Over the past century, the percentage of Christian Palestinians has been in decline. The influx of Jewish immigrants since the late 1880s, the Nakba of 1948 and the expulsions of 1967 played a big role in diminishing the presence of Palestinian Christians.
During the Deir Yassin Massacre of 1948, over a quarter of a million Palestinians, many of them Christian, were displaced or disappeared. Many of the 531 villages that were leveled in 1948 had a mix of Christian and Muslim inhabitants.
To this day, millions of Palestinians have been expelled from their lands, and rendered homeless and as refugees. Of the remaining Palestinian Christians, most of them have emigrated at an increasing rate from 1990 onward, because of lack of freedom and security and due to the deteriorating economic situation.
A relationship of trust in the face of Israeli adversity
Various Christian Zionist propaganda sources claim that the main problem for Palestinian Christians is their Muslim neighbors. The decline of Christian presence in Palestine is portrayed as the fault of Muslims and not of the illegal Israeli occupation. Christian Zionist tours to the Holy Land contribute towards the spread of this myth and frame the conflict in an anti-Muslim way in order to distract attention from Israel’s continued violations of international law.
Even though the relationship between Palestinian Christians and Muslims is not always a rosy one, the above claims are far from true. Palestinian Christians are an indigenous, integral part of the Arab Palestinian culture and civilization in the political, historical and religious spheres. At the political level, Palestinian Christians have been fellow citizens in the common struggle against foreign or colonial invasion, regardless of its religious or ethnic identity.
Many seats in the current Palestinian Legislative Council are held by Palestinian Christians. This amounts to more or less 8% of the seats, whereas Christians only make up 2% of the population of the West Bank and Gaza. Similarly, the Samaritans, who number three hundred and twenty persons, have one seat in the Council.
Christian holidays like Christmas and Easter are observed, and Christians continue to be an integral part of the Arab Palestinian culture and civilization. A relationship of peaceful coexistence is also found on the personal level. People from both religions visit each other during religious festivals, and in Jerusalem schools run by Christian churches have a majority Muslim student population.
Palestinian Christians, like their Muslim counterparts, have experienced a long history of dispossession and have not been immune to Israeli policies of occupation and discrimination. Not only do they have to deal with the day to day hardships that come with occupation, but they are also dismayed by the fact that many of their fellow Christians in Europe and North America unquestionably support the Israeli regime.
Unfortunately, western Christians (in particular American and Britain) have, for a variety of reasons, tended to show greater sympathy towards the state of Israel than towards the worsening condition of the Palestinian people.
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