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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Excellent article about the plight of Christians in Bethlehem, and the pope's response to it: "What the Pope Taught the World"


What the Pope Taught the World

Naomi Ragen

The Pope's recent visit to Bethlehem was one of the most blatant displays of capitulation to terrorism that has been seen in recent years. How well I remember the way Christians were treated by Arafat's henchmen, including Mahmoud Abbas his right hand man, during the Intifada. The Christian community was decimated, and is now only twenty percent of the population, when it was once the majority. Christian girls were kidnapped, raped, and forced to convert to Islam. Christians were kicked out of their homes by gunmen, who used Christian neighborhoods to set up sniper nests from which they shot into Jewish homes in Jerusalem's Gilo neighborhood, and passing cars on the road (Dr. Shmuel Gillis, on whom I patterned the hero of my book, The Covenant, was killed on his way home from treating cancer patients at Hadassah Hospital by such a sniper.)

And then there was the siege of the Church of the Nativity. The priests and children held hostage by Arafat's gunmen. The church desecrated. Priests holding up signs at the windows to Israeli soldiers "Please help us!"

The Pope, standing side by side with Abbas, chose to forget these things. His words: "Mr. President, the Holy See supports the right of your people to a sovereign Palestinian homeland in the land of your forefathers, secure and at peace with its neighbors, within internationally recognized borders."

This is the voice of a religious leader, a moral force in the world? For choosing to forget all that happened to Christians in one of Christianity's holiest sites, he has chosen the way of appeasement, not peace. Of cowardly acquiescence to evil, instead of forthright defense of the helpless. He has nothing to teach us Jews. Indeed, he has nothing to teach Catholics. The only people who may learn from him are Muslim
terrorists. And the lesson is clear. The leader of the Catholic world --once again-- in the face of evil, has decided to side with the oppressors against the oppressed. One would think a German Pope would have something wiser to impart.

Below, an excellent article by Aaron Klein at WorldNetDaily

Every blessing,

Pope in Bethlehem: A missed opportunity
Aaron Klein argues Benedict overlooked murder, persecution of Christians
May 13, 2009
By Aaron Klein, WorldNetDaily

During Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Bethlehem today, the pontiff did not address rampant Muslim persecution of Christians and stood by as Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas lied about the real reason behind local Christians fleeing.

In a major address, the pontiff strongly supported a Palestinian state. Perhaps he does not realize recent history demonstrates such a state may lead to increased persecution and endangerment of Palestinian Christians.

"Mr. President, the Holy See supports the right of your people to a sovereign Palestinian homeland in the land of your forefathers, secure and at peace with its neighbors, within internationally recognized borders," Benedict said upon his arrival in Bethlehem, standing alongside Abbas.

In Bethlehem, where the Christian population has dropped from a majority to less than 20 percent, Benedict delivered a special message of solidarity to the 1.4 million Palestinians isolated in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

"My heart goes out to the pilgrims from war-torn Gaza: I ask you to bring back to your families and your communities my warm embrace, and my sorrow for the loss, the hardship and the suffering you have had to endure," the pope said in his address at an open-air Mass in Manger Square.

"Please be assured of my solidarity with you in the immense work of rebuilding which now lies ahead, and my prayers that the embargo will soon be lifted," he added.

By referencing the "war-torn Gaza" and necessary "rebuilding," the pope was apparently fingering Israel's recent 22-day confrontation with Hamas as the cause for "the suffering" Gazans "had to endure."

He said nothing, however, of the suffering of Gaza's 3,000 Christians since Hamas took over that territory in 2007. Benedict might well have decried the many bombings, shootings and other Islamist attacks against Gazan Christian establishments, the brutal murder of the territory's only Bible-store owner, or the regular intimidation and persecution of Christians there. His solidarity with Gazan Christians might have given them some much-needed strength.

Benedict, speaking from Bethlehem ­ the site of rampant Muslim persecution of Christians ­ did not once renounce the Islamic violence there, either. Instead, the pope stood beside Abbas as the Palestinian leader deceptively pointed to a concrete separation barrier in Bethlehem and blamed that barrier, as well as Israeli "occupation," for the plight of Christians.

"In this Holy Land, the occupation still continues building separation walls," Abbas said. "Instead of building the bridge that can link us, they are using the force of occupation to force Muslims and Christians to emigrate."

It should be respectfully pointed out to the pope that Abbas was dangerously fabricating history. Actually, it was Abbas' own Fatah party that is causing Christians to flee.

First, about the "wall." Bethlehem is not surrounded by any wall. Israel built a fence, in 2002, in the area where northern Bethlehem interfaces with Jerusalem. A tiny segment of that barrier, facing a major Israeli roadway, is a concrete wall that Israel says is meant to prevent gunmen from shooting at Israeli motorists.

The fence was constructed after the outbreak of the Palestinian intifada, or terror war, launched after the late PLO leader Yasser Arafat turned down an Israeli offer of a Palestinian state, instead returning to the Middle East to liberate Palestine with violence. Scores of deadly suicide bombings and shooting attacks against Israelis were planned in Bethlehem and carried out by Bethlehem-area terrorists, including Abbas' Fatah organization.

At one point during the period of just 30 days in 2002, at least 14 shootings were perpetuated by Bethlehem cells of Fatah's Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terrorists, killing two Israelis and wounding six.

Many times Muslim gunmen in the Bethlehem area reportedly took positions in civilian homes in the hilltops of Christian Beit Jala, which straddles Bethlehem. Beit Jala afforded the terrorists a clear firing line at southern sections of Jerusalem and at a major Israeli highway down below, drawing Israeli military raids and the eventual building of the security barrier there.

Is this barrier causing Bethlehem's Christians to flee, as Abbas claimed today?

Simple demographic facts will answer this question. Israel built the barrier five years ago. But Bethlehem's Christian population started to drastically decline in 1995, the very year Arafat's Palestinian Authority took over the holy Christian city in line with the U.S.-backed Oslo Accords.

Bethlehem consisted of upwards of 80 percent Christians when Israel was founded in 1948, but since Arafat got his hands on it, the city's Christian population dove to its current 23 percent. And that statistic is considered generous since it includes the satellite towns of Beit Sahour and Beit Jala. Some estimates place Bethlehem's actual Christian population as low as 12 percent, with hundreds of Christians leaving every year.

As soon as he took over Bethlehem, Arafat unilaterally fired the city's Christian politicians and replaced them with Muslim cronies. He appointed a Muslim governor, Muhammed Rashad A-Jabar and unilaterally disbanded Bethlehem's city council, which had nine Christians and two Muslims, reducing the number of Christians councilors to a 50-50 split.

Arafat then converted a Greek Orthodox monastery next to the Church of Nativity, the believed birthplace of Jesus, into his official Bethlehem residence.

Suddenly, after the Palestinians gained the territory, reports of Christian intimidation by Muslims began to surface, reports the pope would do well to note since they may foreshadow what is to come under a Palestinian state.

Christian leaders and residents in Bethlehem told me they face an atmosphere of regular hostility. They said Palestinian armed groups stir tension by holding militant demonstrations and marches in the streets. They spoke of instances in which Christian shopkeepers' stores were ransacked and Christian homes attacked.

In the past, they said, Palestinian gunmen fired at Israelis from Christian hilltop communities, drawing Israeli anti-terror raids to their towns.

In 2002, dozens of terrorists holed up inside the Church of the Nativity for 39 days while fleeing a massive Israeli anti-terror operation. Israel surrounded the church area, but refused to storm the structure. Gunmen inside included wanted senior Hamas, Tanzim and Brigades terrorists reportedly involved in suicide bombings and shooting attacks. More than 200 nuns and priests were trapped in the church after Israeli hostage negotiators failed to secure their release.

Some Christian leaders said one of the most significant problems facing Christians in Bethlehem is the rampant confiscation of land by Muslim gangs.

"There are many cases where Christians have their land stolen by the [Muslim] mafia," said Samir Qumsiyeh, a Bethlehem Christian leader and owner of the Beit Sahour-based private Al-Mahd (Nativity) TV station.

"It is a regular phenomenon in Bethlehem. They go to a poor Christian person with a forged power of attorney document, then they say we have papers proving you're living on our land. If you confront them, many times the Christian is beaten. You can't do anything about it. The Christian loses, and he runs away," Qumsiyeh told me, speaking from his hilltop television station during an interview last year.

Qumsiyeh himself said he was targeted by Islamic gangs, his home firebombed after he returned from a trip abroad during which he gave public speeches outlining the plight of Bethlehem's Christian population.

One Christian Bethlehem resident told me her friend recently fled Bethlehem after being accused by Muslims of selling property to Jews, a crime punishable by death in some Palestinian cities. A good deal of the intimidation, she added, comes from gunmen associated with PA President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah organization.

A February Jerusalem Post article cited the case of Faud and Georgette Lama, Christian residents of Bethlehem who said their land was stolen by local Muslims, but that when they tried to do something about it, Faud was beaten by gunmen.

One religious novelty-store owner I met recently told me Muslim gangs regularly deface Christian property.

"We are harassed, but you wouldn't know the truth. No one says anything publicly about the Muslims. This is why Christians are running away."

Meanwhile, Benedict's call for a Palestinian state would bring complete PA control over more territory in which Christians reside. Thus, his call, if implemented, may well result in even more Christian deaths, persecution and intimidation.

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