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December 17, 2020 7:09 am

Reuters Blames Israel for Plight of Gaza Christians, Ignores Hamas Persecution

avatar by Gidon Ben-zvi

Opinion

Palestinian police officers loyal to Hamas march during a graduation ceremony in Gaza City, April 29, 2019. Photo: Reuters / Ibraheem Abu Mustafa.

A December 10 Reuters piece written by Nidal al-Mughrabi rightly draws attention to the plight of Christians in the Gaza Strip. Yet the writer comes down with a case of selective amnesia, neglecting to note the history of persecution of this tiny minority by Gaza’s rulers.

In the article, Israel’s blockade of the Strip — imposed to repel incessant attempts by the Hamas terrorist group to attack the Jewish state — is assigned a disproportionate amount of the blame for the precarious state of the Palestinian enclave’s Christians.

Specifically, Israel is singled out as a key reason for the Christian flight from Gaza:

Its Christian population has declined by two-thirds over the past 15 years, a wave of emigration fueled by economic struggles and a desire to escape fighting between militant groups and Israel.

The mass exodus is indeed the result of people wanting to get out of harm’s way.

However, Reuters omits the primary cause of their misfortune: It is Hamas violence against the Christian residents of Gaza, not Israel’s ongoing battle against the terrorist organization.

The piece, “Gaza jeweler struggles to sell Christmas gold,” notes that Christian Palestinians:

…are feeling the economic sting of the health crisis and lockdowns. The pandemic has deepened economic hardship in Gaza, which is run by Islamist group Hamas and is under blockade by Israel. Egypt also imposes border restrictions, citing, as does Israel, security concerns.

What goes unmentioned is the systematic persecution by Hamas.

There were approximately 5,000 Christians living in the Gaza Strip in 2005, the year that Israel unilaterally dismantled 21 Israeli settlements, evacuated some 9,000 Jewish residents, and pulled its army out of the enclave.

In 2007, Hamas violently took over the Gaza Strip, which it has ruled as the de facto Islamist authority ever since. For Hamas, Islam is not only a religion that guides its organizational aims, but also a source of law (sharia) to be imposed on all Gazans.

Long before COVID-19 and the blockades, Hamas-affiliated groups like Swords of Righteousness and the Army of Islam were targeting Gazan Christians with forced conversions, discrimination in schools, attacks on businesses, and martyrdom.

Today, there are reportedly only 1,000 Christians in Gaza.

Another strong indication that the blockade is a red herring is the situation of Christians in the city of Bethlehem, which is controlled by the Palestinian Authority (PA). The media is whitewashing the true nature of Christian life under PA rule in the very place where one of the three great monotheistic religions began.

Christians in Bethlehem began to suffer greatly for their religious beliefs once the PA took control of the city in 1995. Life in Bethlehem has been increasingly marked by land theft with little to no legal recourse; harassment of Christian women; Christian businesses being forced to pay protection money; discrimination against Christians with regards to job opportunities; and churches being looted and vandalized.

The result, similar to Gaza, was emigration en masse. In 1947, Christians comprised about 85% of the city’s population, and that figure has plunged to approximately 16%.

One recent study on the global persecution of Christians ranked the “Palestinian Territories” 49th out of 50. According to the report, “Islamic oppression” is fueling this tyranny against a religious minority. In addition, the study reveals that “Islamic extremist militants are also present in the West Bank, causing Christians to fear being attacked,” and that the persecution is particularly brutal for converts to Christianity.

The Reuters article opted not to add a couple of lines of relevant context about the alarming situation of Gaza’s tiny, vulnerable Christian population.

With the holiday season upon us, it is worthwhile to remember the persecution of Palestinian Christians by Islamists, something that has little to do with Israel, the blockade, or COVID-19.

Gidon Ben-Zvi is an Israeli-based writer. A version of this article was originally published by HonestReporting.

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