Daniel Schwammenthal reports in the Wall Street Journal on The Forgotten Palestinian Refugees:
Meet Yussuf Khoury, a 23-year old Palestinian refugee living in the West Bank. Unlike those descendents of refugees born in United Nations camps, Mr. Khoury fled his birthplace just two years ago. And he wasn’t running away from Israelis, but from his Palestinian brethren in Gaza.
Mr. Khoury’s crime in that Hamas-ruled territory was to be a Christian, a transgression he compounded in the Islamists’ eyes by writing love poems.
“Muslims tied to Hamas tried to take me twice,” says Mr. Khoury, and he didn’t want to find out what they’d do to him if they ever kidnapped him. He hasn’t seen his family since Christmas 2007 and is afraid even to talk to them on the phone.
Speaking to a group of foreign journalists in the Bethlehem Bible College where he is studying theology, Mr. Khoury describes a life of fear in Gaza. “My sister is under a lot of pressure to wear a headscarf. People are turning more and more to Islamic fundamentalism and the situation for Christians is very difficult,” he says.
The reporter points out that the western media rarely report on the plight of Christians in Gaza and the West Bank. It doesn’t fit into their narrative of everything being Israel’s fault. And it is rare for Palestinian Christians to speak out about their situation. Most of the time they try to keep a low profile so as not to antagonize their Muslim neighbors, and deny any suffering. The article highlights this attitude:
Samir Qumsieh, the founder of what he says is the holy land’s only Christian TV station, also stresses that there is no “Christian suffering” and that the Christians’ problems are not orchestrated by the PA. Yet his stories of land theft, beatings and intimidation make one wonder why, if the PA doesn’t approve of such injustices, it is doing so little to stop it?
Christians have only recently begun to talk about how Muslim gangs simply come and take possession of Christian-owned land while the Palestinian security services, almost exclusively staffed by Muslims, stand by. Mr. Qumsieh’s own home was firebombed three years ago. The perpetrators were never caught.
“We have never suffered as we are suffering now,” Mr. Qumsieh confesses, violating his own introductory warning to the assorted foreign correspondents in his office not to use the word “suffering.”
The article is datelined Bethlehem. Christmas is a good time to point out that Bethlehem was a Christian city for almost 2,000 years, with its holy site of the Church of the Nativity, built on the site of Jesus’s birth. Mr. Qumsieh pointed out that Christians are abandoning Bethlehem (which is located in the West Bank) in droves. Sixty years ago they were about 80 percent of the population there, and now they’re down to 20 percent. Of course Muslims have no respect for Bethlehem’s status as a city important to Christians. In fact, they desecrated the Church of the Nativity without a qualm in 2002 when a group of Palestinian gunmen took it over during an Israeli action, using priests and nuns as human shields. (One account of that incident is here.)