How Hamas Uses Palestinian Christians as Leverage

February 27, 2024 | Andrew Doran
About the author: Andrew Doran is the director of Philos Catholic. He served on the policy planning staff at the U.S. Department of State and was a cofounder of In Defense of Christians. He is an Army veteran and attorney.

Since at least the 9th century, Jews, Christians, and some others living in Muslim lands were given the status of dhimmi or protected religious minorities. Under more tolerant Muslim regimes, this status offered opportunities for flourishing—and, for Jews, an enviable alternative to persecution and severe discrimination elsewhere. Many other rulers, however, allowed their dhimmi little more than protection from slaughter, and made clear that such protection was only conditional.

The Hamas regime in Gaza belongs to this latter category, and its supposedly moderate counterpart in Ramallah is not much better. As Andrew Doran explains, this is why, “for example, statements by Catholic institutions are pointedly critical of Israel while cautiously vague about the conduct of Hamas or the Palestinian Authority.” For if these institutions told the truth, their coreligionists in Gaza could be punished:

Official Catholic statements often appeal to abstracted principles and in so doing convey moral ambivalence. This isn’t an accident: such statements are crafted so as not to provoke the wrath of [Hamas] against Christians. But these statements are misleading, for they imply a moral equivalence between the conduct of Israel and Hamas, which makes Christian dhimmi ever more useful—or the still more perverse implication that Hamas does indeed protect Christians from the Israelis, a kind of Stockholm syndrome by proxy.

Noteworthy, but seldom noted: there are no equivalent fears of Israeli reprisal. Contrary to prevalent myth, Israel isn’t the reason Christians fled Gaza or the West Bank. . . . Anyone who’s traveled the Middle East knows Christians have it better in Israel than elsewhere. [Once, a] Coptic woman told me that her time in Israel was liberating because she saw for the first time how it was possible to be a free person in the Middle East, liberated from dhimmitude. “Israel gave me to myself,” she said.

Read more on First Things: