Palestinian Christians, like other religious and ethnic minorities in the Middle East, are the target of mistreatment, harassment and in some instances, violent oppression at the hands of their Muslim neighbors.
Nevertheless, much of the media coverage about Palestinian Christians downplays Muslim hostility toward this community and falsely portrays Israel as the sole cause of its suffering.
The reality is Palestinian Christians cannot speak freely about the Muslim dominated environment in which they live. Their leaders often publicly condemn Israel while remaining silent about groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Occasionally, they might admit that Muslim hostility is a problem, but not very often and not very loudly.
It is safe for Palestinian Christian leaders to condemn Israel – a democracy that has a tradition of respecting religious freedom and human rights. It is not safe, however, for Palestinian Christians to condemn the misdeeds of their Islamist neighbors who regard Christians as infidels and obstacles to the creation of an Islamic state.
Journalists obviously have an obligation to dig into the underlying facts regarding the status of Christians in Palestinian areas.
This information is harder to obtain than anti-Israel comments from prominent Palestinian Christians. It is not however, impossible to get testimony about Muslim oppression of Christians in the West Bank or Gaza Strip. For example, Khaled Abu Toameh has written about mistreatment of Christians by their Muslim neighbors, a problem that has gotten worse since Bethlehem and the surrounding towns have become hotbeds for Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
In a piece published by the Gatestone Institute in 2009 (when it was then called the Hudson Institute), Toameh reported that Christians have complained about acts “of intimidation land theft by Muslims, especially those working for the Palestinian Authority.” And if that wasn't enough, “several Christian women living in these areas have complained about verbal and sexual assaults by Muslim men.” Toameh also recounts hearing stories of shakedowns by Muslim gangs. He writes:
Over the past few years, a number of Christian businessmen told me that they were forced to shut down their businesses because they could no longer afford to pay "protection" money to local Muslim gangs.
This is however, not the story that Palestinian Christian leaders tell to Westerners. Toameh reports:
Ironically, leaders of the Palestinian Christians are also to blame for the ongoing plight of their people because they refuse to see the reality as it is. And the reality is that many Christians feel insecure and intimidated because of what we Muslims are doing to them and not only because of the bad economy.
When they go on the record, these leaders always insist that Israel and the occupation are the only reason behind the plight of their constituents. They stubbornly refuse to admit that many Christians are being targeted by Muslims. By not talking openly about the problem, the Christian leaders are encouraging the perpetrators to continue their harassment and assaults against Christian families.
This is an important story that journalists should highlight.
60 Minutes Dropped the Ball
Given the time and resources available to reporters and producers at 60 Minutes, it would seem reasonable to expect that they would be able to give viewers an accurate picture.
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