Daoud’s critique of Christian relations in Israeli-Palestinian conflict unfounded
The letter written by Elizabeth Daoud both criticizes the Israeli government for its treatment of Palestinian Christians and chides Christians United for Israel for its support of this key democratic stronghold surrounded by autocratic governments. Her letter is filled with misstatements, and her ire seems misguided.
Most importantly, there is complete freedom of religion in Israel, including in the areas disputed under international law. She writes that Christians “are routinely prohibited from visiting one of the most holy sites ... the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.” Nothing could be further from the truth. The Church remains in control of various Christian denominations and never are any Christian pilgrims prevented from entering and worshipping there. Ironically, there have been some inner-Christian conflicts at the site (most recently: Coptic vs. Ethiopic, Orthodox vs. Catholic and Greek vs. Armenian), but none of this has to do with Israeli authorities preventing Christian visitation, attendance and worship in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. I myself have visited the Church on a number of occasions in recent years, and thus can personally testify to the guarantees of religious freedom present at this very special place.
Daoud’s comment that Palestinian Christians “were almost unable to celebrate Christmas in 2014 due to riots and street fights caused by the Israeli Police” is totally unfounded. From the news reports which I read this past winter, tens of thousands of local Christian Arabs and Christians from abroad visited both Nazareth (within Israel proper) and Bethlehem (in the West Bank), during both Christmas dates (Western and Eastern), without incident.
While I myself have expressed concern over Israel’s treatment of its Arab minority, none of the government’s actions have anything to do with the suppression of religious freedom. Contrast this with the horrors which Christians are facing in the general region wrought by their Muslim neighbors. I refer to the mass killings of Christians by the Islamic State of northern Syria and Iraq, by the Boko Haram in Nigeria and most recently by al-Shabab in Kenya. It is on these issues where Christian voices should be raised and heard –– and yet the world (Christian and otherwise) remains largely silent.
Gary Rendsburg is Distinguished Professor of Jewish Studies and History at Rutgers University.
*Editors Note: This letter was originally titled "Responding to Israeli-Palestinian criticism, unfounded accusations."