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Home > News & Analysis > From the Media
Christians of the Holy Land
Ben White, Al Jazeera, Apr 26, 2012

A recent report by CBS show 60 Minutes on "Christians of the Holy Land" has received a lot of attention, not least for the embarrassing contribution by Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren.

It is interesting that Israel (and its advocates) have been so concerned about the impact of a short segment regarding the challenges faced by Christian Palestinians under Israeli military occupation. In fact, Ambassador Oren himself only recently tried to exploit Christians for propaganda purposes - only to find that they objected to his cynicism.

The Israeli government has long tried to suggest that the emigration of Christian Palestinians is the result of a "jihad" being waged by "terrorists" or "fundamentalists". There are obvious advantages to this strategy, particularly its dependence on pre-existing prejudices and stereotypes in the West. But it also seeks to neutralise a potentially damaging threat: that people around the world will see Christian Palestinians leaving their historic homeland due to Israeli colonisation and occupation.

In 1948, Christian Palestinians were not spared the devastation of the Nakba, when Israel destroyed hundreds of villages, and expelled up to 90 per cent of the Palestinians who would have been inside the new state. The hundreds of thousands prevented from returning home included 35 per cent of all Christians in pre-1948 Mandate Palestine. Haifa's Christian population, for example, was reduced by 85 per cent. Some Christian Palestinians became citizens, but their land remains confiscated.

Since 1967, Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza have been subject to Israel's military occupation, and on both sides of the Green Line, Christian Palestinians face the same conditions of systematic racial discrimination as Muslims - on the basis that they're not Jews.

Israeli colonisation has fragmented and splintered the traditional Christian heartland of Bethlehem, Ramallah, and Jerusalem - home to around 80 per cent of the Occupied Territories' Christians - through land confiscation, illegal settlements, the Separation Wall, and the regime of travel "permits".

The isolation of Bethlehem has hit Palestinian Christians particularly hard, where unemployment and poverty levels remain high. The illegal Separation Wall takes in approximately 10 per cent of the Bethlehem region, or governorate, including some of the most fertile land. Overall, through a combination of Israeli policies (including 19 illegal Jewish settlements), the UN estimates that only 13 per cent of the Bethlehem region is available for Palestinian use.

To continue reading this article, please visit Al Jazeera.

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