A Palestinian Christian response to Michael Oren
Response to WSJ article by Israeli Amb. Michael Oren
[The following article originally appeared on the Ma`an News Agency website.]
The presence of our 13 Latin Patriarchate Schools throughout the West Bank and Gaza, for over 150 years, is a living witness to the coexistence of Palestinian Christians and Muslims.
We have never faced in our schools or society the supposed persecution of Christians by Muslims to which Mr Oren referred in “Israel and the Plight of Mideast Christians,” published Friday in the Wall Street Journal.
Contrary to Oren’s statements, the persecution of Christians here is caused mainly by the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory. This occupation humiliates us, destroys our economy, causes demographic changes and deprives millions of the freedom of movement and their right to decent lives, in addition to the confiscation of land.
These are the main ways Christians are persecuted in Palestine.
As anyone with eyes can see, the wall that Israel has imposed has negatively affected the lives of Palestinians and has confiscated a large amount of what is left of Palestinian land.
Oren claims that Israel “allows holiday access to Jerusalem’s churches to Christians from both the West Bank and Gaza.” In reality, the countless fixed and flying checkpoints have turned our lives into hell.
Israeli obstacles and practices do not differentiate between Muslims and Christians, and are imposed over a whole nation. The bullets that fired against Palestinians do not differentiate between Christians and Muslims.
But it is these imposed Israeli obstacles which strengthen the ties between Christians and Muslims. Christian students share the same classrooms with Muslim students and all school activities involve both religions.
For example last week at one of our schools, the al-Ahliyya College in Ramallah, we held a concert with peace songs, and 180 pupils of both faiths joined in the event.
The oppression of Christian communities is indeed “an injustice of historic magnitude.”
Israel could begin righting this wrong by setting an example: Offer freedom to the Christian communities under its occupation before criticizing Muslim oppression in other countries in the Middle East.
No such oppression exists in Palestine.
*The author is the director-general of the Latin Patriarchate Schools in Palestine and the parish priest of Ramallah.