Occupation, not Palestinians’ faith, is the problem

daoud kuttab
Daoud Kuttab is an award-winning Palestinian journalist and director-general of Community Media Network in Amman.(Photo: Jordan News)
Every Christmas season is full of articles lamenting the shrinking number of Palestinian Christians. While it is true that the number of Palestinian Christians once reaching 30 percent of the Palestinian population has dwindled to 1-2 percent of the population living in the occupied territories, the problem they face is not due to their religious faith, but to their nationality.اضافة اعلان

Most writers may not say it directly, but there is often a hidden message: that Palestinian Christians are emigrating because they are discriminated against by fellow Palestinians. Nothing can be farther from the truth.

Palestinians, whether Muslims or Christians, face a difficult time. They have to cross checkpoints every day to go to work, to the hospital, to a mosque or a church. They may not be able to go to work, hospital or their houses of worship because they happen to live in Ramallah or Bethlehem or, God forbid, Gaza Strip. If those living in the occupied territories wish to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, they need an Israeli army-issued permit. A long procedure is required to obtain the coveted permit, and if you were once arrested or detained, as more than one million Palestinians have since 1967, it is unlikely that you will be given this permit.

Regarding the economic situation, the minimum wage in Israel is over $1,000. Many Palestinians living in the occupied territories need three months to make just the minimum wage in Israel. And the problem is not the making of the Palestinians. In its regular reports, the World Bank says clearly that the problem of the Palestinian economy is exclusively caused by Israel and its restrictive occupation. It is so difficult for people and goods to move that many have no choice but to depend on Israel for their important goods. This makes the occupied territories a cash cow for Israel and its businesses.

While small in numbers, Palestinian Christians are represented in large percentages in all political bodies. The Palestinian Legislative Council has a quota four times larger than the actual size of the Palestinian Christian community. A Palestinian municipal law stipulated that traditionally, Palestinian Christian cities like Bethlehem, Beit Jala, Beit Sahour and Ramallah must have a Palestinian Christian mayor. Palestinian Christians run major universities, such as Bir Zeit, Bethlehem, Dar al Kalima, and other institutions.

The presence of Palestinian Christians in charitable societies and organizations is also remarkable. Hospitals such as Augusta Victoria, Holy Family Hospital, Al Ahli hospital in Nablus and Gaza, the French Hospital in Jerusalem, and others are among the many health intuitions that are run and managed by Palestinian Christians.

Palestinian Christians are also at the forefront of the fight to debunk Christian Zionism and its distorted interpretations of the Bible that justify occupation and Israeli rule over Palestinians. Important efforts such as Christ at the Checkpoint, organized by the Bethlehem Bible College, Kairos Palestine, and As Sabeel Christian Liberation Theology center are but a few think tanks that are actively providing well-thought arguments and publications refuting those distortions and properly explaining the Bible’s call for peace and justice.

The current situation in Palestine is unacceptable. Occupation and colonial settlements cannot and should not be tolerated in this 21st century. The absence of a political horizon for all Palestinians drives them to emigrate and leads to frustration. The world community must not allow the Israeli government to continue to ignore the calls for an end to occupation and illegal settlements.

Palestinian Christians, like their Muslim brothers, are clinging to their land even though their numbers are dwindling. The way to stem emigration, anger and frustration is to address the root cause of the problem, which is the occupation.

In the season of peace and goodwill, we need to support all Palestinians to stay on their land and simultaneously press Israel to end its occupation and colonial designs for Palestinian territories. It is not just Palestinian Christians who face problems in Palestine; all Palestinians do, and only putting an end to the Israeli occupation will solve them.

Peace on Earth and goodwill to all require justice and human rights for all.

The writer is an award-winning Palestinian journalist and director-general of Community Media Network in Amman. Follow him on twitter @daoudkuttab

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