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New Israeli Herods and Christians

JAMAL KANJ

 Thursday, December 20, 2012


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I'M writing from Finland this week, where the omnipresence of snowflakes and festive Christmas lights heralds another year celebrating the birth of Jesus.

In parallel, the descendants of the Messiah in Palestine are marking another year of abominable Israeli occupation.

Indulged with indifference to the collective sorrow cloaking the hearts of native Christians in the holy land, the West turns another leaf, rejoicing the birth of the Prince of Peace.

However, in present-day Palestine, Jesus is no longer a prince and peace remains a phantom.

If Joseph and his pregnant wife Mary were to venture on their historic journey to Bethlehem today, they would have to navigate roads reserved for foreign settlers, overcome military checkpoints and scale high walls to get there.

More than 2,000 years ago they fled Herod the Great, "King of Jews", to save their baby.

Nowadays, Palestinian Christians are fleeing descendants of the King of Khazar - an aspiring flat copy of Herod - who has Polish pedigree and was christened Benjamin Mileikowsky.

He later became known as Benjamin Netanyahu, the current Israeli Prime Minister whose main political ally is the Moldovan Evet Lvovich (Avigdor) Lieberman.

According to Israeli human rights groups, there was a portentous increase in religious hate crimes directed towards historical Christian monasteries, churches and graveyards in 2012.

The most recent was a week ago, when suspected Jewish extremists (Price Tag) associated with Israel's settlement movement defiled the Greek Orthodox monastery in Jerusalem with graffiti.

In July, elected Israeli MP Michael Ben Ari desecrated the Christian Bible on camera - calling it a "despicable book" belonging "in history's trash can" and blaming it for "the murder of millions of Jews" in Europe.

Earlier in the year, the CBS News show 60 Minutes aired a compelling programme on Palestinian Christians in the holy land. Before the broadcast, Israeli Ambassador to the US Michel Oren contacted the head of CBS News in an attempt to quash the report.

In an uncommon gesture, CBS afforded the ambassador a unique opportunity to rebut the story before it aired.

Veteran reporter Bob Simon told the diplomat in an interview before the broadcast: "I've never gotten a reaction before from a story that hasn't been broadcast yet."

Oren pompously responded: "There's a first time for everything."

The ambassador pre-empted the show in an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal, but instead of addressing Israel's mistreatment of Christians, Oren blamed Muslims for oppressing and massacring "Christian communities throughout the Middle East", claiming that Christianity was "thriving" in Israel.

Responding to Oren's assertions, 80 native Christian leaders denounced his bid to blame Christians' hardship on Muslims as "shameful manipulation of the facts intended to mask the damage that Israel has done to our community".

As for the "thriving" Christianity in Israel, they explained that the growth was attributed to a large number of "Russian Christians whom Israel was unable to distinguish from Jewish immigrants pouring into the country after the fall of the Soviet Union".

A native Christian activist, Philip Farah, challenged Ambassador Oren: "If your country is so good to Christians, why don't you allow me, my family and thousands of Palestinian Christians to return to our home?"

In 1948, Israel indiscriminately razed more than 500 Palestinian villages, including predominantly Christian towns such as Iqrit and Kufr Bir'm, to name just two.

Likewise, these days Israeli settlements and the wall of separation are encroaching and confiscating land belonging to Palestinians of all persuasions.

This Christmas, new Israeli Herods abetted by Western powers are driving Christians from their land and transforming native churches into Israeli tourist attractions and grand "archaeological sites" like the Pyramids, detached from their aboriginal traditions.

 * Jamal Kanj writes frequently on Arab World issues and is the author of Children of Catastrophe, Journey from a Palestinian Refugee Camp to America. He can be reached at jkanj@yahoo.com.