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The Question 60 Minutes Forgot to Ask

A response by Professor Paul C. Merkley, ICEJ Canada board member

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26 Apr 2012
The Question 60 Minutes Forgot to Ask

A question NOT asked by the champions of gotcha television who put together the item on the situation of Palestinian Christians that aired on the CBS Sixty Minutes programme on Sunday April 22, was this fairly obvious one: Why are Christians fleeing from every corner of the globe INTO Israel?

Israel is the only polity in the entire Middle East in which Christian numbers are growing absolutely. They have in fact increased 400 percent since 1948. Today there are about 163,000 Christians in Israel -- about 2.1% of the total population of around 7 million. This number is growing as Christians flee into Israel from all the nearby African states,  such as Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia Somalia, Kenya and beyond. They are fleeing also from the states of the former Soviet Empire and from Muslim-majority communities around the world.

Incidentally, the Muslim population of Israel is also growing – from 100,000 in 1948 to 900,000 today –from 9.5% of the whole in 1948 to 14.8%. These Muslims vote in Israeli elections and have always held a significant role in the brokering of interests that go into forming Israeli governments. How can this reality be squared with the Arab cartoon-denunciation of life under the Israeli boot? It would have been good to hear Bob Simon ask this fairly obvious question.

Among many other realities that were overlooked is that Israel does not rule in the Palestine Authority. The Palestine Authority does. The State of Israel does assume responsibility for keeping individuals dedicated to liquidation of the Jews out of the Jewish state. Some of these are local Palestinians; others are Muslim zealots who have come to the bosom of the PA on commission from al-Qaeda, from Iran, from Hezbollah and other terrorists organizations. The wall* is certainly an eyesore, and inevitably it has made life significantly more difficult for everybody. But it has served its purpose: since it was completed, loss of civilian lives by terrorist deeds has been reduced by at least 80%.

Since 1995, all aspects of daily life in the PA – economic policy, legal realities, schooling, and so on -- are presided over by the Palestine Authority.  Simultaneously, persecution of Palestinian Christians by Palestinian Arabs has increased – a circumstance attested to without exception by all disinterested journalists and qualified scholars, and most thoroughly documented in the published books and articles of Justin Reid Weiner. The best clue to what life is like under that benign aegis is that between 1995 and 2004, 45,000 Arabs moved out of the PA and into Israel and that of this number four to one were Christians.

Israel does assume responsibility for the welfare of Arabs who live within her own borders. The most recent statistic surveys reveal that “Christian Arabs are Israel’s best-educated and most prosperous demographic group."(Donna Rosenthal, The Israelis (New York: Free Press, 2003), p. 315.)

With their feet, the Christian Arabs and a goodly portion of Muslim Arabs are declaring their preference for Jewish rule over Muslim-Arab rule. They are not alone in this: Throughout the Middle East Christian population has been declining steadily and dramatically for over a century. Of the handful of Christian communities still extant at the beginning of this century, most of these have been moved out of intensive care and onto their death-beds. Since the beginning of the Arab Spring, an estimated one-third to one-half of the Christian population of Iraq has been displaced from cities and towns where they have lived for centuries, some fleeing to the semi-autonomous Kurdish region, others abroad. Many of these are now resident in Israel. In Egypt, 100,000 have already left since the so-called Arab Spring began.

The bottom line (says Giulio Meotti, who is among the best informed European scholars of this phenomenon), “The Christian era in the Middle East is over.” Everywhere, that is, except in Israel. The one feature that distinguishes Israel from all these other nations is that the former is the nation-state of the Jews, governed by Jewish laws, its government and other institutions reflecting Jewish character. As for all the others, Jews are either totally absent  -- 800,00 of them having been driven out by Muslim mobs following the 1948 war --or present today only in miniscule numbers and living under constant threat of extinction.

The premise governing the Sixty Minute script was that the flight of Christians from the Holy Land is owing to intolerable conditions imposed upon the Palestinian Arabs by Israeli rule. The leaders of the various local churches, all of them Arab Palestinians, pulled out all the stops as they heaped blame for everything that is unhappy in the daily life of the Arabs of the land upon the fundamentally inhumane character of the Jews. Why then is all the traffic out of the lands where Arabs rule and into the only corner of the world in which Jews rule?

*The Security Barrier: only 8km of the 140km consist of concrete sections (wall) to prevent direct shooting

Paul C. Merkley is an ICEJ Canada Board Director, Professor Emeritus in History from Carleton University and the author of several scholarly academic books on Christians and Israel and recently of Those That Bless You I Will Bless: Christian Zionism in Historical Perspective, Mantua Press, Brantford Ontario, 2012.

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