Editor’s note: William J. Murray, head of the Religious Freedom Coalition, is visiting the West Bank to take aid to Palestinian Christian families, many of whom have been the victims of discrimination, harassment or worse. He is filing reports on his travels exclusively for WorldNetDaily.
THE WEST BANK – Residents under the jurisdiction of Yasser Arafat – many of whom are Christians forced to leave the area – say they are ill-served by the leader’s Palestinian Authority – an entity they see as an “outside” government imposed upon them.
Arafat did not return to the West Bank alone when he came out of exile from Tunisia in 1994. He had an entire army in Tunisia, an army that had been chased out of Lebanon by Israel in 1982. The officers of that army and the leaders of the bureaucracy he built in Tunisia became the Palestinian Authority. Virtually no local Palestinians were moved into the “new” Palestinian Authority government either before or after the “elections” of 1996.
Palestinians who stayed in the West Bank during the various conflicts with Israel are bitter about the “imposed” government. Those Palestinians don’t appreciate how the PA spends money.
One elderly Palestinian I interviewed pointed to one of the many new multistory homes on the hillside overlooking his village. “There is the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) money sent to help our children,” he said.
Hundreds of new mansions dot the West Bank in the populated areas, most on the hillsides overlooking villages. The mansions range in size from 5,000 to 10,000 square feet or more. Most have their own water purification systems and backup generators. Those still under construction are being built by Muslim contractors who hire only Muslim employees. These huge homes are being constructed at a time West Bank unemployment runs as high as 80 percent.
Most Palestinian villages have no clean water and electric power is problematic. One small hotel owner I talked with had to purchase a generator to fully power his hotel when it was full of guests because the PA was unable to provide power. He has not had to run the generator since the intifada began in September of 2000. The day I was there he had no guests in his hotel and had none for many months. He has been forced to layoff his entire staff. Yet, construction goes on at a nearby mansion for a Palestinian Authority official.
Do Palestinians want Yassar Arafat out? “He is not important anymore,” they say. However, the locals fear any replacement will come from the “outsiders” he brought with him from Tunisia.
Meanwhile, more and more Christians flee. One Palestinian Christian leader told me, “Muslims get money from the outside; Christians get nothing so they move out.” He tells me that UNESCO, other United Nations agencies and the European Union officials are aware that the little money that does trickle down from the Palestinian Authority goes only to Muslim families. The agencies do not intervene against this religious bigotry.
The village of Beit Jala outside of Jerusalem at one time had a Christian majority, but not any more. It is from Beit Jala that radical Islamic gunman fire on the Israeli community of Gilo. When the Israeli tanks return fire, it is usually a Christian home that is destroyed because the terrorist gunmen use them as shields. Damaged homes stand in ruins as construction continues on the mansions of the civil servants. The Christians are forced to leave. Hundreds of Beit Jala’s Christian families now live in Chile.
The newest Israeli occupation of the West Bank has caused more unemployment and made Arafat’s “civil servants” from Tunisia a little nervous. For the last few weeks, Arafat and his lieutenants have wired millions of dollars into personal accounts in Europe just in case the Israelis don’t withdraw and they are forced to move from their new luxurious homes in the West Bank.
Some observers believe the nation of Israel should annex Christian villages near its border and declare them autonomous zones under military protection. This would bring to a halt the persecution of Christians in these areas and encourage others to return to their homes.
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William J. Murray is chairman of the Religious Freedom Coalition, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the restoration of religious freedom in the United States as envisioned by the authors of the Constitution.