The facts in the case are not in dispute. But some of the most important of them were buried—in The Washington Post’s “dead letter” file, so a serial prevaricator escaped correction.
In “War on Christians; Can Muslim lands learn tolerance of other faiths?” (Post print edition, Dec. 27, 2013) columnist Michael Gerson noted, two days after Christmas, that “in some parts of the world, Herod’s massacre of the innocents is a living tradition.” Those parts, according to Gerson, include Muslim-majority Iraq, Egypt and Syria. “Across North Africa and the greater Middle East, anti-Christian pressure has grown during the past few decades, sometimes subtle, sometimes overt,” Gerson wrote.
There is a direct correlation “between religious persecution and national security threats,” he asserted. Gerson quoted
the University of Texas’ William Inboden that “every major war the United States has fought over the past 70 years has been against an enemy that also severely violated religious freedom.” Meanwhile, “there is not a single nation in the world that both respects religious freedom and poses a security threat to the United States.”
Maen Rashid Areikat, the Palestine Liberation Organizations chief representative in the United States, rushed into print to spin Gerson’s observations. The Post
granted Areikat a letter to the editor to whitewash reality (“Christians belong in the Middle East,” January 2, 2014). This is the same PLO official who said in 2011 a West Bank and Gaza Strip “Palestine” would have to be empty of Jews, then, as CAMERA detailed, “clarified”
his intolerance in response to unfavorable news coverage.
In his Post
letter, Areikat claimed
that “throughout history, Muslims have been tolerant of other faiths. For centuries, we have lived with Jews and Christians without compromising their rights; and contrary to what Mr. Gerson wrote, they have never been treated as ‘second-class citizens.’”
Does The Post know ‘dhimmi?’
This is laughable, as anyone familiar with the concept of “dhimmi,” or “protected peoples” under Islamic law knows. “People of the Book,” originally Jews and Christians, were “protected” from Muslim mistreatment so long as they kept their place and did not demand civic or legal equality with Muslims—second class status indeed—and paid a special tax, the jizya. When it suited rulers or the majority, such “protection” was withdrawn.
The record is long and well-documented; The Post’s “Fact Checker” feature (which doesn’t seem to peruse letters to the editor) would do well in this case to start with Bat Ye’or’s masterpiece on the subject, The Dhimmi; Jews and Christians Under Islam (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1985).
But Areikat, whose relationship with accuracy can be described courteously as estranged, had other fish to fry. He declared that “our strong opposition to actions by extremists against Christians is unwavering” and then threw dust, piously urging “let us not forget about Palestinian Christians who continue to suffer under Israeli occupation and rising attacks by extremists. They, too, must be protected as they continue to emigrate because of those hardships.”
At this point, CAMERA’s Christian Media Analyst, Dexter Van Zile, had enough. He wrote The Post the following letter to the editor, and copied Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt and Deputy Editorial Editor Jackson Diehl:
“As much as Maen Areikat would like to deny it, Christians in Muslim-majority countries have suffered terrible acts of violence in Muslim-majority settings for centuries. It is not a new phenomenon. One only has to read the histories of Armenian, Assyrian, Coptic, Maronite and other Christian communities in the Middle East to see a pattern of persecution that has been present since Islam’s founding. Christians, like Jews, have been periodically enslaved, ethnically cleansed, forcibly converted, and massacred by their Muslim conquerors for the past 1,400 years.
In the real world …
“This violence and oppression has been perpetrat
ed with scriptural, juridical and theological sanction. The status of Christians and Jews as “dhimmi,” “protected” people allows for tolerance only so long as these minorities among Islamic majorities keep to their inferior status. When Christians advocate for rights and equality, they violate their dhimmi status and render themselves legitimate targets for violence under Islamic jurisprudence. This explains why Christianity is on the verge of collapse in the Middle East.
“It’s a problem in Palestinian society as well. One only had to listen to the testimony offered by Palestinian Christians at the Christ at the Checkpoint Conference that took place in Bethlehem in 2012. Even at this conference, which was organized to focus attention on Israel, Palestinian Christians spoke, in sotto voce of course, about the hostility they are subject to in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. I was there. I heard them.
“The violence currently endured by Christians in the Middle East at the hands of their Muslim neighbors is not an aberration; it has been the historical norm. No amount of spin from Areikat can disguise this reality, which an increasing number of principled Muslims, such as those who have stood in solidarity with Copts in Egypt during their time of trial, are fortunately starting to acknowledge.”
Meanwhile, Israel is the only Middle Eastern country in which a Christian minority enjoys full civil rights in both law and fact.
Areikat, of course, is not one of those people standing in solidarity with Egyptian Copts, or, for that matter, any other persecuted Christians in the region. But The Post, which has published two other letters and an Op-Ed by Areikat in the past two years also contorting or simply inventing Israeli-Palestinian history, chose not to publish Van Zile’s letter. This allowed the PLO’s chief U.S. representative to get away once more with pretending to be a credible source.
You had to read it here first.