Confront the hypocrisy
Op-ed: Israel’s treatment of Christians slammed, while far worse Muslim attitude is ignored
On New Year’s Eve there was a murderous attack on a Coptic Church in Alexandria, Egypt in which 23 Christians were killed and many dozens were wounded. Last week a Christian was shot on an Egyptian train and five others were wounded. The murders in Alexandria drew far more international interest than many other attacks on Copts in recent years. They also gained far more attention than other recent lethal attacks on Christians in countries such as Iraq, Pakistan or Nigeria.
One wonders whether this event might be a tipping point for the Western world. Are Western governments and Christians finally starting to interest themselves a bit more seriously regarding the fate of Christians in the Muslim world? If so, this took quite a long time. Back in 1994, Israeli Middle East expert Mordechai Abir had already summed up the Copts’ situation in one sentence: “Egypt has been unable to combat the hate of fundamentalist Muslims toward the Copts who are true remnants of the original Egyptian population.”
From 1992 to 1998, Islamic extremists in Egypt are thought to have killed well over a hundred Copts. Thereafter, the largest murder took place in 2000 when 20 Copts and one Muslim were killed after violence broke out in El-Kosheh, a town a few hundred kilometers south of Cairo. There were a number of attacks of Copts and much harassment in the following years. On 6 January 2010, after Christmas mass, three Muslim gunmen killed six Copts and a Muslim policeman in Nagaa Hammadi near the South-Egyptian town of Qena.
Besides being a possible turning point, the Alexandria murders raise many important issues which go beyond this major incident. Some of these are of special importance to Israel and the Jews. The attacks were followed by threats on an al-Qaeda connected website which indicated that Coptic churches in Europe would also be targeted. As a result, Coptic New Year services in various European countries had to be guarded. For decades, the only European religious services with a security system in place were at synagogues. Once again, Jews were the first targets while others followed later.
Several Western Protestant organizations have, over the past years, relentlessly criticized Israel’s attitude toward Palestinian Christians, while remaining silent about incomparably bigger problems caused them by Palestinian Muslims. The same bodies have also long ignored the harassment of Christians by Muslims in a large number of countries, including Egypt.
This motif of ignoring Muslim aggression and focusing on Jews is an ancient one. In 2005, historian Rivka Fishman published an article showing that from the Seventh Century, the Byzantines were threatened by Muslims. The Christian leaders, however, largely ignored this and instead focused their attention on hate mongering against the Jews.
Extreme double standards
To further illustrate the hypocrisy of various Christian bodies: The Open Doors organization recently published a ranking of countries in which Christians suffer the most from oppression. Communist North Korea headed the list. The eight countries following it are all Muslim ones. They include Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Maldives, Yemen, Iraq and Uzbekistan. In 10th place is communist Laos. The Palestinian Authority is in 45th place on the list. Israel does not appear on it.
Major international attention was given by many Protestant bodies to the 2009 anti-Israeli Kairos document published by a number of Palestinian Christians. Many of those who promoted it in the West were those who ignored the oppression of Christians by Muslims in the Palestinian territories and elsewhere in the Muslim world.
The double standards inherent in part of these Christian bodies are extreme. One of the organizations which behaved scandalously was the PKN, the umbrella body of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands. After discussing the Kairos document, its leaders sent an accusing letter to the Israeli ambassador meant for the Israeli government. There are no indications that similar letters were ever sent to any ambassadors of the 50 countries on the Open Doors list.
Double standards toward Israel are at the heart of the new anti-Semitism. It is high time that Jewish and Israeli organizations as well as their many Christian friends expose strongly the many anti-Israeli Protestant bodies in Western countries. One prime target is the Geneva-based World Council of Churches which has almost consistently ignored oppression of Christians in Muslim lands, yet has given much negative attention to Israel.
Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld has published 19 books, several of which deal with anti-Semitism