’m having trouble parsing your point.

              • Thomas R

                I don’t think that I’m denying oppression by Israelis occurs but “until the Israelis came we were all good” I think is either a nostalgic misremembering or bordering on just a lie.

                • Mark Shea

                  I never said that. Try reading it again.

    • An Atheist

      “Amongs the Arabs” Uh, the Christians there *are* Arabs.

      • Mark Shea

        And Arabs are semites. A twofer!

      • Glen H

        Should have said “amongst the Muslims”. Sorry.

      • Pancho

        Yes, the majority of Christians there are Arabs but there’s a small group of Jewish Catholics living there too. See:

      • William

        No, Pancho, the Palestinians are not really Arabs. While they definitely identify with Arabic language and culture, including the Muslim religion for those who embraced it. But that does not make them Arabs in the strict sense, anymore than English-speaking peoples in places like India could automatically be labeled “Anglo-Saxon.” Obviously, the racial origins of Palestinians have been mixed over centuries of travel, especially when travel was easier than it is today. But it is clear historically that Palestinian Christians trace their origins in large part to the Jewish Palestinians of the first century. Muslim origins are a bit more complicated, but they too can trace their ancestry in part to those same Palestinian Christians who converted to Islam in the seventh century.

        • Lals

          William, your argument could be made for nearly any ethic race. The Palestinians truly are Arabs and any attempt to discount this is simply a ruse to try to undermine their legitimate claim to their land and freedom. I urge you to mindful of the implications of your words.

    • Andy, Bad Person

      So my take on these articles is that the small Christian community was perfectly happy to live as dhimmis amongst the Arabs, but the pushy Jews came along and ruined it for everyone.

      No one said everything was fine before, but it’s the Israelis (you’re the one who accused Jews) who are driving people out of their homes. Please take off your victim-colored glasses.

    • Patrick

      @ Glen H.

      I didn’t hear anyone criticize Jews *as* Jews in this piece. Criticizing the policy of Israel? Absolutely. But nobody criticized Jews as Jews, which means there is no anti-Semitism. Unless you think criticizing any of Israel’s policies is *per se* anti-Semitism, in which case we disagree.

      On the topic of anti-Semitism, though: you know, look: it only feeds anti-Semites when the *ambassador of Israel* calls the CEO of CBS News and tries to get this “hatchet piece” yanked from the air, ok? I mean, were I inclined to believe “the Jews” were doing nefarious things, well, that type of thing really just hands anti-Semitic bigots another weapon .

      • Patrick

        I forgot to add: “it only feeds anti-Semites when the ambassador of Israel calls the CEO of CBS News *before the piece has aired* and tries to get this “hatchet piece” yanked.”

        Also: I found it funny that the Church of England and the Lutherans have adherents in the Holy Land. I don’t know why, but I thought that was funny. It would be even more funny if there were Southern Baptists there…haha.

        • Thomas R

          I’m pretty sure there are Baptists in Israel, at least I think I knew of one though he’s converted to Catholicism, but I think most of them are immigrants.

          Anglicans is pretty easy to explain, the Palestinian mandate was ruled by England for decades. Some Catholics and Orthodox converted for a variety of reasons.

          • Patrick

            “Anglicans is pretty easy to explain, the Palestinian mandate was ruled by England for decades.”

            I totally forgot about that. I’ve just always associate Anglicanism with British aristocrats – tea and crumpets, monocles, names-that-are-actually-land-titles (“Lord Halifax”). The phrase “Cheerio” and “Eh what?” and “What the deuce?” To have swarthy Palestinians part of the Church of England, then, is a funny image.

            But – you’re right, and now my cartoonish idea is ruined. Haha.

  • B

    I visited the Holy Land in late 2010. The Franciscans there are doing glorious work there to help out the dwindling Christian community. They take care of a majority of the Christian holy sites, as well as create housing for Christians and work programs. I donate heavily to this foundation after seeing how much work this order is doing. The Christians there badly need our help and donating to this organization is one way to help them.

  • Glen H

    Mark, my point wasn’t that these Christians aren’t being oppressed. My point is the Israelis are being blamed for it, not for anything they directly did, but for stirring up extremist Arab passions by existing. If you think Christians and their holy sites in Palestine will be treated with respect in a Palestinian state, you are delusional.

    • Lals

      You are sadly mistaken, Glen. I have lived both in Israel and in Occupied Palestine, and I assure you that the Christians are directly being oppressed by the Israeli government simply because they are Arabs.

  • Matthew

    I went to the Holy Land two years ago and we had a Palestinian Christian as a guide. Much was made of the difficulties under which they live and the State of Israel was often the villain. All this is true. But when I sought him out privately and pointedly asked a few question he freely admitted that given a choice he would rather live under the Israeli Jews than under the Palestinian Muslims. I’ll take that insiders word for it. Whatever their plight they certainly need our prayers.

    • Andy, Bad Person

      he freely admitted that given a choice he would rather live under the Israeli Jews than under the Palestinian Muslims.

      Small comfort. When your barometer for civic decency is “at least they’re not as bad as extremist Muslim barbarians,” we’re in a pretty messed up place.

      • Dan C

        I would begin to unwind such language.

        Very clearly a strain in many Americans’ thoughts is that Muslims and Islams are “ok” to discriminate against. Then, shockingly, we find Catholic opinions and lifestyles may not be as well understood with government attempts at suppression. One joke is that there is a Muslim exemption to the first amendment. Catholics, taking grievance politics cues from the left, note their own serious concerns about religious freedom.

        One should be wary of labeling barbarity based on religion.

  • Israel discriminates against its minorities. This is not news, nor will any serious observer of the facts dispute it, including very partisan pro-Israel people. The relevant question from a political point of view is not whether Israel does things wrong but rather is there a practical alternative outcome that would be better. The palestinian muslims are eliminationists. They would kill all the jews in the holy land including the anti-zionist jews (a strange phenomenon but some local jews don’t want eretz Israel on the basis of theology).

    The Middle East is a place of many moving parts and it’s not particularly useful to be too reductionist. The monetary compensation for back work as opposed to brain work has shifted the whole world over. Are christians kept out of university in Israel or do the local christians not have a strong STEM tradition on their own? I don’t know but this shift that is worldwide and has nothing to do with jews might contribute to their community issues.

    Israel plays water politics and jews get a more favorable share. Is the tilt unique to Israel or is that a regional phenomenon? Modernity has led to more efficient water capture and when you are politically out, the penalties are worse than a hundred years ago. Would alternate political arrangements be better or worse?

    The whole dhimmi contract arrangement is falling apart under the pressure of salafism and other forms of muslim extremism. This has led to a general exodus of ME christians by my understanding. Is the exodus in Israel worse or less than in other relevant countries?

    In short, I have no doubt that Israel is a country that has jews who unfairly push for advantage over christians and muslims. But the challenge is to understand all the problems and to take care not to assign disproportionate blame to any cause. That road leads to bad policy and more trouble down the road.

    • Thomas R

      I don’t know that Palestinian Muslims are that much more monolithic than any other Muslims. Many of them are eliminationists, maybe even the majority, but I think there’s variety in what’s even meant by “elimination.” Some I think might genuinely, if delusionally, believe the Israelis can “pack up and go back to Europe.” (And I’m aware many of them are descended from Jews in North Africa and the Mideast. Also that even those of European descent were born in Israel. The Palestinian Muslims might know that too but nevertheless “feel” they are aliens who should be in Europe)

    • Dan C

      “The relevant question from a political point of view is not whether Israel does things wrong but rather is there a practical alternative outcome that would be better.”

      No. Israeli policies that are unethical and propped up by US dollars and weapons are a relevant and Christian’s question.

      “The palestinian muslims are eliminationists. ”

      No. This labels an entire population based on propaganda generated by dubious think tanks.

      The US is in deep in this region for reasons that are purely centered on American best interests, not on ethical concerns. Politics requires ethical functions that are of the highest caliber, as high as one expects for sexual purity. When such does not happen, many, many are wounded to the core of their souls (for example, a huge number of American military men who are deep in unjust wars have paid this huge price). Expecting real politick to save the nation is not a moral decision.

      Tragically, support of injustice badly affects our nation and our souls.

      • Edgewise

        “No. This labels an entire population based on propaganda generated by dubious think tanks….”

        Arguably–but does it help that much of that “propaganda” apparently oftentimes quotes/cites/references that population’s propaganda? Or (aside from occassional translation/contextual errors [and/or, perhaps even some actual deceits?]) , are we to assume that people don’t actually mean what they say? (And if they don’t, then–well, might there be “better ” ways of expressing themselves?)

  • Kirt Higdon

    I would recommend contributing to Pilgrims of Ibilin, the support organization for the educational work by Melkite Catholic Archbishop Elias Chacour. Archbishop Chacour’s schools, which range from elementary to university level bring together Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Druze students in an atmosphere of mutual respect and fraternal charity. Elias Chacour was driven from his home and ancestral village in Galilee along with his family by the Israeli army. The Israeli government frequently harasses him because his work for reconciliation undermines Jewish support for Zionist supremacy and (of course) because he is an “Arab”. In truth, Christians lived in Palestine from the time of the early Church, centuries before the Arab Moslem conquests and many Palestinian Christians (and Moslems!) are at least partially descended from ancient Jewish Israelites.

  • The classic response to the “you gotta break eggs to make an omellette” line: “So where’s the omellette?”

  • William

    Just watched the segment. After living in the Holy Land among the Christians and seeing these things first hand, I could not believe I was watching this on American TV. I never thought I’d see the day that the truth regarding the plight of the Christian Palestinians would be broadcast on network TV. Thank you Bob Simon! Oh, for the record, Bob is Jewish. If anyone missed the segment, go to the 60 minutes site to see it as well as extra stuff that didn’t make the segment. It may be a day before they put it up.

  • Arnold

    Israel’s Christian population is growing. Something that cannot be said for the neighboring Arab countries, with the possible exception of Jordan where many thousands of Chaldeans have taken refuge.

  • Bob


    How is supporting Israel in the US’ best interests? Considering we get a majority of our oil from Israel’s enemies.