The Palestinian Quagmire

November 1st, 2007
by Thomas Tomczyk

[private] v5-11-My VoiceThe blanket term “I support Palestinians” tells more of someone’s opposition to Israel, or in general to Jewish interests, than of their understanding of Palestinian reality.

Palestinians are so divided and antagonized religiously, politically and geographically, that if you plainly support Palestinians, you support all of the warring factions and in reality no one at all. I support the Christian Palestinians and their interests that lie in the prosperity of Israel.

The situation is extremely complex. The region’s dozens of religious and a few ethnic groups have been at different levels of conflict for millennia. Peace has never existed in the Middle East, just ceasefires. To expect anything else is unrealistic.

If you have any doubt that the Palestinian community is divided you just have to look at the Palestinian Druze, a religious group derived from Islam and considered by Muslims as a heretic sect. The Palestinian Druze have associated their interest and survival with Israel. They all hold Israeli passports, serve in the Israeli Army and have fought in all Israeli wars.

Also the Palestinian Christians’ interests are far removed from Muslim Palestinians. “We don’t belong here, but we are surrounded [by Muslims],” a Christian Palestinian in Jerusalem told me. Fear has engulfed the shrinking Christian communities in Bethlehem and Gaza. After the 2005 Israeli pull-out, Gaza’s Christians have been increasingly victimized by their Palestinian Muslim compatriots. In 2007 churches and Catholic schools were looted, several Christian businessmen killed and unveiled Christian women assaulted. “Then they destroyed almost everything inside, including the Cross, the Holy Book,” said Jerusalem Post Father Manuel Musalam. The Christian community expressed interest in leaving Gaza where Christians have lived for 2000 years.

The situation of Palestinian Christians in Palestine has been deteriorating rapidly since 1948. Amongst the 1.5 million Palestinian refugees in camps scattered in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Gaza and West Bank there are no Christians. They have left for the West–US, Europe even Honduras–and have integrated into these societies’ fabric.

Places like Bethlehem, Nazareth, and Jerusalem’s Christian Quarter, which used to be strongholds and symbols of Christianity in the Holy Land, are becoming overwhelmed by exploding birthrates of Muslim families. A Muslim woman with 10-12 children is seen as a “long deployment weapon” in the battle for control of the region. It is likely that “baby-factories,” not katiusha rockets will tip the scales of who will control the heart of the Middle East.

I asked a Palestinian Christian who was born in Jerusalem where he’d rather end up: in Palestine or Israel. “I don’t think it [division of Jerusalem] will happen, but if it did, we want to be in Israel. We [Christians] are safer here,” the 40-year-old Greek Orthodox told me.

Fear and messianic fervor are two of the most visible emotions that drive the Middle East. Visiting the Holy Land one cannot help but wonder at the inevitability of prophesies. If everyone believes something will happen, there is no way for this not to happen. How can you argue any different. The Muslims believe their Al-Aqsa mosque will be destroyed; Jews believe that they will rebuild a temple there. Red heifers are bred to perfection in preparation for the temple sacrifice; menorahs and plans for the temple are readied. Cemeteries facing the Mount of Olives have no room as people believe that is where the last judgment will take place. Armageddon, a plateau south of Nazareth, is waiting for the battle to end all battles.

The stage is set and the audience is waiting; the roles have yet to be filled. [/private]

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