USA Today: Looking for Blame in All The Wrong Places

In a piece entitled Nazareth, the childhood home of Jesus, is hoping for a Christmas miracle, USA Today reports on the plight of Nazareth Christians, looking forward to a gloomy holiday thanks to the Trump who stole Christmas.

This biblical city known as the childhood home of Jesus is hoping for a Christmas miracle: the sudden appearance of tourists.

The town’s markets are stocked with Santa hats and green and red stockings but few buyers in the wake of President Trump’s Dec. 6 declaration recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. His announcement departs from an international consensus that Jerusalem’s status should be negotiated in peace talks with Palestinians.

Israel’s tiny, and shrinking, Christian minority already has been facing economic hardships, and Trump’s move has heightened their strife and deflated the season’s festive mood.

“A lot of things are missing for us this year, because of the issues with Jerusalem,” lamented Badia Basha, 66, a Christian resident.

Reading on, you discover why Trump is to blame.

Standing at a small table selling Christmas knickknacks outside of Mary’s Well, where Christians believe the Angel Gabriel told Mary she would give birth to the son of God, Basha noted how Trump’s declaration sparked violent protests across the region.

“Christmas is supposed to bring many performances and singers and visitors that include Christians and also Muslims and Jews, to this city, but today there is almost nothing. It is not as it really should be,” Basha said.

Last week, Nazareth Mayor Ali Salam, a Muslim, canceled a number of Christmas festivities in what he said was a protest against Trump. On Saturday, Salam told reporters that outdoor stalls, the Christmas tree lighting, and the Dec. 23 citywide parade in Nazareth would still happen as planned, and that “there are commercial interests of the city and we are used to hundreds of thousands coming for this season.”

In other words, the Trump announcement is to blame, and not, the violent and otherwise unreasonable reactions to it by Muslims across the region, including Nazareth’s own mayor.

The article manages to also bash Israel, naturally. For instance:

Tourism, a critical component of Nazareth’s economy, has been weak since the 2014 Israeli war in Gaza scared foreigners from coming to this holy land.

Nope, not a war between Hamas (who kidnapped and murdered three Israel teens and fired rockets into Israel to trigger the conflict) and Israel. Just an Israeli war in Gaza. Plus I am willing to bet foreigners were less scared about coming because of the IDF’s operations in Gaza than the rockets being fired into Israel by Hamas.

But there’s more.

The Christian exodus has been underway for decades, but accelerated in recent years because of a combination of economic hardship, low birth rates and what some say is discrimination by the Israeli government.

In October, the Greek patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, told Pope Francis that there is a “disturbing situation in the Holy Land” in which the “historic rights of Christians are being undermined.”

This is very misleading. Theophilos was not referring to any widespread discrimination, but two specific issues.

At the Vatican meeting, Theophilos cited two issues in which he claims the “historic rights of the Christian community are being undermined.”

The first is a Jerusalem District Court ruling from August that the purchase of three major compounds adjacent to Jaffa Gate in the Old City were carried out legally and, as a result, were transferred from the Greek Orthodox Church to the right-wing Ateret Kohanim Yeshiva.

The second issue is a bill proposed by the Kulanu MK Rachel Azaria, signed by 40 members of Knesset across the political spectrum, that seeks to nationalize lands owned by churches in west Jerusalem, many of which recently were sold to private entrepreneurs.

Heads of church in Jerusalem recently published an open letter protesting these two issues and the patriarch called on the pope to act to help seek reversal of the court decision and quash the legislative initiative.

Azaria told The Jerusalem Post in September that her bill aims to prevent exploitation of residents who live on these properties, and does not intend to weaken the Christian presence in the capital.

Want to know why there has been a Christian exodus underway for decades? Clue: something not mentioned by our intrepid USA Today reporter Shira Rubin (yes, she’s Israeli).

Twal will be hard pressed to find many Palestinian Christians ready to accuse Israel or the actions of Israel Defense Force (IDF) personnel as the reason for Christian emigration. Many have already have voted with their feet by settling in Israel, where they can practice their faith without restriction. Thousands of Catholics now work in Israel, where they enjoy complete religious liberty. One has only to see how difficult it is to find a seat in the crammed Catholic Churches at Sunday Masses in Tel Aviv.

The sad truth is that in the Palestinian territories, Christians are forced to live like dhimmis — second-class citizens who survive largely by the protection-money they are required to pay to buy their daily safety. These barely-tolerated citizens exist only at the whim and pleasure of the ruling Muslim majority. Muslim Arab discrimination against non-Muslims includes economic and socially prejudicial behavior that makes it difficult or impossible for Christian Arabs to run a profitable business or for their families to be fully integrated into society. Why has not Twal, as President of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinances in the Holy Land, felt an obligation publicly to denounce this record of intolerance by political Islamic extremists? If Twal does not, it appears that he places in jeopardy his role as guardian of the rights of Catholic Christians in the Holy Land. Consequently, the Israeli government is likely to be more dismissive of his legitimate concerns such as the defacement of Church property by anti-Christian Jewish youth.

See a theme in this piece? Blaming the US, blaming Israel, and going out-of-the-way to not blame those actually responsible for the plight of Christians in the Holy Land.


David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media

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