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Fatah leader appeals to Palestinian Christians: Don't emigrate

In Christmas celebration hosted by the Fatah movement, Mohammad Shtayyeh, a Fatah central committee member, appealed to Christian Palestinians to remain in their land, and to call on their sons and daughters who have emigrated to return to Palestine. Shtayyeh quoted Jesus’ words from the Gospel of Matthew, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?”.According to a Maan News Agency report (Arabic),  Shtayyeh told the Christian attendees that no one is more worthy of this land than the Christian Palestinians.

Christian emigration from Palestinian cities has been a source of concern about the future presence of Christians in the Holy Land.

According to Maan News, Shtayyeh also expressed concern about land confiscation in Beit Sahour, a Christian town near Bethlehem. He sent a warning message to Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu that if he doesn’t recognize the difference between Abu Ghoneim (the site of a Jewish settlement north of Beith Sahour) and Tel Aviv, then the Palestinians will not recognize the difference between Ramallah and Jaffa.

Shtayyeh had been one of the most outspoken Palestinian leaders about the possibility of strategy shift in the Palestinian leadership’s approach to the Israeli Palestinian conflict. Last November Shtayyeh warned that the Palestinian leadership is considering downgrading the Palestinian Authority if no progress is made on establishing the Palestinian state.

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    1. Almost every week another Christian family leaves Bethlehem. I was talking to my landlady about it in the summer, and she told me that the only reason why she remains is that members of her extended family have told her, “If you go, we’ll go too.” She doesn’t want to be responsible for the departure of four dozen people from Bethlehem, knowing that her departure would have a domino effect.
      They are being crushed. It is painful to watch. Sometimes, listening to my landlady talk with visiting neighbours, I’m reminded of trapped birds flitting desperately round a cage and bashing themselves against the bars. The other night a stranger who appears to be a staunch Zionist (StandWithUs supporter, etc.) sent me a link about the emigration rate of Christians from the Holy Land, insinuating that it was Palestinian Muslims at fault. I very rarely get as furious as I felt then. I remember my landlady standing there with the tears prickling in her eyes saying, “I want to die, I want to die, but who would take care of my children without me?” as she talked about the terrible financial pressures she and her family are under as a direct result of that wall. People go away because they can get a much better life abroad, and they feel they owe it to their children. My landlady is often in turmoil over this: is she sacrificing her children’s opportunities for the sake of principle? Should she go?
      I can’t imagine Bethlehem without her in it. I think the only way people will stay is if there is a new strong wave of commitment to the resistance, but just now there is too much fear in the community for that. Recently a teenaged Christian neighbour suggested to his grandmother that we get together the residents of Rachel’s Tomb neighbourhood and just storm the checkpoint. Demand to go through, and if the soldiers didn’t let us move, climb over turnstiles and run. They might shoot some of us, but they could hardly shoot us all. His grandmother looked as if she were going to faint at the idea, and said, “But they might never let us have permits again.”

      Reply to Comment
    2. Richard Witty

      I know what you mean, but the headline should be “Don’t emigrate”, not “don’t immigrate”.

      “Don’t immigrate” would mean, ‘don’t come here’. What is meant is ‘don’t leave’.

      Reply to Comment
    3. bethlehem volunteer

      @vicky – I just want to second everything you’ve just said. Working in the region now, and especially being here during christmas-time, I’m constantly reminded of how much Christian Palestinians give up every single day in order to continue living here, even under conditions of occupation.

      A side note – thanks in part to the many excellent parochial schools in Bethlehem/Jerusalem (Les Freres, Talti Kumi, etc.), Christian Palestinians often benefit from a world-class education that empowers them to seek employment all over the world if they wish. They choose to stay because Palestine is their homeland. But, if things continue as they are, it should come as no surprise if more and more Christian Palestinians continue emigrating elsewhere. And, in truth, if it were me, I’m not sure I wouldn’t do the same thing — Christian Palestinians, like all Palestinians and like most of us on this forum, desperately want to be able to nurture and support their families and loved ones. Needless to say, life under occupation makes this exceedingly difficult…

      Reply to Comment
    4. Aziz Abu Sarah

      Chanel 2 report is a slobby journalism and misleading. If this is the kind of reporting Israeli television has, then no wonder Israelis are afraid from Paletinians. I am amazed how they took Shtayyeh’s quote out of context (There is no reason to differenciate between Ramallah and Jaffa) and ignored the first part of it (IF Netanyahu doesn’t differenciate between Abu Goneim settlment and Tel Aviv, …. ) .

      Journalists can report news or just create the news they prefer

      Reply to Comment
    5. annie

      thanks for the report Aziz


      Reply to Comment
    6. Volodinjev

      @bethlehem volunteer “Needless to say, life under occupation makes this exceedingly difficult…”

      Life under Islamic rule, even more.

      Reply to Comment
    7. @volodinjev
      This is a terrible argument to use. So, if Islamic rule is worse then Christian Palestinians should be content with their land by confiscated by Israel to build settlments? I guess they should also rejoice and celebrate the lack of freedom of movement and that they cannot go to visit/pray in Jerusalem (because they are Palestinians). Below is an excerpt taken from an article I wrote a while back… It might put things into a different prospective for you

      “In a dialogue meeting I attended five years ago between Israelis and Palestinians, a similar comment was made by an Israeli who bragged about Israel’s “wonderful” treatment of the Arabs. We allow them to have Knesset members, they can vote, they have health care and more money than the Arabs in the neighboring countries. They are better off than their Arab brethren in the Middle East, and therefore should not complain. In the same dialogue meeting there was an American Jew who grew up in America at the time of the Second World War. He reminded the Israeli defender of Israel of a similar comparison that was made about 65 years ago.

      He told us that in the Second World War era, Blacks, Jews and other minorities were treated as second-class citizens in America. You couldn’t get a good job if you were a Jew. He told us about sending dozens of resumes to big companies and being rejected merely because he was a Jew. The argument some used back then was that America was the best place for Jews to live in. Don’t complain, they were told, Look at what Europe does to the Jews. Jews are way better off in America than in Germany or Poland. It was true. It was much better to live in America than to live in Germany in those days. However that didn’t justify the mistreatment of Jews in America. Jews in America didn’t want to be treated a little better, but fought hard to be treated with dignity and respect and enjoy their full rights.”


      Reply to Comment
    8. Volodinjev

      @Aziz Abu Sarah:

      It means you should clean your own house first, and give up on binational fantasies.

      Full rights for Palestinians in the Palestinian state, full rights for Jews in the Jewish state, all enclaves of one nation in the other’s states dissolved. That’s the only formula for stopping further bloodshed and bringing peace to the region.

      Comparisons to 1920s America and pre-1994 South Africa are counterproductive. They serve only to perpetuate the flame of hatred and to further the fantasy of a binational one-state solution, as dangerous a pipe-dream as Yugsolavia proved to be. You can choose the warmongering goal of eradicating Zionism or you can choose the prospect of peace through a strict two-state solution. Those are the only options.

      Reply to Comment
    9. @volodinjev
      Clean my house?
      Ramallah, the most important Palestinian city at the moment has a Christian female mayor. Bethlehem, Beit Jala, Beit Sahor, Zababdeh…etc all have Christian mayors. Every Palestinian government had Christian ministers. So, what are you exactly talking about??? Compare this data to how influential are Christians in Israeli politics.

      It is appropriate on Christmas to quote Jesus “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”

      2- I never talked about South Africa so don’t try to put words in my mouth that I haven’t said.

      3- I am also not talking about bi national or two-state here. I am talking about basic human rights which I hope you think every human deserves regardless of their religion or ethnicity.

      4- It is Israel that is confiscating land in the West Bank to build or enlarge settlements. This is what’s killing the two-state solution, so why don’t you direct your comments to Prime Minister Netanyahu ???

      Reply to Comment
    10. Deborah

      Amen Aziz Abu Sarah. Amen. I have a Palestinian family in Ramallah who hosts me when I travel there for research purposes. They are Christian and have been in Ramallah for centuries. Having spent a lot of time with their Christian friends and neighbors, I can safely say that by far the bitterest Palestinian voices are not those of Palestinians Muslims but of Christians, and their bitterness is not directed or derived from their interactions with Muslims or Hamas’s electoral victories, etc. It is felt toward Israel and especially the US, since the latter’s politicians often represent themselves as “Christians.” It makes no sense to them that politicians who parade around as Christians and go on and on about Christianity and being Christian take no responsibility for their own bigotry against Palestinians, including Palestinian Christians by speaking for them and claiming they’re being forced out by Islamic fundamentlism. They find Christian Zionists incomprehensibly bizarre.

      Reply to Comment