As I noted in "Christianity Dying in Its Birthplace," a campaign of persecution against the Christians of the West Bank and Gaza has succeeded. "Even as the Christian population of Israel grows, that of the Palestinian Authority shrinks precipitously. Bethlehem and Nazareth, historic Christian towns for nearly two millennia, are now primarily Muslim."
The problem, in part, has been Christian dhimmitude, an unwillingness to speak up about their plight. Now, Khaled Abu Toameh of the Jerusalem Post reports from Bethlehem, increased attacks by Muslims on Christian-owned property in recent months means that
some Christians are no longer afraid to talk about the ultra-sensitive issue. And they are talking openly about leaving the city. … According to the families, many Christians have long been afraid to complain in public about the campaign of "intimidation" for fear of retaliation by their Muslim neighbors and being branded "collaborators" with Israel. …
"The situation is very dangerous," said Samir Qumsiyeh, owner of the Beit Sahur-based private Shepherd TV station. "I believe that 15 years from now there will be no Christians left in Bethlehem. Then you will need a torch to find a Christian here. This is a very sad situation." Qumsiyeh, one of the few Christians willing to speak about the harsh conditions of their community, has been the subject of numerous death threats. His house was recently attacked with fire-bombs, but no one was hurt. Qumsiyeh said he has documented more than 160 incidents of attacks on Christians in the area in recent years. He said a monk was recently roughed up for trying to prevent a group of Muslim men from seizing lands owned by Christians in Beit Sahur. Thieves have targeted the homes of many Christian families and a "land mafia" has succeeded in laying its hands on vast areas of land belonging to Christians, he added.
The article then provides some specifics and concludes with a quote from an unnamed Christian businessman who noted how things had deteriorated since the area was handed over to the Palestinian Authority in 1995. "Every day we hear of another Christian family that has immigrated to the US, Canada or Latin America. The Christians today make up less than 15 percent of the population. People are running away because the Palestinian government isn't doing anything to protect them and their property against Muslim thugs. Of course not all the Muslims are responsible, but there is a general feeling that Christians have become easy prey."
(January 25, 2007)