At the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, King Abdullah of Jordan spoke of his monarchy’s historic role as the custodian of the Muslim and Christian holy places in Jerusalem. He then went on to say that the “rights of churches in Jerusalem are threatened,” and that Jerusalem’s Christians are “under fire.” Shortly after the speech, he had a reportedly friendly meeting with Israel’s Prime Minister Yair Lapid. The editors of the Jerusalem Post respond:
Christianity is retreating through the Middle East, with ancient Christian communities in Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Egypt, Gaza, and yes, Bethlehem, shrinking. Three years ago, the British foreign secretary commissioned a report that concluded that the pervasive persecution of Christians, sometimes amounting to genocide, is taking place in the Mideast, triggering a massive Christian exodus from the region. There is only one state in the region where the Christian community is actually growing: Israel. Yet that is precisely the state that Abdullah chose to target as the place where Christianity is under fire.
This represents unparalleled chutzpah, for two main reasons. First, because the king knows that it is not true, and that Israel zealously protects the rights of the churches in Jerusalem, as well as the freedom of worship for Christians throughout the city. He is also certainly aware that while the Christian community in his own country is shrinking, across the River Jordan in Israel it is growing.
Secondly, Abdullah’s presenting himself as some kind of guardian of religious liberty is misleading, considering that Jordanian officials at the border with Israel regularly prevent Jews crossing into Jordan from bringing in with them religious objects they need for daily ritual practice, such as tallitot and t’fillin.
At a time when tensions are running high in Jerusalem on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, responsible leaders of goodwill—among whose ranks Abdullah wants to be counted—should seek to lower the temperature, not artificially raise it. . . . Improving the atmosphere between Jerusalem and Amman is a Jordanian interest as much as it is an Israeli one.