According to the official story, endorsed by local Christian religious leaders and often reported in the Western media, relations between Palestinian Christians and Muslims are good, and the reason for the Christians’ demographic decline is the Israeli “occupation.” The reality, writes Ashley Muse, is somewhat different:
Conducting research in the West Bank this past summer, I spent considerable time with Christian families around Bethlehem. One evening as I was eating dinner with a family, a mosque just outside their home broadcast verses from the hadith, [extra-Quranic Islamic teachings]. Shortly after the recitation ended, the father of my host family remarked, “They just cursed the Christians.” While they explained this did not happen every day, I was shocked to discover that Palestinian Christians, living in what used to be a Christian-majority town in the West Bank, are forced to listen to curses hurled at them from loudspeakers.
The situation for Christians is far more severe in Gaza than in the West Bank. After Hamas won a plurality in the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections, the organization used the power of the gun to take over the territory in June 2007 and imposed its radical Islamic ideology. Persecution of Christians here is masked by Hamas’s statements of goodwill toward Gaza’s small Christian population, which numbers fewer than 1,000 people. Declarations like the party’s 2017 political document prohibit religious bigotry and allow followers of other religions to “practice their beliefs in security and safety,” but these are empty sentiments and meaningless documents.
In reality, Hamas supporters and Salafi-jihadist groups like Swords of Righteousness and the Army of Islam target Gazan Christians with forced conversions, discrimination in schools, attacks on their businesses, and in some cases even martyrdom.