City of Brass

City of Brass


the new Exodus: Christians flee the occupation of the Holy Land

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

The narrative among Islamophobes and other partisans is that Islamic intolerance and Palestinian terrorism has forced Christians out of the Holy Land, but the reality is quite different, as reported by CBS’ 60 Minutes:

The report is only 15 minutes long and is absolutely worth watching (or reading the show script). In a nutshell, the Christian community is collateral damage from the harsh treatment of the Palestinians:

It was a powerful segment which revealed that the Christian population has diminished dramatically in recent years as Palestinians left for other countries. The exodus is not the result of Israeli policies that specifically target Christians and drive them from the place Christianity began.

It is rather the oppressive policies toward Palestinians in general — policies that do not distinguish between Palestinian Muslims and Palestinian Christians — that have caused the Christian population to drop so dramatically. (In 1967 Christians constituted 5 percent of Jerusalem’s population; today Christians constitute just 1.5 percent. Bethlehem, not long ago an overwhelmingly Christian city, is now hardly Christian at all).

None of this should be a surprise, given the incessant growth of Israeli settlements and the construction of the separation wall which, between them, have caused Palestinians of all persuasions to live literally between a rock and a hard place.

Christians, many of whom have relatives abroad, leave because they have places to go. But there is hardly a Palestinian, Christian or Muslim, who hasn’t considered getting out given the miserable conditions the occupation has inflicted on them, and the end of any hope that U.S. pressure on Israel will lead to it ending its illegal occupation of the West Bank.

The Israeli government reacted strongly to the report – in act, Israel’s Ambassador Michael Oren actually called up the president of the CBS network to complain about the report before it was even aired. Bob Simon of 60 Minutes actually incorporated an interview with Oren into the report:

For Israel, there could be serious economic consequences. According to Israeli government figures, tourism is a multi billion dollar business there. Most tourists are Christian. Many of them are American. That’s one reason why Israelis are very sensitive about their image in the United States. And that could be why Ambassador Oren phoned Jeff Fager, the head of CBS News and executive producer of 60 Minutes, while we were still reporting the story, long before tonight’s broadcast. He said he had information our story was quote: “a hatchet job.”

Michael Oren: It seemed to me outrageous. Completely incomprehensible that at a time when these communities, Christian communities throughout the Middle East are being oppressed and massacred, when churches are being burnt, when one of the great stories in history is unfolding? I think it’s– I think it’s– I think you got me a little bit mystified.

Bob Simon: And it was a reason to call the president of– chairman of CBS News?

Michael Oren: Bob, I’m the ambassador of the State of Israel. I do that very, very infrequently as ambassador. It’s just– that’s an extraordinary move for me to complain about something. When I heard that you were going to do a story about Christians in the Holy Land and my assum– and– and had, I believe, information about the nature of it, and it’s been confirmed by this interview today.

Bob Simon: Nothing’s been confirmed by the interview, Mr. Ambassador, because you don’t know what’s going to be put on air.

Michael Oren: Okay. I don’t. True.

Bob Simon: Mr. Ambassador, I’ve been doing this a long time. And I’ve received lots of reactions from just about everyone I’ve done stories about. But I’ve never gotten a reaction before from a story that hasn’t been broadcast yet.

Michael Oren: Well, there’s a first time for everything, Bob.

Yes, there indeed is – including real journalism about what the facts on the ground are about the illegal occupation in the West Bank.

Kudos to CBS News for airing this report, and standing firm in response to intimidation. The group Jewish Voices for Peace actually has a petition setup to thank CBS News and 60 Minutes, which is worth signing. The petition reads,

ANd you can add your own commentary as well. It’s at ThankYou60Minutes.org.



  • Pingback: CBS’ 60 Minutes had a fantastic segment on… « Talk Islam

  • http://www.zackvision.com/weblog/ Zack

    Has Christian emigration increased recently? My impression was that Christians from that region were emigrating to the West for better part of a century.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment nnmns

    Thanks for bringing this up. They say the truth will out, but in mainstream American media climate it may take a century.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment menda

    The Christian flight from Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq etc is not as a result of any Israeli policy or action. Christians are fleeing because of the dhimmitude practiced on them by Muslims in those countries. It is annoying that Muslims in the West who escaped to take advantage of the freedom offered do not think that the Christians deserve that same freedom. Christians are objects for target practice, insults are heaped on them,their places of worship are desecrated and their saints spat on with impunity. It is estimated that since than ‘Arab Spring’ more than 200,000 Egyptian Coptic Christians have been forced to flee their ancestral homes. The muslim will always blame others for what happens but can never find faults in his heinous crimes. If his fault is pointed out to him, the muslim will call it ‘bigotry’, ‘racism’,’islamophobia’etc. The muslim presence in the West is to the peril of those countries. No mistake is greater than letting a muslim have a foothold anywhere. By the way, I am black and an African who has lived with the muslims all my life. So I know what I am talking about.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment H. (Bart) Vincelette

    Part of the problem may well be the fact that there are Muslims around the world; meaning that there are varying cultural practices; many of which are simply abhorrent to westerners. When we hear of endeavors by Muslim groups like Boko Haram, & the different insurgent groups to eliminate Christians from differing areas, along with the daily reports of sectarian violence in the middle east;it’s hard not to generally view Islam as constantly angry & agitated over errors by allies or the punishing of girls seeking an education with acid in the face, or the perennial statements that Israel must cease to exist, with every Jew pushed into the Mediterranean, one wonders how peaceful Islam can be. Probably the worst is the post 9/11 viewpoint that the war on terrorism is not a war against Islam.While terribly mishandled by the Bush administration; the reality is that we are ‘there’ in direct response to the murders of September 11.(When the WTC towers were attacked, people from at least 38 different countries were killed.)It is an unfortunate fact that when the British, for example; hear radicals in London declare that eventually even the queen will bow down & pay the protection tax to Muslims, it creates a mindset that will resonate for generations. I’m not a religious person, & the west is not Christian. The west developed a system of liberty, equality, & diversity, to give everyone the opportunity for self determination.Is it perfection? No, of course not. But it offers respect, civil rights, & acknowledges human dignity, amid freedom of religion. Many parts of Islam; culturally & geographically; must change radically, to fit the definition of civilized.The Arab Spring may be the beginning of such change. From strictly a personal point of view, there has to be something terribly lacking in societies that have seemingly endless supplies of suicide bombers with no apparent hope for s future of excitement, prosperity, & self determination.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Samir S. Halabi

    Christian Girls in Gaza have been abducted from their families to be converted to Islam by force and then to be married off to Muslims.
    That is how Christians are treated in the world of Islam. Young Jewish girls from the handful of Jews still living in the Yemen have also been abducted by Muslims and forced to covert to Islam then married off to old decrepit Chieftains.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Samir S. Halabi

    You can be sure of one thing and that is revenge will take place on those Arabs for how they treated the Jewish communities of the Arab lands which almost numbered 1,000,000 in 1948. The Jewish refugees including my own family were made homeless stateless moneyless refugees out numbering the Arab refugees from post Palestine by several hundreds of thousands. The land we the Jews of the Arab world owned was 5 times the size of the whole of Israel today. Those Arab cowards in losing the 1948 war with the fledgling state of Israel, took their frustration and revenge out on us the defenceless Jews of the Arab world. Like the Christians we were a Dhimmi people, now the Jews have a state of their own and are masters of their own destiny to the chagrin of the Arab and Islamic world. As for those old decrepit chieftains who violated those young Jewish girls together with their willing men who abducted those girls from their loving parents, I would like to see that their balls will be cut off.

  • Eileen

    Disappointed the real facts have not been presented in this article.

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