• Birds eye view of the Old City of Jerusalem; the Dome of the Rock is seen in the background and the Jaffa gate in the foreground. On the left is the Jewish quarter and on the right, the Christian quarter. | Photo: Flash90

Arab Christians Say No to Islamic Palestinian State

Andrew Tucker - 13 October 2021

The ‘international community’ is allowing the further ethnic cleansing of the Middle East of Jews and Christians.

The West’s ‘Two-State’ policy not only undermines the position of the Jewish State of Israel, but it also imposes an Islamic state on the remaining Palestinian Christians who have clearly stated that they don’t want to be part of an Islamic state and exposes them to great danger. ‘East Jerusalem’ is often spoken about as being ‘Arab’. It is important to appreciate that ‘East Jerusalem’ encompasses the Old City (and its environs, often known as the ‘Holy Basin’) – everything that constituted Jerusalem before it expanded in the 20th century. It is the traditional home to both Jews and Christians.

Jordan ethnically cleansed East Jerusalem of Jews when it controlled it in 1948-1967. Since then, the ‘international community’ has ignored the precarious position of the Jews who have returned, as well as the 16,000 Christians who live in Jerusalem. 12,600 of these Christians in East Jerusalem are ‘Arab’ Christians. About 9% of Israel’s Christian Arab population lives in Israel’s capital, making it the third- largest concentration of Christian Arabs in all of Israel. The city with the largest Christian Arab population is Nazareth, with Haifa coming in second place.

Elias Zariana represents the Jerusalem Initiative, a non-profit organisation established to empower Arabic-speaking Israeli Christians. According to Zariana, Christian Arabs living in Israel enjoy full religious freedom under Israeli law. The Arab Christians in East Jerusalem do not want to be part of the Arab Palestinian state that the EU and many other states want to establish, with ‘East Jerusalem’ as its capital.

In his submission to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in March 2020 on behalf of the Jerusalemite Initiative, Zariana wrote that “Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem extends over several important Christian holy sites, such as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Via Dolorosa and the Church of All Nations. The State of Israel protects these sites according to the Protection of Holy Places Law.”

Zariana was responding to the arguments made by the ICC Prosecutor that the Palestinian Authority should be recognised as having jurisdiction over East Jerusalem.

The Prosecutor argued that, under international law, East Jerusalem is ‘occupied Palestinian territory’, and Israel is not allowed to administer the city or change the status it had when it was under Jordanian occupation (and later annexation) between 1949 and 1967.

Zariana told the Court that most Christians in East Jerusalem much prefer to be under Israeli governance and do not want to be part of a ‘Palestinian’ state. He continued: “Opinion polls demonstrate that large percentages of Arab residents of Jerusalem, Christian and Muslim alike, would prefer to remain under Israeli control, as opposed to being transferred to PA jurisdiction. Subjecting them to PA jurisdiction would not be likely to respect their right to self- determination. Jerusalem’s Arab residents would face severe human rights violations under PA jurisdiction. For example, Palestinian law forbids the sale of land to Jews, and those convicted of that crime risk severe punishment and even death.

Zariani’s pleas fell on deaf ears. In February 2021, the Court decided that ‘Palestine’ is a State for the purposes of the Court’s own constitution (the Statute of Rome) and that the ‘territory’ of that state includes East Jerusalem.

The Court preferred the legal and historical narrative presented by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the Arab League, and the left-wing and Arab lawyers who agree with them, over the views presented by Zariani, countries like Germany, Austria, Australia and Israel, and the more conservative lawyers who agree with them.

This is deeply troubling. Over the last century, the Western world has gradually acquiesced in the Islamisation of the Middle East. The victims are peace-loving Muslims and all non-Muslim minorities – especially Jews and Christians.

Afghanistan is just the latest example of a long and tragic trend.

The attempts by Western governments over recent decades to build Islamic states in the Middle East has failed. Instead, they should be giving more attention to the protection of human rights of Jews, Christians and Muslims.

Israel is the only country in the Middle East that does exactly that. Although it is not perfect, its sovereignty should be supported, not undermined.

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