Meet Yussuf Khoury, a 23-year old Palestinian refugee living in the
Mr. Khoury's crime in that Hamas-ruled territory was to be a Christian, a transgression he compounded in the Islamists' eyes by writing love poems.
"Muslims tied to Hamas tried to take me twice," says Mr. Khoury, and he didn't want to find out what they'd do to him if they ever kidnapped him. He hasn't seen his family since Christmas 2007 and is afraid even to talk to them on the phone.
Speaking to a group of foreign journalists in the
In 2007, one year after the Hamas takeover, the owner of
On the rare occasion that Western media cover the plight of Christians in the Palestinian territories, it is often to denounce
The other truth usually ignored by the Western press is that the barrier helped restore calm and security not just in
But even here in Jesus' birthplace, which is under the control of the Palestinian Authority (PA), Christians live on a knife's edge. Mr. Khoury tells me that Muslims often stand in front of the gate of the
Asked about why Muslims would pray so close to one of Christianity's holiest sites, Pastor Alex Awad, dean of students at the
"Muslims and Christians live here in relative harmony," he tells reporters, only to add that Christians "feel the pressure of Islam . . . There is intimidation and fanaticism but these are little instances and there is no general persecution."
Samir Qumsieh, the founder of what he says is the holy land's only Christian TV station, also stresses that there is no "Christian suffering" and that the Christians' problems are not orchestrated by the PA. Yet his stories of land theft, beatings and intimidation make one wonder why, if the PA doesn't approve of such injustices, it is doing so little to stop it?
Christians have only recently begun to talk about how Muslim gangs simply come and take possession of Christian-owned land while the Palestinian security services, almost exclusively staffed by Muslims, stand by. Mr. Qumsieh's own home was firebombed three years ago. The perpetrators were never caught.
"We have never suffered as we are suffering now," Mr. Qumsieh confesses, violating his own introductory warning to the assorted foreign correspondents in his office not to use the word "suffering."
Always a minority religion among the predominantly Muslim Palestinians, Christians are, Mr. Qumsieh says, "melting away," even in
Palestinian plight not attributable to
Mr. Schwammenthal is an editorial writer for The Wall Street Journal Europe.
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