The once vibrant Christian communities of Bethlehem and Nazareth, with roots in the “land of Jesus” going back to first century Israel, are rapidly declining in the face of a systematic campaign of persecution conducted by the same Muslim terrorists intent on driving the Jews into the sea.
Beatings, sham legal proceedings, property seizures, dismissal and replacement of elected Christian leaders, accusations of selling property to Jews and intimidation by gunmen with links to the government of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas have so reduced Christian populations in the cities of Jesus’ birth and boyhood one community leader predicts all Christians will be gone within 15 years.
In “Schmoozing with Terrorists: From Hollywood to the Holy Land Jihadists Reveal their Global Plans – to a Jew!” author and WND Jerusalem bureau chief Aaron Klein chronicles his meetings and interviews with leaders of terror groups and Islamist organizations long accused of intimidation and violence against Mideast Christians.
‘No more Christians in Bethlehem’
For part of one chapter, Klein travels to Bethlehem to meet with the city’s Christians and with its terrorist leaders.
Bethlehem consisted of upwards of 80 percent Christians when Israel was founded in 1948, but since the Palestinian Authority took over in 1995 the Christian population has declined to about 23 percent with a large majority of Muslims. The 23 percent Christian statistic is considered generous since it includes the satellite towns of Beit Sahour and Beit Jala. Some estimates place Bethlehem’s actual Christian population as low as 12 percent, with hundreds of Christians emigrating per year.
In “Schmoozing,” Klein first talks with Bethlehem-area Christian leaders and residents, most of whom spoke on condition of anonymity, who said they face an atmosphere of regular hostility and intimidation by Muslims. They said Palestinian armed groups stir tension by holding militant demonstrations and marches in the streets. They spokes of instances in which Christian shopkeepers’ stores were recently ransacked and Christian homes attacked.
The Christian leaders said one of the most significant problems facing Christians in Bethlehem is the rampant confiscation of land by Muslim gangs.
“There are many cases where Christians have their land stolen by the [Muslim] mafia,” said Samir Qumsiyeh, a Bethlehem Christian leader and owner of the Beit Sahour-based private Al-Mahd (Nativity) TV station.
Qumsiyeh was one of the few Christians who spoke openly in “Schmoozing.”
“It is a regular phenomenon in Bethlehem. They go to a poor Christian person with a forged power of attorney document, then they say we have papers proving you’re living on our land. If you confront them, many times the Christian is beaten. You can’t do anything about it. The Christian loses and he runs away,” Qumsiyeh said.
One Christian Bethlehem resident told Klein her friend recently fled Bethlehem after being accused by Muslims of selling property to Jews, a crime punishable by death in some Palestinian cities. The resident said a good deal of the intimidation comes from gunmen associated with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah organization.
A February Jerusalem Post article cited the case of Faud and Georgette Lama, Christian residents of Bethlehem who said their land was stolen by local Muslims and when they tried to do something about it, Faud was beaten by gunmen.
Klein with the senior Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades leadership of Bethlehem
Klein confronted those gunmen, including Abu Philestine, the Bethlehem chief of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Fatah’s so-called “military wing,” and Eiman Abu Eita, Fatah’s main representative in the Bethlehem satellite town of Beit Sahour. Abu Eita previously served as Brigades chief in Beit Sahour.
On the day of Klein’s meeting with Abu Philestine, Raad Abiat, a senior Brigades terrorists in Bethlehem, was killed by the Israeli Defense Forces after he shot at troops during an anti-terror raid. Klein and national radio host Rusty Humphries were slated to meet Abiat that day.
After Abiat was killed, several news media outlets reported Bethlehem’s Christians, in solidarity with the Brigades, closed down all schools, shops and institutions and declared a day of mourning and of anger toward Israel.
“Actually, what really happened was the Brigades and other Palestinian law enforcers went up and down the streets and demanded all the Christian stores, restaurants, and schools close. Intimidating terrorists with guns ensured Christian institutions complied,” writes Klein in “Schmoozing.”
Klein asked Bethlehem Brigades chief Abu Philestine about the practice of enforcing Muslim closures.
“We have our rules in Bethlehem and one of them is shops must be closed if one of our heroes is killed by the Zionists. We don’t enforce anything. All the people here are on our side,” Abu Philestine claimed.
The terrorists claimed it was Israel that drove out Bethlehem’s Christians by building a “wall” in 2002 that “encircles” the city.
But Israel did not build a wall that encircles Bethlehem. It built a fence only where the Bethlehem area interfaces with Jerusalem. A tiny segment of the barrier facing a major Israeli roadway is a concrete wall, which Israel says is meant to prevent gunmen from shooting at Israeli motorists. The barrier was built after repeated terror attacks launched from Bethlehem.
The vast majority of Bethlehem’s Christian emigration occurred between 1995 and 2001, before Israel’s barrier was constructed.
Israel controlled Bethlehem until 1995, when it signed the territory over to the PA as part of the 1993 Oslo Accords. Reports of Christian intimidation by Muslims immediately began to surface after the PA gained control.
Then-PA President Yasser Arafat unilaterally fired the city’s Christian politicians and replaced them with Muslims. He appointed a Muslim governor, Muhammed Rashad A-Jabar, and deposed of Bethlehem’s city council, which had nine Christians and two Muslims, reducing the number of Christians councilors to a 50-50 split.
Arafat also converted a Greek Orthodox monastery next to the Church of Nativity into his official Bethlehem residence. The Nativity church is believed by Christians to be the birthplace of Jesus.
Klein dining with Eiman Abu Atta, the chief of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in Bethlehem-satellite town of Beit Sahour
Fatah’s Eiman Abu Eita, confronted by Klein, claimed Bethlehem’s Christians were making up stories about persecution.
“Most of those Christians who left Bethlehem gave the impression of persecution just as an excuse to justify why they left Bethlehem,” he said.
But Qumsiyeh and other Christian leaders said if current trends in Bethlehem continue, there may be no Christians left in the city in 15 years. He said he appealed to U.S. Christian leaders to help initiate housing projects and find ways to fortify and strengthen Bethlehem’s Christian population, but that little assistance was offered.
“The way things are, soon there will not be a single Christian living in the land of Jesus,” he said.
Muslims shout at Jesus’ home: ‘Islam will dominate the world’
In “Schmoozing,” Klein bring readers to a large militant march by Islamist groups down the main streets of Nazareth, highlighting for some there the plight of Christians in the ancient city where Muslims have become a majority and members of the dwindling Christian population say they suffer regular intimidation.
Nazareth, considered one of the holiest cities for Christians, is described in the New Testament as the childhood home of Jesus. It contains multiple important shrines and churches, including the famous Church of the Basilica of the Annunciation, the site at which many Christians believe the Virgin Mary was visited by the Archangel Gabriel and told that she had been selected as the mother of Jesus.
Muslims march through Nazareth, Israel, Sunday, Dec. 31, 2006 (WND photo)
The Islamic Movement, the main Muslim political party in Nazareth, held the January 2007 rally down Nazareth’s main thoroughfare brandishing their party’s green flag. Young Muslim men in battle gear marched and beat drums as a man on loudspeaker repeatedly exclaimed in Arabic, “Allah is great.”
Hundreds of activists strutted screaming Islamist epithets, including “Islam is the only truth” and “Islam shall rule all.”
In “Schmoozing” Klein interviews Christians who, like Bethlehem’s Christians, speak of attacks against Christian-owned shops and told stories of Christian women being raped by Muslim men. They noted several instances of interreligious violence and Muslim riots they said began when Muslims attacked Christian worshipers. The Muslims claimed Christians started the violence.
Also Muslims hold weekly loud prayer services outside the Church of the Annunciation at a site local Muslims want to build a massive mosque many local Christians charge is meant to overshadow the church.
Israeli security officials say the majority of anti-Christian violence in Nazareth goes unreported because local Christians are too afraid to report crimes.
One Christian resident said violence and intimidation tend to increase around the time of local elections. The Islamic parties, once in the minority, are now one seat away from dominating Nazareth’s city council.
“During the last elections, Muslims on the streets were openly threatening the Christians. They tried to stop some of the Christian cars from voting,” stated Saleem, a Christian Nazareth resident.
In October 2000, the Arab Christian mayor of Nazareth, Ramiz Jaraisy, was reportedly beaten by members of the opposing Islamist party.
Nazareth’s Christian population, at times the majority during the city’s long history, is now at about 37 percent, according to the Israeli Bureau of Statistics, which notes a regular downward trend.
Klein with Ahmed Zohbi, Nazareth’s Islamic Movement leader
Regarding the alleged persecution, Klein confronts Nazareth’s Muslim leaders, including Ahmed Zohbi, a member of Nazareth’s municipal council and the leader of an umbrella group consisting of the city’s Islamic parties.
In the same chapter, Klein brings readers into the heart of the underreported story of Christian persecution in the Middle East, talking to the antagonists and victims of other conflict locations, including:
- Syria, where all religious groups must register with the government and obtain government permits to hold any meeting other than pre-approved worship services. The Syrian government reportedly has attempted to control places of worship, monitoring sermons and services.
- where there have been reports of Christians being intimidated, abducted, and held for ransom by Muslims, even under U.S. occupation. Churches have been bombed, Christian businesses shut down. In 2005 alone, thirty thousand Christians fled Iraq, according to survey information.
- The U.S.-backed Iraqi government’s constitution establishes Islam as the official state religion and allows for the appointment to Iraq’s highest court judges whose only expertise are in Islamic sharia law.
- Iran, where Islamic law is imposed and the government is accused of regularly harassing Christian institutions; its “Ministry of Islamic Guidance” is charged with monitoring all non-Muslim religions’ organizations. The printing of Christian literature, including church newsletters, is strictly forbidden. Muslims who convert to Christianity are subject to the death penalty.
- Egypt, where the Christian Copts of Egypt are regularly singled out and targeted. Restrictions are imposed on rebuilding or repairing churches. Egypt has effectively banned Christians from senior government, military or educational positions; its state-run media spews vicious anti-Christian and anti-Semitic propaganda.
The issue of Christian persecution in the Middle East is just one topic broached in Klein’s “Schmoozing with Terorrists.”
Among the highlights of “Schmoozing with Terrorists:”
- Madonna and Britney Spears stoned to death? What life in the U.S. would be like if the terrorists win.
- Jihadists list their U.S. election favorites, mouth off about politicians and even threaten to kill one 2008 presidential candidate.
- Klein and friends confront well-armed senior terrorists about whether suicide bombers really get 72 virgins after their deadly operation.
- A shocking expose on how YOUR tax dollars fund terrorism!
- Bibles used as toilet paper, synagogues as rocket launching zones? Meet the leaders of the most notorious holy site desecrations in history.
- The under-reported story of Christian persecution in the Middle East as told by the antagonists and victims.
- Terrorists offer tips on how to win the war on terror!
Why schmooze with the professed enemies of Western civilization?
States Klein: “In the midst of America’s war on terror, in the midst of our grand showdown with Islamofascism, with our boys and girls deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan and around the world to defend liberty, it is crucial for all of us to understand the adversary we are up against and how some of our policies and personalities are emboldening the terrorists to think they are winning.”
Klein explains he believes America is in trouble. While the U.S. has made enormous advances in the war on terror the past few years, it is encouraging terrorists to attack, and people don’t even know it, he professes.
“If the American approach to identifying, understanding, and dealing with terrorism is not re-examined in the very near future, if we don’t immediately begin to understand how the terrorists think and respond to our policies, we face a devastating reality, with global jihad beating down our doorstep before we even realize what happened,” states Klein.
To interview Aaron Klein, contact M. Sliwa Public Relations by e-mail, or call 973-272-2861 or 212-202-4453.
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