Home Rachel Avraham OP-ED: How the West has Abandoned Arab Christians in Israel

OP-ED: How the West has Abandoned Arab Christians in Israel


By Rachel Avraham

The Arab population in Judea and Samaria (and in general) has become more and more Islamic over the years, and even extremely Islamic. This can be seen in the growing sympathy for Hamas in the Palestinian Authority elections, a sympathy that caused Mahmoud Abbas to postpone the elections in 2006 for fear of losing.

Before the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the Christian Arabs who lived in the territories of the Land of Israel had more political power and more weight in the Arab demographic. There were Christian Arabs who were at the head of the young Arab leadership, such as George Habash who founded the “Arab Nationalist Movement”
which called for the unification of Arab countries and later also founded the terrorist
organization “The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.”

The Christian Arabs were influenced by a process that took place throughout the Middle East and by the change from the pan-Arab ideology of Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser to the Islamist ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood. After the loss of the Arab states to Israel in 1967, the entire Arab world began to unite around the Islamic identity and no longer around the Arab identity, which was what had earlier connected the Christian Arabs to the Muslim Arabs. When Islam became what united the people, anyone who was not Muslim was marginalized. Today, the percentage of Christian Arabs under the Palestinian leadership is quite small. In general, the Christians who remain in local Arab society stands between 1% and 2%, a dramatic decrease from 1948, when Christian Arabs made up 11% of the Arab population in Israel.

The reason that the number of Christians in the PA leadership is so small today can be related to the faster and higher birth rate within the Muslim Palestinian population over the Christian Arab population, which produces children at a much lower rate.

However, this is not the only reason for the decrease in Christians among the Palestinian
population. Large percentages of the Christian Arab population in the territories of the
Palestinian Authority left Israel and immigrated to other countries. Many of them
immigrated to South America, like the Christian Arab population from Lebanon and Syria, some to the United States, some to Canada and some to Australia. An amusing fact about Christian Arab immigration from the territories of the Palestinian Authority is that there are more Christian Arabs from Jerusalem in Sydney, Australia than in Jerusalem itself. When you discover these statistics, an important question is asked – what is the reason for the massive migration of the Christian Arab population?

The Christian population is considered more educated than the Muslim population (the Christian Arabs are considered statistically the most educated religious community) and therefore a major part of the Christian emigration is related to the possibility of finding a better and more rewarding job outside the Palestinian Authority. It has become more difficult for Christian Arabs to find a place for themselves in today’s Muslim dominated society, which has become devoutly Islamic. What unites the Muslims is primarily related to the Al-Aqsa Mosque. It seems that the Muslims do not make an effort to embrace the religious minorities among them and lets them distance themselves to the point of disconnection and leaving the land they are fighting for. About a third of the Christian Arabs claim that they do ​not feel they belong to Arab society and are unable to integrate into it.

A quarter of the Christian Arabs testify that they have experienced humiliation from the Muslim population, such as curses and derogatory names in the street. In addition, they admit that they feel discriminated against on religious grounds in accepting jobs, by their Muslim brothers. In light of these data, I would like to ask why the Christian brothers of the Christian Arabs do not join in helping them? Is the West interested in the PA arena only when it comes to events between Jews and Muslims? Why hasn’t a single western party come to the aid of the Arab Christian community, which is rapidly disappearing due to a lack of acceptance by the general Palestinian society?

If the Christian West continues to abandon the Arab Christians from the Authority, this community will disappear, and the remaining Muslim Arabs will continue to tell themselves the story invented by Yasser Arafat, that “Jesus was Palestinian”.

This year, Christian Arabs celebrated Christmas in a slightly different way. This year, the city of Bethlehem was under the Palestinian Authority who did not observe this Christian holiday. The Christian Arabs celebrated their holiday in church, with no festive ceremonies, no decorations, and not even the traditional fir tree. The reason for this was their identification with the victims of the Palestinian people who are suffering in Gaza. Was the decision not to celebrate Christmas in the traditional way made by Father Francesco Paton, the guardian of the Holy Land? Did the decision come from the mayor of Bethlehem, Hana Hanania? Or did the decision come from Palestinian political parties?

There is no telling. Don’t the Christian residents of the city where Jesus was born want to
celebrate their most holy and important holiday, in their traditional way? Or must they show solidarity with an extremist Islamic organization which, according to its own worldview, considers Christians to be infidels, who must live under a coercive Islamic rule? You never know, it could be. Does this sound logical when you understand the nature of the relationship between Muslims and Christians in Arab society?