Barbara Kay lives in Montreal. She is a columnist for the National Post, the Epoch Times and the WesternStandardOnline.com.


Israel is home to about 150,000 Christians, 80 percent of them Arabs. They live and prosper in security and equality with their fellow Jewish and Muslim citizens. But they are an anomaly in the Middle East. And well beyond.

After all, Christians are the world’s most persecuted identity group. According to World Watch List 2024, which is audited externally every year by the International Institute for Religious Freedom, more than 365 million Christians — one in seven worldwide — suffer “high to extreme levels of persecution and discrimination for their faith in Jesus.” Over the last five years, persecution rates have increased by 70 percent, with no sign of abating. Gatestone Institute, a good source on this file, has just published the very latest crop of incidents.

Afghanistan presently holds the distinction for “worst” place to be Christian. Marginally better are, numbering 2 to 11: North Korea, Somalia, Libya, Yemen, Eritrea, Nigeria, Pakistan, Iran, India, and Saudi Arabia. In these places, Christians may be “harassed, beaten, raped, imprisoned or slaughtered merely for being identified as a Christian or attending church.”

Several countries have now “voted” for Palestinian statehood as a reward for Hamas’s Oct. 7 proto-genocide in Israel. That this putative state will be Judenrein is a given. But will any of the endorsing countries — Spain, Norway, and Ireland, all three of them democracies and not coincidentally cultural products of Christendom — condition their support on entrenched guarantees for the security and rights of Christians in the West Bank and Gaza? Doubtful. Such a request might be perceived as Islamophobic.

Erasure

There are 800 Christian Palestinians in Gaza, down from about 3,000 in 2007, when Hamas wrested control of the area from Fatah. By contrast with their co-religionists in Israel, neither Gaza Christians nor Christians in the Palestinian Authority (PA) are flourishing. In fact, migration to the West has been so steady over the decades by those with the means to leave that today’s Christians in both the PA and Gaza are a poor and vulnerable remnant population.

In 1947, West Bank Christians in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, constituted 85 percent of that town’s population, but by 2016, their numbers had declined to 16 percent. Like Christians in the nearby towns of Beit Jala and Beit Sahour, Bethlehemites worry about their security and their future. They are haunted by memories of Yasser Arafat, whose militiamen in 2002 laid siege to the 1,400-year-old Church of the Nativity, held dozens of parishioners hostage, looted valuables, and set fires.

One former Bethlehem mayor stated, “There is no future for Christians [here].” Reverend Tomey Dahoud, head of the Greek Orthodox Church in Taubus, a city near Jenin, agreed. “The Islamic people want to kill us. That’s their principle and belief. They don’t want Christians in this country. They don’t want to hear our names; they don’t want to see us. That’s the reality.” During riots in 2006, his church was firebombed.

The situation has not improved. Their churches are often attacked with no repercussions to the perpetrators, and they may be punished for any positive allusion to Judaism or its symbols in their practices. But they rarely complain publicly.

According to veteran Israeli journalist Khaled Abu Toameh, the leaders of the Christian community in the West Bank are reluctant to hold their Muslim neighbours responsible for Church attacks or lootings because “they are afraid of retribution and prefer to toe the official line of holding Israel solely responsible for the misery of the Christian minority.”

At least objective journalists like Toameh have easy access to the West Bank. In Gaza, the Christians are more easily forgotten by the world. According to Raymond Ibrahim, for two decades a dedicated and prolific witness to global Christian suffering, Gaza’s Christians feel like they live “between two hammers”: Israel’s blockade and the immiseration all Gazans endure from Hamas-generated wars.

Any association with Hamas arouses Israeli suspicions, resulting in travel curtailment, and effectively isolating Christians from external Christian support and solidarity, let alone emigration. Hamas’s iron rule is even more stressful. Christians are officially second-class citizens, and Muslims are discouraged from social interaction with them. Conversion to Christianity can be a death sentence.

Against the narrative

Christian suffering that cannot be attributed to Israel in these areas poses a serious problem to Western anti-Zionists, who see the world through a simplistic Marxist lens of struggle between the world’s oppressed and their oppressors. For modern Marxists, indigeneity confers high victim status, while colonisers are held up as the ultimate evil-doers.

The Marxists’ concocted narrative on the Israel-Palestinian conflict insists on total Palestinian victimhood and total Jewish villainy. So the plight of Christians in the Middle East, which cannot be attributed to Jews (who were themselves ethnically cleansed from the Middle East and North African nations they had peacefully inhabited for centuries), casts annoying shade on their Islamism-friendly narrative.

The Coptic Christians, for example, have lived in Egypt since the dawn of Christianity, and indeed are acknowledged as having Pharaonic origins, making them, by any accepted standard, indigenous to Egypt, with imperialist Arabs as the colonisers.

As Egypt’s largest minority — 9.5 million, and 10 percent of the population — Copts once made up about 20 percent of Egypt’s population. Yet they have been brutally persecuted. Their ancient language was suppressed to near-obliteration and is now confined to liturgy. Destruction of their churches by mobs is a commonplace occurrence. Killings and forced conversions as well.

At best, Copts live in a state of dhimmitude, a form of religious apartheid. Egypt’s leader, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, is praised by Copts for his public condemnation of Islamic radicalism. But, Ibrahim contends, little has changed on the ground. “What’s happening in Egypt is not a top-down thing. It’s a bottom-up thing. It’s a cultural thing.”

Diaspora Jews, lulled into the assumption that anti-Semitism was a spent force in the West, are learning the hard way that the “cultural thing” elsewhere eventually finds them, however secular they have become. But only a fool or a useful idiot would assume that the present wave of hatred in the West will confine itself to Jewish targets. Old but true: Jews are the canaries in civilisation’s mines.

Complacent secularists of Christian descent, especially in Spain, Norway, and Ireland, would do well to remember the ominous dictum that gained currency in the lead-up to the 1967 Six-Day War: “First we kill the Saturday people (Jews), then we kill the Sunday people (Christians).”

In certain Middle Eastern neighbourhoods, these words are literally the writing on the wall.


Is there a way to save the Christians of Palestine? Discuss below.


This article has been republished from The Epoch Times with the author’s permission.

Barbara Kay lives in Montreal. She is a columnist for the National Post, the Epoch Times and the WesternStandardOnline.com.

Image credit: Depositphotos

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