The Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group (PHRMG) deals with human-rights violations, for the most part perpetrated under the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Occasionally we deal with violations committed by Israel. The PHRMG is not vulnerable to political pressure to ignore human-rights abuses, proven by our continual focus on the treatment of political prisoners, the behavior of the [Palestinian] security forces, collaborators and land dealers, the judicial system, and so on. In addition to these matters, we see our mandate as including issues of democratization, the creation of healthy Palestinian institutions, and broader issues affecting the development of Palestinian society.
Our internal debate on how to address the issue of Christian persecution was prompted by three factors. First, a pastor named David Ortiz, based in the Jewish settlement of Ariel in the West Bank, approached me with allegations that converts to Christianity were being persecuted; second, the Israeli Prime Minister's Office leaked a "secret" report claiming that Christians in the PA were being systematically persecuted; and third, the PHRMG was contacted by many journalists and diplomats attempting to determine if Christians were being persecuted or not. We were disconcerted to be questioned repeatedly about human-rights violations that we had not been aware of before, and about which no other Palestinian human-rights group had any information.
Our enquiries had two directions: first, we had a genuine interest in locating Christian victims of Muslim - or PA - sponsored persecution, so that these "unknown" victims could be defended with the full force of public opinion; second, if the allegations of Christian persecution were found to be substantially false, we felt they should be publicly debunked by a human-rights group, since they had gained currency by piggy-backing on the poor public-rights record of the PA. Preliminary research revealed that the issue was being used around the world, but particularly in the United States, to defame the PA and the Palestinians in general. Further, the PHRMG has repeatedly been quoted in media reports of persecution, making it appear as though we had affirmed the veracity of the allegations.1 For all these reasons, we felt the need to respond with a definitive evaluation of the allegations ¬which hopefully will set the record straight.

Merry Christmas: You're under Arrest

In October 1997, a classified Israeli government report was leaked by the Prime Minister's Office to The Jerusalem Post and the International Christian Embassy of Jerusalem (ICEJ). According to the Post, the report claimed that Christians suffer from "brutal and relentless persecution" under the PA.2 The Post story was used by news agencies and media outlets around the world.
The most serious of the allegations is that, because of their faith, Palestinian Christians are being arrested and detained by Palestinian security services. Five stories follow of Palestinian Christians referred to in media accounts of persecution.

Cases of Christian Persecution in Palestine3

Editor's note summarizing the cases.

• Muneer, aged 37, from a village near Nablus, converted to Christianity from Islam six years ago. He was arrested on June 3D, 1997, in the midst of a wave of arrests for land dealing, on charges of selling land to Jews 15 years ago. As land dealers tend to be wealthy, these charges may be false: Muneer lives with his family in a tiny, sparsely furnished two-room house. David Ortiz says that the land in question may be today owned by Palestinians. Many believe that his continuous proselytizing for the Christian faith is the real cause of his arrest.
• Mustafa, aged 25, began Christian Bible study in Ramallah four years ago and, since then, has introduced his new faith to 12 others in his Muslim village of 3,000. Under Islamic law, the penalty for conversion from Islam is death. He claimed his neighbors wanted him to return to Islam, even by force. He was arrested five times by the PA security authorities, who "tried to get me to return to Islam [ ... ] claiming the Christians are working for the CIA or the Israeli Mossad." He was accused of collaborating and spying and quit his university studies and his village in fear of his life.
• Khalid, aged 34 from Nablus, converted one and a half years ago to Christianity, persuading his brothers to convert. He has been detained four times by the Preventive Security Services (PSS), suffering in detention from cigarette burns all over his body. He was charged with the theft of gold and the selling of guns. His family says he is innocent of the charges and refers to a "personality clash" with the Chief of Police in Nablus, for unclear reasons.
• Several years ago, before converting to Christianity, Tarik assaulted a man in a fight. The dispute was settled three years ago by a sulha, in which he paid the victim, but he was interrogated by the PSS when applying for a passport and sentenced in absentia by a State Security Court. Now in hiding, he does not think he was arrested for his faith, which is known only to his brothers and wife.
• Henni, aged 31, has been a Christian for six and a half years and converted his brothers and others in his village. He claims there are now some 30 Christians in his village of 5,000, but only he and one other man are known publicly as Christians. He has been harassed by the PA and made to speak with a sheikh about returning to Islam. Refusing to repudiate his new faith, he was jailed briefly for dishonoring a religious leader. He has also suffered from harassment by his neighbors, his family shop was burned, nobody will do business with him or take him in a taxi. A driver ran into his seven-year-old daughter and his life was threatened, but the police refused to investigate his case.

Preliminary Conclusions

It is hard to know whether there are more incidents in which Christians have been harassed by neighbors or by the PA. The five stories above, once contextualized, are less compelling evidence for persecution than they may seem at first. The detention of individuals, Christians or Muslims, without trial or even without charges is a violation of human rights and should be condemned. The same goes for torture. But such detentions need to be viewed in the proper context. Generally speaking, there are four categories of prisoners in Palestinian jails: suspected collaborators, suspected Muslim militants, suspects in non-political crimes, and finally individuals who have been arrested for a reason unknown to anyone except their arrester. Because there is little rule of law in the autonomous areas, the individuals in the last category are often arrested due to a personal disagreement with a member of the security forces or a PA official.
It is within this context that one should consider the cases described above. Muneer was arrested for land dealing in the middle of a wave of arrests for that crime. The charges against him may be false, but this does not mean that the real reason for his arrest was his Christianity. His father was arrested before him for the same crime, although he is not a Christian. The PHRMG has files on dozens of individuals arrested on charges of land dealing or collaboration, most of whom are held, like Muneer, illegally without trial. Many of these undoubtedly are innocent, and the true reason for their detention is unknown. Many are also tortured and killed, including three known dead and one disappeared since June 1997. The fact that, along with these dozens, there is one evangelical Christian is not convincing evidence for a phenomenon of Christian persecution.
Mustafa was also accused of collaboration - the police said he worked with an Israeli spy. This charge, although apparently false, can be understood in more ways than one. Mustafa's pastor is from the nearby settlement of Ariel and Mustafa regularly visits the settlement for Christian services and Bible study. In Palestinian villages, such visits are rare and would naturally attract the suspicion of the security services.
Khalid was arrested on charges of theft and gun selling and Tarik doubts that he was arrested because of his faith. Henni does appear to have been harassed due to his faith, but this harassment seems to stem from his community's hostility to proselytizing rather than a PA directive. With the exception of the five cases mentioned above, we were not successful in locating a case in which a Christian suffered from a human-rights violation caused by the PA as a consequence of the victim's religion. This does not mean that such cases don't exist; but it does contribute to our conclusion that individual cases notwithstanding, the PA does not have a policy of harming Christianity or Christian converts from Islam.
Harassment of Christian converts from Islam should stop [but] the human¬rights violation is occurring on a local level and not as a consequence of PA policies against Christians. The nature of the violations indicates that it is the entire community that is hostile to the converts, similar to cases of suspected collaborators and land dealers, some of whom suffer hostility and estrangement from the community, in addition to human-rights violations perpetrated by the PA.4,5 We call upon the security forces to ensure that human rights are upheld according to the law, even if communal sentiments run against such protection.

Commentary, Analysis, Opinion - Has the Banner of Human Rights Been Abused As Part of a Political Struggle?

Allegations of Christian persecution in Palestine have wider implications. The cases described above fit 'into a larger story of American politics, Christian Zionist concerns, and the manipulation of the media. The history of using reports of alleged human-rights violations and atrocities as fuel for propaganda is a long one.

Bullets in Beit Sahour

According to press reports by the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem and by The Jerusalem Post,6 Christian harassment takes place within a general climate of hostility to Christians. To support this claim, they cite an incident which took place last summer in the West Bank village of Beit Sahour. Israel Army Radio reported on August 15, 1997, that seven Christians had been wounded in a clash with Palestine police there after 200 angry Christian villagers had stormed a police station.
Issa Fayez Qumsieh, 20, a resident of Beit Sahour, told the PHRMG that the incident began when "around four in the afternoon I received a phone call from my cousin, Nasser Issa Qumsieh (30) who works for Force 17 [one of the security forces]. He told me that he saw the police beating up kids from the village and, when he tried to interfere, the police beat him up." Issa explained that his cousin, who was not in uniform at the time, intervened after he heard one of the policemen say he would "screw Beit Sahour girls because they dress so provocatively."
Issa Qumsieh said he went with his cousin to the police station in Beit Sahour, armed with batons and iron rods. "We reached the station, about 50 of us, with others who heard that my cousin had been beaten up because he was a Christian. We threw stones at the station and broke inside. The police stood at the opening and fired in the air. They grabbed me as the organizer, hit me with batons and held me for seven hours at the station. Then I was released. I have no idea why the police were beating up the kids. They had been in the center of town throwing stones at each other and there was a rumor that the police came to disperse them but were beating up only Christian and not Muslim kids. However, I cannot verify this claim."
Yasser Arafat appointed a committee to investigate the incident, which went unreported in the Palestinian media. According to The Jerusalem Post, the Israel government report explained that "the PA is trying to cover up [the incident] and has threatened anyone who dares to publicize the story."7
Some media reports have also claimed that monasteries have had their phone lines cut, convents have been burglarized, Christian cemeteries vandalized, and that "after taking control of Bethlehem in December 1995 [...] the Church of the Nativity and other sites of central importance to Christianity came under Palestinian Authority control, giving Yasser Arafat leverage over the heads of the Christian communities."8

Christian Persecution: Reality or Hype?

Before any conclusion that the stories above constitute compelling evidence for widespread persecution of Christians by the PA, one requires more in-depth understanding of the Palestinian Christian population. First, the stories with which this report begins of harassment or arrest by the PA, come only from converts to evangelical Christianity from Islam. The evangelical community in Palestine numbers between 60 and 100, all of whom are converts, mostly from Islam. One must distinguish between this small group and the overwhelming non-evangelical majority of Palestinian Christians, who constitute approximately 2.2 percent of the Palestinian population.9 The harassment of Christians, therefore, appears to be limited to specific parts of the Palestinian Christian community; harassment is not widespread and is not targeted toward the general Palestinian Christian population.
Moreover, the claims of an anti-Christian atmosphere in Palestine are largely unsubstantiated. The example of the incident in Beit Sahour demonstrates how inaccurate information and rumors can lead to misinterpretation. The insult which began the incident was couched in religious terms, but, today, in Palestine, such a comment is not necessarily anti-Christian: violent personal disputes arise occasionally between secular and religious Muslims, as well as between Muslims and Christians, over proper dress for women, eating during Ramadan, and so on. In any case, a comment made by a policeman, followed immediately by a public rebuke from another member of the security forces, is not evidence of widespread Christian persecution.
Similarly, reports of monasteries having phone lines cut, convents burglarized and cemeteries vandalized are unconfirmed. The PHRMG has been unable to uncover any specific evidence to verify these reports. The Palestine Report noted on October 31, 1997, that the Bethlehem Police "have never received complaints of vandalism or burglaries from any of the area churches, except for one burglary at a convent in Bethany." Dr. Mitri Raheb, pastor of the Lutheran Church in Bethlehem, said that several Christian cemeteries had been vandalized, "some ... by Israeli settlers and some ... by Muslim and Christian youth who, as it later turned out, were on drugS."10
As for allegations that Arafat has exercised leverage on Christian leaders, it is important to place such claims in proper context. After the end of the occupation, a new political reality began, of which Christian leaders became a part. Within this new reality, perhaps Christian leaders did indeed feel pressured to adjust their rhetoric to be supportive of Arafat - but in this way, they are no different than any other group in Palestine. No specific evidence of arm-twisting by the PA against Christian leaders has been presented.
In an important way, the lot of Christians has improved under the PA because, for the first time, institutions have been set up to ensure that their voice is heard. Ecumenical forums, interfaith dialogues, and the PA Ministry for Religious Affairs all serve as places for Christian grievances to be aired. The Latin Patriarchate noted that "the Palestinian Authority, chaired by Arafat, is easily accessible to us, religious leaders, through many channels. It is useless to mention that many Christians are highly ranked within the Palestinian Authority structure."
Furthermore, Christians' integral role in the Palestinian nationalist movement has ensured them a respected place in Palestinian political culture. Bernard Sabella, a professor of sociology at Bethlehem University and well-known commentator on Palestinian Christian affairs, explains: "The Intifada, as a popular uprising, saw Christians and Muslims engaged in an effort to end the occupation and achieve independence. The Beit Sahour Tax Revolt of 1989 was but one example of Palestinian Christian grass-roots participation in challenging occupation. The records of young Christians imprisoned and martyred are other indications of the attachment to, and identity with, Palestine and its cause."ll
Of course, participation in nationalist politics does not guarantee good treatment after independence is achieved. But [there is] a reality in which Christians are seen as active participants in the Palestinian body politic by both their Muslim neighbors and themselves.

Persecution of Evangelicals: Politics or Faith?

If indeed there is some harassment, organized or not, by Palestinians of evangelical Christians, its motivation may well be political rather than religious. Although a desire to protect Muslims from Christian proselytizing partly underlies the resurrection of a British Mandate-era missionary law (Israel also bans missionary activity, and a law which outlaws possession of missionary materials is working its way through the Knesset), the politics inherent in this specific brand of evangelical Christianity makes it an obvious target for PA scrutiny.
Central to the ideology of the evangelical Christianity preached by missionaries of Israel and Palestine - a theology which interprets the Bible literally - is Zionism. The Land of Israel, that is the whole of the Land of Israel, has been given to the Jews by God. The resettlement of this land by Jews and the establishment of a Jewish sovereignty over it are interpreted as a sign of Christ's second coming. An ICEJ brochure entitled Christian Zionism explains: "The Scriptures tell us about the regathering of Israel back to her own land, which God will fulfill [sic] for His own name's sake ... Judea and Samaria are essential parts of the Land promised to Israel and linked with the history of Israel...These facts should convince us that the existence of Israel and the right of the Jewish People to return home and live in peace within secure borders is worthy of our support…"
A peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians which would result in the creation of a Palestinian state in the biblical Land of Israel would thus erect a political roadblock to the theologically inspired goals of many evangelicals. The ICEJ brochure continues: "The millennia-long Jewish bond to places like Hebron, Beit-El and Elon Moreh is far closer, both emotionally and rationally, than it is to Tel Aviv. They are places in the very heart of the Land of Israel, the cradle of Jewish civilization; they are the towns, villages, mountains and valleys which give the Bible its contemporaneity." In our conversations with Palestinian evangelical converts, the PHRMG discovered that most have accepted the political implications of this theology. In general they express support for Israeli control of the West Bank and are highly critical of Arafat's Palestinian Authority. Missionaries who convert Palestinians from Islam to evangelical Christianity, therefore, also convert them to a religious Zionism embodied by the right-wing of Israeli politics. It is no wonder that Palestinians find evangelical missionary activity threatening (although not necessarily because of its potential to become a widespread phenomenon).
The PA is aware of the political implications of evangelical Christianity and of [the work] of "the International Christian Embassy, made up mainly of evangelists, based in West Jerusalem, which at their latest event on Succot welcomed Netanyahu ... ,"
All this is not to make excuses for the PA; indeed, some evangelical Christians have had their human rights violated. They have been arrested, sometimes without charge, sometimes on charges which make no sense, and they have been illegally detained without trial, or tried in absentia. This we should, and do, condemn. But thousands of other Palestinians have experienced the same since the arrival of the PA in 1994. The question at hand - the question raised by the Israeli government, the ICEJ and media reports - is whether there is sufficient evidence to believe that Palestinian Christians are arrested because of their faith. Given the context of the Palestinian legal system - in which the lack of rule of law enables individuals of all faiths to be targeted and persecuted by other individuals without recourse - there is no reason to believe that Christians are being specially targeted.
Is the PA guilty of violating human rights? Certainly, and this time some of its victims happen to be evangelical Christians. But such facts are unfortunately old news. Is the PA guilty of systematically persecuting Christians because they are Christians, as the Israeli government, the ICEJ and media would have us believe? All signs point to the answer being no.

Media Distortions

The Sunday Telegraph of London reported on December 21, 1997, that "Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority is waging a campaign of intimidation and harassment" against Christian converts. Reports that "the dwindling Christian minority in the Palestinian Authority areas are being persecuted"12 persist despite the condemnation of every major Christian group in Palestine. The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, for example, denounced the "allegations made by the Israeli media and others" as "totally untrue" and "aiming to provoke hostility and breaches within the Palestinian people." It continued, "We deny and reject any allegation that we, Christians, are being subject to persecution at the hands of Muslim nationals." Prominent Christians from the Bethlehem area spoke against "cheap and malicious propaganda." Such responses, which provide a balance to claims by the ICEJ, typically do not appear in media reports. It is fair to question such statements and to refrain from taking them at face value. But, in our judgment, they are an accurate reflection of Christian reality in Palestine.

Christian Emigration: Running Scared?

Typical of misinformed media coverage has been its understanding of Christian emigration. Christians emigrate from Palestinian autonomous areas at a greater rate than Muslims. This does not imply that Christians must be fleeing from persecution. Unfortunately, many observers have made precisely this fallacious connection. For example, U.S. Representative J. C. Watts (Rep. OK) wrote that "hopeless" Christian emigrants are "driven by the steady persecution of the PA and the realization that they will face worse treatment under a possible Palestinian state."13
The higher emigration rate of Christians can be explained by social factors, and should not be construed as a response to PA oppression. As Bernard Sabella explains, a higher rate of Christians than Muslims live in cities and are in the middle class, making them relatively more mobile; furthermore, Christians tend to be better educated, thanks to the opportunities afforded them by Christian schools and colleges. These factors combine to make the Palestinian Christians smugly fit the definition of a likely emigrant community: "A community with a high educational achievement and a relatively good standard of living, but with no real prospects for economic security or advancement, will most probably become a migrant community."14
Most importantly, Christians can expect to find social and religious communities more easily than Muslims in the mostly Christian West. Mitri Raheb told the Palestine Report, "What makes it easier for Christians to emigrate is the pulling factor, with many of them already having relatives who live abroad."15 The deteriorating economic situation in the territories further makes emigration an attractive option for many Christians. Raheb continued, "This is why I see a parallel between Muslim fundamentalism and Christian emigration. When a Muslim loses hope, he resorts to fundamentalism, thus emigrating psychologically. When a Christian loses hope, he emigrates geographically."
Bethlehem was 80 percent Christian in 1948 and is 80 percent Muslim today. This change is not the result of a recent effort to Islamicize Bethlehem. Rather, the demographic balance shifted significantly as a result of the Arab-¬Israeli war of 1948. West Bank cities and refugee camps absorbed hundreds of thousands of refugees from the new Jewish state, the overwhelming majority of whom were Muslim. Obviously, this influx, combined with higher Muslim birth rates, is responsible for changing the population balance of West Bank cities. Yet, in an article which calls Arafat an "oppressor," the Washington Times cries indignantly: "Where are the eighty thousand Christians of Bethlehem?"16 It is a mystery how the Times derived the figure 80,000. Such misrepresentation is typical of reports on the subject.

The American Connection

One year ago, America's human-rights establishment was focused on a variety of human-rights causes. But beginning in the summer of 1997, the issue of religious persecution, and particularly Christian persecution, came to the forefront, thanks to lobbying efforts by the politically influential Christian Right. Now a bill called the Freedom from Religious Persecution Act, sponsored by Senator Arlen Spector (Rep., PA) and Representative Frank Wolf (Rep., VA), is working its way through the U.S. Congress. The bill would establish an office to track religious persecution and place penalties, including an end to non-humanitarian aid and loans, on countries which systematically persecute any religious group. According to The New York Times, the bill has divided the Republican Party: While Christian groups support the bill, big business has opposed it, in part for the implications it would have for America's relations with China, notorious for its persecuting Christians (as well as Muslims, Buddhists, Tibetans and intellectuals).
Advocates of the bill also focus on the Islamic world as egregiously persecuting Christians (in Sudan, Egypt, etc.). Prominent evangelical minister and founder of the Christian Coalition, Pat Robertson, assailed Islam on his television show, telling his viewers that "to see Americans becoming followers of 'Islam', is nothing short of insanity" because Islam is "the religion of the slavers .... "17
It was in this context that allegations surfaced of Christian persecution in Palestine, led by the ICEJ, an organization with close ties to the Christian Coalition and other American evangelical groups. Roberston continued, "We must demand the State Department do something in relation to the Sudan, in relation to the Palestinian Authority, in relation to Iran, in relation to Saudi Arabia and these other countries that are persecuting Christians ... We can't be silent; look what happened in the Holocaust. A whole race was close to extinction because we were silent. If it's them now, it'll be us next."18
Only utter ignorance of Middle Eastern affairs could lead one to equate the situation of Christians in the PA with their situation in the Sudan, let alone with the Holocaust. Unfortunately, most of Robertson's viewers are not sufficiently informed to know this. Rhetoric like Robertson's, and publicity work by the ICEJ, have successfully influenced American public discourse. The issue has become a rallying point for the Christian Right. Representative J.C. Watts wrote of "a precipitous rise in violent attacks against Christians living under Arafat's authoritative government" since the beginning of the peace process. He asserts that "this once vibrant minority group routinely has suffered violent attacks, summary arrests, and the destruction of its holy places throughout the autonomous zones."19
Watts concludes, "Despite the disbursement of billions of dollars in aid to the Palestinian Authority from the West, including some $307 million from the United States, to promote democracy and respect for human rights in the Palestinian autonomous areas, religious persecution remains a fact of life for local Christians." The Wolf-Spector bill in Congress is the perfect rejoinder for Watts and others who believe his allegations: cut aid to punish the PA for religious persecution. Except that there is no systematic religious persecution in Palestine. Human-rights abuses abound; but Christians, in general, remain unmolested.


After investigating allegations of persecution of Christians in Palestine, the PHRMG has concluded that reports of widespread persecution are without foundation. Evangelical converts from Islam have faced harassment, but there is no evidence that this harassment is organized from above, or that it differs from other cases in which people (land dealers, collaborators) have suffered from the hostility of their local community. Furthermore, their problems may well stem from the political beliefs which accompany their theology rather than their faith itself. The hysteria which has been whipped up over the issue actually does a disservice to the non-evangelical majority of Palestinian Christians by casting doubt on their membership within the broader Palestinian community.


1. The most recent (and most consistent) offender was the Middle East Digest, published by the International Christian Embassy of Jerusalem (ICE]). In their January 1998 issue, they quote out of context our "Deaths in Custody" report, which had nothing to do with Christian persecution, to make it appear as though we support the claims of persecution of Christians. In the middle of an article entitled "Christians under Threat," surrounded by discussion of Christian persecution, I am quoted as saying that the PA "often uses 'blackmail' against aggrieved families." Generally, these statements are true; but they have nothing whatsoever to do with allegations of Christian persecution.
2. The Jerusalem Post, October 24, 1997.
3. All information in this section was obtained in interviews on December 4, 1997.
4. See the article by Alia Sislik condemning the phenomenon, in Monitor no. 4.
5. Bassem Eid, who researched a B'Tselem report on the murder of suspected collaborators during the Intifada, reports that there was no case in which Christians were targeted by Intifada activists. At least 800 suspected collaborators and criminals were killed at this time.
6. The Jerusalem Post, October 24, 1997, and Middle East Digest, August 1997. The latter is published by the ICEJ.
7. The Jerusalem Post, October 24, 1997.
8. Backgrounder of the Israel government report, obtained from the ICEJ.
9. Christian Voices from the Holy Land, A. Aghazarian, B. Sabella, A. Safieh, The Palestinian General Delegation to the UK, December 1997, p.5.
10. Palestine Report, October 31, 1997.
11. Bernard Sabella, "Socia-Economic Characteristics and the Challenges to Palestinian Christians in the Holy Land" in Christians in the Holy Land (eds., Michael Prior and William Taylor), London: World of Islam Festival Trust, 1994.
12. The Jerusalem Post, October 24, 1997.
13. Washington Times, December 4, 1997.
14. Sabella, op. cit., quoting Stavro Danilov, "Dilemmas of Jerusalem's Christians" in Middle East Review, Vol XIII, no. 3-4, 1981.
15. Palestine Report, October 31, 1997.
16. Washington Times, October 17, 1997.
17. Transcript of the television show the "700 Club," October 27,1997, obtained from People for the American Way.
18. Ibid.
19. Washington Times, December 4, 1997.

The Palestinian Authority's Treatment of Christians in the Autonomous Areas - Prepared by the Israeli Prime Minister's Office.

The Takeover of Bethlehem

On taking control over Bethlehem in December 1995, the Palestinian Authority (PA) changed the rules for Christians.
The Church of the Nativity and other sites of central importance to Christians came under PA control, giving Yasser Arafat leverage over the heads of the Christian communities. Since then, the local Christian leadership has toed the line of the PA.
The Latin patriarch, Greek archbishop and Lutheran bishop are all Palestinian Arabs. They have become effective propaganda mouthpieces throughout the Christian world. An example of Arafat's attitude toward the Christians was his decision to unilaterally turn the Greek Orthodox monastery near the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem into his domicile during his periodic visits to the city. This was done without prior consent of the church.

Treatment of Palestinians by the Palestinian Authority

On the social and religious level, the Christians remaining in the Palestinian Authority-controlled areas are subjected to relentless persecution. Christian cemeteries have been destroyed, monasteries have had their telephone lines cut, and there have been break-ins into convents. Nuns are afraid to report such incidents.
In August 1997, Palestinian policemen in Beit Sahour opened fire on a crowd of Christian Arabs, wounding six. The Palestinian Authority is attempting to cover up the incident and warned against publicizing the story. The local commander of the Palestinian Police instructed journalists not to report on the incident.
Palestinian security forces have targeted and intimidated Christian leaders and Palestinian converts to Christianity. Recent incidents of persecution include the following:
• In late June 1997, a Palestinian convert to Christianity in the northern West Bank was arrested by agents of the PA's Preventive Security Service. He had been regularly attending church and prayer meetings and was distributing Bibles. The PA ordered his arrest. He is still being held in a Palestinian prison and has been subjected to physical torture and interrogations.
• The pastor of a church in Ramallah was recently warned by the Palestinian Authority security agents that they were monitoring his evangelical activities in the area and wanted him to come in for questioning for spreading Christianity.
• A Palestinian convert to Christianity living in a village near Nablus was recently arrested by the Palestinian Police. A Muslim preacher was brought in by the police, and he attempted to convince the convert to return to Islam. When the convert refused, he was brought before a Palestinian court and sentenced to prison for insulting the religious leader. He is currently held in a prison cell along with more than thirty people, most serving life sentences for murder.
• A Palestinian convert to Christianity in Ramallah was recently visited by Palestinian policemen at his home and warned that, if he continued to preach Christianity; he would be arrested and charged with being an Israeli spy.
As a result of unceasing persecution, Christians are forced to behave like any oppressed minority which aims to survive. Christians in PA-controlled areas have taken to praying in secret. The wisdom of survival compels them to assess the "balance of fear," according to which they have nothing to fear from Israel, but face an existential threat from the PA and their Muslim neighbors. They act accordingly: They seek to "find favor" through unending praise and adulation for the Muslim ruler, together with public denunciations of the "Zionist enemy."

Emigration of Christians from Palestinian Authority Territory

In the last census conducted by the British Mandatory authorities in 1947, there were 28,000 Christians in Jerusalem. The census conducted in Israel in 1967 (after the Six-Day War) showed just 11,000 Christians remaining in the city. This means that some 17,000 Christians (or 61 percent) left during the days of King Hussein's rule over Jerusalem. Their place was filled by Muslim Arabs from Hebron.
During the British Mandate period, Bethlehem had a Christian majority of 80 percent. Today, under Palestinian rule, it has a Muslim majority of 80 percent. Few Christians remain in the Palestinian-controlled parts of the West Bank. Those who can, emigrate, and there will soon be virtually no Christians in the Palestinian Authority-controlled areas. The PA is trying to conceal the fact of massive Christian emigration from areas under its control.