Response of Former Minister Bassim Khoury to the Deputy Council General of Israel to Florida and Puerto Rico, Mr. Paul Hirschson’s article: “Christians marginalized across the Middle East”
I thank Mr. Hirschson for bringing up an issue of great importance facing Middle East societies, namely the loss of diversity and rise of a mono culture. However, while the topic is correct, he has his facts wrong.
I am a Palestinian, and as my name clearly indicates, I am Christian. I am a descendant of an orthothox priest. My great grandfather Khalil, was one of the largest land owners in the area. He built our family church in Mujeidal, 4 kilometers to the West of Nazareth in the Galilee in the Late 1800’s. This flourishing period continued up to the 1930’s where we managed to have an extremely vibrant life economically, culturally and politically. Though we Christians were the minority, we owned the Olive Press and the Flour Mill, and the water springs flowed in our fertile land, thus, in effect controlled the economic life line of the region.
In 1948, the village was destroyed and we were made landless refugees. Although our family was living in nearby Nazareth which became part of Israel, laws of Israel, “the Liberal Democracy” as Mr. Hirschson described it, classified and still classify us as “absentees” in our ancestral homeland. Thus Israel confiscated the land, the flour mill and the olive press, and our church was transferred into a cow shed. The numerous efforts that spanned over 50 years to restore it failed. It was only recently and after a protracted legal battle that we managed to restore it as a place of worship.
To protect us against the repeated attacks of the wrong wing extremist, we were given permission to build a wall around the church. However, the municipality demanded the wall to be 10-12 feet high to insure “the church is not visible from the street” as it’s “sight might disturb some”. Additionally, we were barred from ringing church bells and from constructing toilets to serve the worshippers. Using a bathroom still depends on the goodwill and the schedule of the neighbors. Mr. Hirschson I have news for you; this is not happening in Sudan, this is happening in your “liberal democracy”, Israel.
I live in Jerusalem. We Jerusalemites claim that the treatment of both Christians and Moslems by Israel is a crime and the silence of the world particularly the West is a shame. Allow me to highlight the fate of the Christians in the Holy Land: The ethnic cleansing of the Christians started in 1948. We lost all major population centers where we constituted a majority or a substantial minority. Jaffa, Haifa, Lod, Ramla, Acre, Nazareth and Jerusalem are examples.
I remind Mr. Hirschson that the overwhelming majority of those who lost their homes in Bakaa’, Talibiyyeh, Qtamon and other districts that became Israeli West Jerusalem were Christians. The fact is that Israel made the Christians of Jerusalem refugees who were forced to move to the predominately Moslem East Jerusalem, and neighboring Arab countries. Refugees from the West will always be grateful for the treatment received by the East Jerusalemites. Our properties in the West still stand today as a testament to these crimes, thus I invite Mr. Hirschson and others who are genuinely interested in our fate to come on a fact finding mission so that they can see for themselves.
The most ludicrous is your claim of the 1980’s graffiti: “After the Saturday People, the Sunday people”. I lived through both Intifadas and I have documented in pictures a big proportion of the graffiti. It is important to remind you and the readers that the graffiti in the first Intifada was a major source of information and guidance and political parties used it to make political statements. Realizing the importance of graffiti, the Israeli intelligence services, also used it to instill divisions in Palestine through their massive network of informants.
We, Christians believe that the Golden Era of Palestinian resistance to occupation and of Christian-Moslem relationship was during the first Intifada. At any rate, and since what is not documented is a lie or at best a rumor, I challenge Mr. Hirschson to show me the documentations of such graffiti and I remind him that repeating a lie several times does not make it a truth.
The essence of our struggle is a national and not a religious one. You have it all wrong. It is not the “Friday” fighting the “Saturday first” in order to fight the “Sunday” later. What happened and still is happening, the “Saturday” is squeezing out the “Sunday” so that Palestinian Society will be 100% Moslem, and thus it becomes easier to portray it as “extremists and anti-Western”.
I am particularly grateful for Mr. Hirschson call for the involvement of The UN Human Right Council. The fate of minorities, Christians and others, in the Middle East warrants an investigation. I believe this is extremely important as it will settle once and for all claims and counterclaims of abuse. However, to be fair and comprehensive, such an investigation should cover all Middle East countries including Israel. Mr. Hirschson, I hope this time you will not “cry foul” as you always do when the report documents and condemns Israeli abuses.
Since Mr. Hirschson is so concerned about the Christians, then we challenge him and other “people of conscience” in Israel and in the world to rectify the injustice that took place decades ago. A law should be enacted giving us rights to all our properties, confiscated by Israel. Jews and other victims waited for decades to be compensated for the Nazi’s atrocities. It is high time that we are compensated too. Mr. Hirschson, I challenge you to put your money where your mouth is.