Orlando Sentinel columnist Charley Reese, whose voluminous anti-Israel portfolio includes frequent severe distortions of fact, is at it again. In his October 24th column entitled “Racism, Bigotry Bad for All” he grossly misrepresents the current dangerous situation facing Christian Arabs in the Palestinian areas. He writes:
The dispute with the Israelis is over territory not religion. No less a man than a leader of Hamas reminded a caller, who asked how Hamas would treat Christians, that Islam teaches that Muslims must treat Christians as they would treat themselves.
Reese’s anecdotal story about an unnamed Hamas leader in an unidentified conversation flies in the face of the experience of Christian Arabs in Gaza and the West Bank. Thus, for example, in article entitled “Hundreds of Christian Arab families fleeing PA areas,” (October 25, 2000) Jerusalem Post reporter Margot Dudkevitch describes the flight of Christians fearful of attacks from Palestinian Muslims:
Since the outbreak of violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, hundreds of Christian Arab families have left with the assistance of the Foreign Ministry and foreign embassies, such as those of England, Canada, and Cyprus, Shlomo Dror, spokesman for the coordinator of activities in the territories, said yesterday.
In some cases, embassies sent cars to pick up the families from their homes in Ramallah, Bethlehem, Gaza, Nablus, and Tulkarm, granting passports to spouses and grandparents and offering financial assistance or air tickets to leave Israel, he said. In many cases the embassies eased restrictions and granted passports where only one of the couples had citizenship, to assist in their departure. A small number of those seeking to leave were Moslems, he added.
“Lately the number of requests has subsided. Those left don’t have foreign citizenship, but all those able to have left,” said Dror. He recalled the speech made by a Moslem preacher in a Gaza mosque after prayers on a recent Friday, in which he called on Palestinians to attack Israelis and Christians. Shortly afterward, a group of Christians was attacked in Gaza, he said.
His statements came as Israeli security officials said that the Palestinian Authority did not choose Beit Jala as the focus of violence by coincidence, but in an attempt to draw the Christian population into the conflict, a step it hopes will generate international support and criticism of Israel for shooting at civilians. . . .
While Reese relies on hearsay to buttress his claim that Palestinian Muslim leaders are calling for tolerance of Christians, he completely ignores documented cases of virulently anti-Christian speeches by Palestinian Authority religious leaders. Thus, for example, the Friday, October 13th sermon of Dr. Ahmad Abu Halabaya, a member of the PA appointed “Fatwa Council” and former acting Rector of the Islamic University in Gaza, which was broadcast on PA television:
From here, Allah the almighty has called upon us not to ally with the Jews or the Christians, not to like them, not to become their partners, not to support them, and not to sign agreements with them. And he who does that, is one of them, as Allah said: ‘O you who believe, do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies, for they are allies of one another. Who from among you takes them as allies will indeed be one of them…
…The Jews are the allies of the Christians, and the Christians are the allies of the Jews, despite the enmity that exists between them. The enmity between the Jews and the Christians is deep, but all of them are in agreement against the monotheists against those who say, ‘There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger,’ that is they are against you, O Muslims. (Translated by MEMRI)
Such incitement has apparently led to anti-Christian attacks by Palestinian Muslims, such as the October 14th torching of Gaza’s Windmill Hotel and Christian shops that sold alcohol, which is prohibited by Islam. Amira Haas, of Ha’aretz, reports October 15, 2000 on some of the anti-Christian attacks:
Palestinian youths raided several establishments in Gaza City where liquor is sold on Friday. The youths set fire to the hotel in the middle of the city, along with a liquor store at the Shati refugee camp and two private homes where alcohol is sold legally. A number of political organizations in Gaza claimed that Hamas operatives were responsible for the attacks.
According to eyewitnesses, Palestinian Authority police didn’t intervene in the attacks on the liquor establishments and firefighters were unable to douse the flames at all the various locations. . . .
While denying that their movement was responsible for the attacks on the liquor establishments, Hamas members stressed that the Palestinian public is furious that “immoral places like these operate during days when Israel is attacking the Palestinian people.”
Seven gas canisters were rescued from the Al Tahunah hotel at the last moment, thereby averting a major disaster. . . .
During an earlier stage of the disturbances, some ten days ago, some Gaza nightclubs and liquor stores were also burned. . . .
For Charley Reese to suggest that Christians are secure now in Palestinian Authority areas, and will be safe in the future, is to deny the real danger that community faces. But such indifference to facts are commonplace in Charley Reese’s commentary.