By Daniel Pipes, September 13, 2005.
What some observers are calling a pogrom took place near Ramallah, West
Bank, on the night of September 3-4. That’s when 15 Muslim youths from one
village, Dair Jarir, rampaged against Taybeh, a neighboring all-Christian village
of 1,500 people.
The reason for the assault? A Muslim woman from Dair Jarir, Hiyam Ajaj, 23,
fell in love with her Christian boss, Mehdi Khouriyye, owner of a tailor shop in
Taybeh. The couple maintained a clandestine two-year affair and she became
pregnant in about March 2005. When her family members learned of her
condition, they murdered her.
That was on about September 1; unsatisfied even with this “honor
killing” – for Islamic law strictly forbids non-Muslim males to have sexual
relations with Muslim females – the Ajaj men sought vengeance against
Khouriyye and his family.
They took it two days later in an assault on Taybeh. The Ajajs and their friends
broke into houses and stole furniture, jewelry, and electrical appliances. They
threw Molotov cocktails at some buildings and poured kerosene on others, then
torched them. The damage included at least 16 houses, some stores, a farm,
and a gas station. The assailants vandalized cars, looted extensively, and
destroyed a statue of the Virgin Mary.
“It was like a war,” one Taybeh resident told the Jerusalem Post. Hours passed
before the Palestinian Authority security and fire services arrived. The 15
assailants spent only a few hours in police detention, then were released. As
for Khouriyye, the Palestinian Arab police arrested him, kept him in jail, and (his
family says) have repeatedly beat him.
As the news service Adnkronos International notes, for Palestinian Christians
“the fact that the Muslim aggressors have been released while the Christian
tailor-shop owner is still being held, at best symbolizes the PA’s indifference to
the plight of Palestinian Christians, at worst shows it is taking sides against
A cousin, Suleiman Khouriyye, pointed to his burned house. “They did this
because we’re Christians. They did this because we are the weaker ones,” he
said The Khouriyyes and others recall the assailants shouting “Allahu Akbar”
and anti-Christian slogans: “Burn the infidels, burn the Crusaders.”
To that, an unrepentant cousin of Hiyam Ajaj replied, “We burned their
houses because they dishonored our family, not because they are Christians.”
This assault fits a larger pattern. According to the Catholic Custodian of the
Holy Land, Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Christians in the Bethlehem region alone have
suffered 93 cases of injustice in 2000-04.
In the worst of these, in 2002, Muslims murdered the two Amre sisters,
17 and 19 years old, whom they called prostitutes. A post-mortem, however,
showed the teenagers to have been virgins – and to have been tortured on their
“Almost every day – I repeat, almost every day – our communities are harassed
by the Islamic extremists in these regions,” Mr. Pizzaballa says. “And if it’s not
the members of Hamas or Islamic Jihad, there are clashes with â¦ the Palestinian
In addition to the Islamists, a “Muslim land mafia” is said to operate.
With PA complicity, it threatens Christian land and house owners, often
succeeding to compel them to abandon their properties.
The campaign of persecution has succeeded. Even as the Christian population
of Israel grows, that of the Palestinian Authority shrinks precipitously.
Bethlehem and Nazareth, historic Christian towns for nearly two millennia, are
now primarily Muslim. In 1922, Christians outnumbered Muslims in Jerusalem;
today, Christians amount to a mere 2% of that city’s population.
“Is Christian life liable to be reduced to empty church buildings and a
congregation-less hierarchy with no flock in the birthplace of Christianity?” So
asks Daphne Tsimhoni in the Middle East Quarterly. It is hard to see what will
prevent that ghost-like future from coming into existence.
One factor that could help prevent this dismal outcome would be for mainline
Protestant churches to speak out against Palestinian Muslims for tormenting
and expelling Palestinian Christians. To date, unfortunately, the Episcopalian,
Evangelical Lutheran, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches, as well as the
United Church of Christ, have ignored the problem.
Instead, they pursue the self-indulgent path of venting moral outrage against
the Israeli bystander and even withdrawing their investment funds from it. As
they obsess with Israel but stay silent about Christianity dying in its birthplace
one wonders what it will take to awaken them.