The Real Reason Palestinian Christians Are Leaving Bethlehem

The Christian population of Bethlehem has declined precipitously over the past 25 years, so much so that, once a majority, Christians now make up only 15 percent of the city’s population. Responding to claims that this decline is somehow the result of the security barrier that cordons off Bethlehem and much of the West Bank from the rest of Israel, Robert Nicholson argues that the truth is very different:

It is no coincidence that Bethlehem was mostly Christian until the 1990s. Until then, Bethlehem was ruled directly by Israel through a military administration. Although they were not full citizens of Israel, Palestinian Christians (and Muslims) could travel freely inside the country, visit the beach, and shop in Jewish neighborhoods. That all changed in the mid-1990s when Israel agreed to let the PLO rule parts of the West Bank and Gaza under . . . the Oslo Accords. . . .

The Palestinian Authority (PA) . . . is, by its own constitution, an Islamic state [based on] the principles of sharia law. Christians living under the PA are “accorded sanctity and respect,” but . . . are relegated to the status of second-class citizens. . . . Discrimination against Christians under the Palestinian Authority isn’t just legal—it’s also social. Living as a Christian, one is constantly reminded that he or she is not a member of the majority culture. . . .

I’ve spoken to numerous Palestinian Christians who describe how Muslim terrorists would commandeer Christian homes and use them to direct sniper fire at Israeli soldiers. Others speak of systematic discrimination in hiring, housing, and education. Of course, all of these conversations take place in private meetings and hushed tones. Christians in Bethlehem rarely interact with Muslims beyond the marketplace and are, in fact, very much afraid.

Read more at Providence

More about: Israel & Zionism, Middle East Christianity, Muslim-Christian relations, Palestinian Authority, West Bank

 

An American Withdrawal from Iraq Would Hand Another Victory to Iran

Since October 7, the powerful network of Iran-backed militias in Iraq have carried out 120 attacks on U.S. forces stationed in the country. In the previous year, there were dozens of such attacks. The recent escalation has led some in the U.S. to press for the withdrawal of these forces, whose stated purpose in the country is to stamp out the remnants of Islamic State and to prevent the group’s resurgence. William Roberts explains why doing so would be a mistake:

American withdrawal from Iraq would cement Iran’s influence and jeopardize our substantial investment into the stabilization of Iraq and the wider region, threatening U.S. national security. Critics of the U.S. military presence argue that [it] risks a regional escalation in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Iran. However, in the long term, the U.S. military has provided critical assistance to Iraq’s security forces while preventing the escalation of other regional conflicts, such as clashes between Turkey and Kurdish groups in northern Iraq and Syria.

Ultimately, the only path forward to preserve a democratic, pluralistic, and sovereign Iraq is through engagement with the international community, especially the United States. Resisting Iran’s takeover will require the U.S. to draw international attention to the democratic backsliding in the country and to be present and engage continuously with Iraqi civil society in military and non-military matters. Surrendering Iraq to Iran’s agents would not only squander our substantial investment in Iraq’s stability; it would greatly increase Iran’s capability to threaten American interests in the Levant through its influence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Read more at Providence

More about: Iran, Iraq, U.S. Foreign policy