In the December 2016 issue of the Jerusalem Protestant parish newsletter there’s an article by Mitri Raheb, a pastor in Bethlemen, with the title „A church in the course of time – The history of the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem“. There one reads:
„The community between Nakba (1948) and Naksah (1967):
The time of Pastors Schehadeh
The Arab-Israeli war in 1948 was a catastrophe for the people of Palestine. Among the 900,000 exiled Palestinians were more than 55,000 Christians. As a result of Israel’s actions, the Christians were demographically decimated. The larger coastal cities, which had considerable Christian populations, fell into Zionist hands in 1948, whereby most of these Christians were expelled.“
Dear Pastor Raheb,
In line with parish tradition, it’s your turn this year to spread post-factual lies about Jews during Advent. Nevertheless, I’d like to correct your assertions.
When on November 29,1947, the United Nations General Assembly offered in a two-thirds majority to establish two independent states, the Israelis accepted the offer, while the Arabs refused, and instead joined Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Syria to militarily attack the newly founded State of Israel.
Two groups of refugees resulted from that war of aggression. One group consisted of 900,000 refugees, some say 500,000 refugees. The other refugee group, which you didn’t mention, consisted of 850,000 refugees. Let us start with the refugees you mentioned.
When Israel was founded in 1948, the Arab world declared a war of extermination against Israel. In the wake of this ongoing war and the belief in the promises of the Arab nations that after the destruction of Israel, Arabs could return to the region as victors, 5- 900,000 people left their homeland. Despite the fact that most of them were not forced to leave – at least not from the Israelis -, Israel offered the resident Arabs to become full-fledged citizens of the new nation. 160,000 Arabs accepted that offer. There are now well over a million Arab Israelis. In reality those so-called Arab refugees were actually emigrants, which show that the misuse of the word “refugee” is political in nature.
Let’s take a look at the other 850,000 refugees. In the course of the war aimed to exterminate Israel, 850,000 Jews were expelled from their Arab homelands. They were robbed of their possessions and their citizenship was revoked. There are even Arab nations that have perfected their policies of expulsion so that in 2001 there was not a single Jew living in Libya and Algeria, for example. While almost twice as many Arabs live today as full-fledged Israeli citizens than in 1948, less than one percent of Jews remain in Arab countries where they previously lived. There were many terrible pogroms against Jews, including the pogroms of Aleppo, Cairo and Aden.
It’s worth taking note that in discussions using the words “expulsion” and “genocide”, the reduction of the Jewish population in Arab countries down to 0.9% is disregarded, along with the doubling of the Arab population in Israel. It is then perfectly clear that the terms „refugee“ and „nakba“ are mere propaganda. You, Pastor Rahem, utilize those terms proudly.
What happened to the 850,000 Jewish refugees? Many of them emigrated to Israel, others found a new home in other countries, and those who needed help with their new refugee situation were supported by the United Nations until 1951, the year the UNHCR agency started its activities. The Office of the High Commissioner is responsible for the protection of millions of refugees and displaced persons worldwide and is also active in the area of humanitarian aid. The authority is the successor organization of the refugee commissariat of the League of Nations. In 1954, as well as in 1981, the agency was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and in 1986 won the Balzan Prize for Humanity, Peace and Fraternity among the nations because of its successes in making citizens out of refugees. Although the UNHCR is obviously a well-functioning authority, then why does the agency fail completely in its work with Arab refugees?
While the 850,000 Jewish refugees and displaced persons once again retained a national citizenship, the other group of 5-900,000 refugees has since swelled to 4.7 million and are crowded together in camps in Arab countries to this day. The only Palestinians who now have civil rights are the 1.25 million Israeli Palestinians. Why has the UNHCR failed? The answer is surprisingly simple: because the UNHCR is not responsible for those Palestinians.
The Arab Palestinian refugees are the only group for which the United Nations has a separate authority: the UNRWA. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Middle East is a temporary UN aid program, which has been regularly extended for three year periods since its founding in 1949. The agency’s headquarters was situated first in Beirut, then in Vienna in 1978 due to unrest in Lebanon and since 1996 in Gaza.
Although the UNRWA is a temporary agency and could at any time be incorporated into the UNHCR, UNRWA continues to exist separately. Why is that? What distinguishes the Palestinian refugee from all other refugees in the world? Why are they treated differently? The answer lies in the different goals of the two agencies. While the task of the UNHCR is to make citizens out of refugees, the UNRWA upholds the refugee status of Arab Palestinians by means of specific criteria:
Firstly, while UNHCR refugees lose their refugee status as soon as they become citizens of a member country of the United Nations, Arab Palestinian UNRWA refugees retain their refugee status even if they obtain a national citizenship.
Secondly, while the descendants of UNHCR’s refugees cannot inherit a refugee status, UNRWA refugees can pass on their refugee status generation to generation, ad infinitum.
Thirdly, while the UNHCR promotes and supports naturalization of refugees, UNRWA avoids the issue of naturalization of Arab Palestinian refugees in their host countries.
Thus, while UNHCR has created tolerable solutions for tens of millions of refugees, UNRWA has so far failed to give a single Palestinian refugee citizenship. Basically, there’s only one entity that offers and grants Palestinians citizenship: Israel! Israel is the only country in the Middle East to guarantee Palestinians their human rights.
There are 1.25 million Arab Israelis. But what has become of the half million Arabs who left Israel. They live in neighboring countries under inhumane conditions. They are often denied education and medicine; they are not allowed to build houses or accept jobs. In addition, they are hindered from acquiring citizenship in all these countries except Jordan.
Under these inhumane conditions, one half million refugees have now become 4.7 million eternal refugees. 4.7 million persons who, under the auspices of the United Nations, are denied any hope of a better future as free citizens, 4.7 million eternal refugees who are not fortunate enough to live like the 1.25 million Palestinians residing in a democratic country that strives for freedom: Israel!
Apart from Israel, no one seems to care about the welfare of the Palestinians. Why? Why are Arab countries so intent on keeping Arab Palestinians in their refugee status? The President of Egypt gave an answer back in September 1960: „When the refugees return to Israel, Israel will cease to exist.“
Let us suppose that the 850,000 Jewish refugees would have the same right of return as many ascribe Arab refugees. The United Nations would have to promote and support Jewish return to Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen and all the other Arab countries where Jews had once lived. Not only that, those Arab countries would have to be forced to surrender land to Jews with innumerable resolutions, because they are occupiers. The UN would have to work towards the establishment of independent Jewish enclaves, whereby Arab regimes would have to vacate Jewish territories.
If this demand seems radical, then one must admit that the demands on the part of Palestinian refugees are equally radical. The constant talk about Palestinian refugees is nothing but pure one-sidedness, which unfortunately has become mainstream.
The eternal Arab Palestinian refugee situation is particularly useful for the enemies of Israel. Sir Alexander Galloway, a former UNRWA chairman, said in August 1958: „The Arab states do not want to solve the refugee problem. They want to keep it as an open sore, as an affront to the United Nations and as a weapon against Israel. Arab leaders don’t give a damn whether the refugees live or die.“
The well-being of the Palestinians does not matter to the Arab leaders and not a few Middle East experts either. But not for Israel! What Israel has offered the Palestinians has yet to be matched by any Arab nation. Most of the citizens of Israel know from their own experiences how dangerous it is when the environment stamps one as an eternal refugee.
Dear Pastor Raheb,
What do you think of the following rants coming from Bethlehem and other places under Palestinian autonomy?:
„Our hatred for the Jews is inherent to our faith! The Koran tells us to hate them, not to love them.“
„If the Jews gave us Palestine, would we begin to love them? Of course not! We will never love them. Absolutely not!“
„We will regard the Jews as enemies even if they give us back Palestine. Because they are unbelievers!“
„The greatest enemy of every Muslim after the devil are the Jews! Who says that? God says that!“
„I support Germany in politics and Brazil in sport. I like the way Brazil plays football, but I like the Germans because they hate the Jews and burned them.“
I’m addressing you as a Lutheran pastor whose religious founder, Martin Luther, also wrote “affectionately” about Jews:
„Therefore know, my dear Christians, that next to the Devil, you have no more bitter, more poisonous, more vehement and enemy than a real Jew who earnestly desires to be a Jew.“
„Moreover, they are nothing but thieves and robbers who daily eat no morsel and wear no thread of clothing which they have not stolen and pilfered from us by means of their accursed usury.“
”First to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them.”
Martin Luther is in line with Hamas, which calls for the extermination of the entire Jewish people, as stated in Article 7 of the Hamas Charter. The Hamas Deputy Minister of Religious Endowments, Abdallah Jarbu, once declared:
“Jews are foreign bacteria – a microbe unparalleled in the world. May He annihilate this filthy people who have neither religion nor conscience. I condemn whoever believes in normalizing relations with them, whoever supports sitting down with them, and whoever believes that they are human beings. They are not human beings. They are not people. They have no religion, no conscience, and no moral values.”
Fatah is also not a friend of the Jews, and is likewise in line with Martin Luther. Bethlehem is indeed a city where once the two Jews, Jesus and David, were born, but that was a long time ago. David was king of Judah and Israel some 3000 years ago. Yes, Israel and Judah. These countries existed three thousand years ago. So much for talk of Israeli occupation. Today, Muslims and Christians living in Bethlehem know the Jews are being persecuted by the Palestinian Authority with the support of many Christian non-governmental organizations. The city is as good as „judenrein“ (Jew-free), to use a word once used by the Germans, who surely followed the words of Martin Luther.
The Nazis were very much impressed by the writings of Martin Luther. Talking about Nazis, it’s noticeable that in your essay about the history of the Lutheran church in Bethlehem, the period from 1933 to 1945 is remarkably neglected. May I ask what the Christians did in Bethlehem, when the Muslim Brotherhood allied themselves with Hitler?
In 1941, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and the Führer of Nazi Germany met in Berlin. Al-Husseini was housed magnificently and was given a large sum of money for expenditures. The funds were provided by the sale of gold stolen from Jews. Al-Husseini demanded his offices be situated in an apartment confiscated from Jews. His staff was housed in a half-dozen other houses provided by the Nazis. Additionally, al-Husseini was given a suite in the luxurious Hotel Adlon in Berlin and allowed access to holiday apartments in Hotel Zittau and Oybin Castle in Saxony. In those accommodations, a „final solution“ was discussed.
Al-Husseini wanted to rule a „Jew-free“ country. The Mufti and the Führer discussed methods of a systematic and industrial extermination of all Jews. After that meeting, the conference at Wannsee took place. Adolf Eichmann informed Al-Husseini in detail about the plans for exterminating European Jews in the map room of the Berlin SS headquarters. Eichmann’s aide testified that the Grand Mufti was very impressed and so taken by this plan for exterminating the Jews that he asked Eichmann to send him an expert as a personal assistant to design and construct death factories in Jerusalem as soon as Germany had won the war and the Mufti himself was in power.
What did the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem do when the Jews were persecuted in Bethlehem? Was the parish standing on the side of the persecuted Jews or on the side of the perpetrators? That would be a fine topic for the next parish newsletter in January 2017. Don’t you think so?
Wishing you a blessed Advent,