How Yasir Arafat Drove Christians from Bethlehem

With Christians in the Middle East, China, and elsewhere suffering from severe persecution, one might think the Western media would have used last week to call attention to their plight. Instead, some journalists engaged in what has become a tradition of Yuletide Israel-bashing. David M. Weinberg writes:

[T]he Western media annually devote considerable Christmas ink, and many Christian NGOs dedicate their Christmas appeals, to purveying the false impression that Christians are under assault by Israelis. And worse still, that Jews are [metaphorically] crucifying Christians smack in the heart of Bethlehem.

These screeds demonize Israel and seek to cover up the real reason for Christian decline in Bethlehem: the Palestinian Authority and radical Islam. It started with Yasir Arafat. Arriving from Tunis [in 1994], Arafat immediately set out to suppress the Palestinian middle class across the West Bank, which he understood could be the only real opposition to his planned dictatorial authority. He nationalized most business sectors and squeezed Palestinian small businessmen out of business. Especially hard hit were middle-class businessmen of Bethlehem, mainly Christian.

Arafat then sidelined the long-time Christian mayor of Bethlehem, Elias Freij, and Arafat’s henchmen led a campaign of terror and intimidation against Christian institutions and families in the city. Land theft, beatings, and intimidation of Christians in Bethlehem by PA security services and other gangs became routine. Forced marriages between Christian women and Muslim men were reported. In 2002, Arafat’s terrorists even took over and defiled the Church of the Nativity for 39 days, holding 200 priests as hostage as the terrorists sought to escape Israeli justice.

The result was an inexorable and ongoing Christian exodus from Bethlehem.

Read more at David M. Weinberg

More about: Media, Middle East Christianity, Palestinian Authority, Yasir Arafat

Why Egypt Fears an Israeli Victory in Gaza

While the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has never been friendly to Hamas, his government has objected strenuously to the Israeli campaign in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip. Haisam Hassanein explains why:

Cairo has long been playing a double game, holding Hamas terrorists near while simultaneously trying to appear helpful to the United States and Israel. Israel taking control of Rafah threatens Egypt’s ability to exploit the chaos in Gaza, both to generate profits for regime insiders and so Cairo can pose as an indispensable mediator and preserve access to U.S. money and arms.

Egyptian security officials have looked the other way while Hamas and other Palestinian militants dug tunnels on the Egyptian-Gaza border. That gave Cairo the ability to use the situation in Gaza as a tool for regional influence and to ensure Egypt’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would not be eclipsed by regional competitors such as Qatar and Turkey.

Some elements close to the Sisi regime have benefited from Hamas control over Gaza and the Rafah crossing. Media reports indicate an Egyptian company run by one of Sisi’s close allies is making hundreds of millions of dollars by taxing Gazans fleeing the current conflict.

Moreover, writes Judith Miller, the Gaza war has been a godsend to the entire Egyptian economy, which was in dire straits last fall. Since October 7, the International Monetary Fund has given the country a much-needed injection of cash, since the U.S. and other Western countries believe it is a necessary intermediary and stabilizing force. Cairo therefore sees the continuation of the war, rather than an Israeli victory, as most desirable. Hassanein concludes:

Adding to its financial incentive, the Sisi regime views the Rafah crossing as a crucial card in preserving Cairo’s regional standing. Holding it increases Egypt’s relevance to countries that want to send aid to the Palestinians and ensures Washington stays quiet about Egypt’s gross human-rights violations so it can maintain a stable flow of U.S. assistance and weaponry. . . . No serious effort to turn the page on Hamas will yield the desired results without cutting this umbilical cord between the Sisi regime and Hamas.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023, U.S. Foreign policy