Just before Christmas, the military wing of a terrorist organization in Gaza published a flyer warning Muslim and Christian inhabitants of Gaza that it would be “absolutely forbidden” to celebrate Christmas in any way.
The flyer was published by the Al-Nasser Salah al-Deen Brigades, the military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees PRC , which are comprised of various Palestinian groups; the PRC is considered a terrorist organization by Israel and the United States. According to The Jerusalem Post, they are “believed to be the third largest faction in Gaza after Hamas and the Islamic Jihad.”
The flyer had a picture of a Christmas tree burning, as well as a quote from the Koran, telling Muslims “not to go the way of the Jews and the Christians, indeed God is not for the evil people.”
The Al-Nasser Salah al-Deen Brigades is the military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees, a coalition of armed Palestinian groups considered a terrorist organization by Israel and the United States and believed to be the third largest faction in Gaza after Hamas and the Islamic Jihad. The PRC is responsible for a number of terrorist attacks against Israel and has a close relationship with Hezbollah.
Roughly 1,000 Christians live in the Gaza Strip.
In contrast to Gaza, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted, “Merry Christmas to all our Christian friends in Israel and around the world!”
President Reuven Rivlin echoed, “Warmest greetings from Jerusalem for a Happy Christmas! May your holiday be full of peace, joy and love.”
I24News offered some statistics about Christians in Israel:
Some 175,000 Christians live in Israel comprising just two percent of the country’s total population, according to figures published by the Central Bureau of Statistics on Christmas Eve. Seventy-seven percent of the Christians in Israel are Arab Christians, according to the figures which did not include foreigners not residing in Israel who do not appear in the population register. In the Palestinian territories, Christians make up less than one percent of the overall population in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, according to the Palestinian Authority Central Bureau of Statistics.
It is quite clear that the West Bank’s Christian population is diminishing. In 2013, Rosanna Rafel reported that “in British-mandated Palestine, before the establishment of Israel in 1948, the percentage of the Christian population stood at 18 percent. This figure has now dwindled to under 1.5 percent.” This plummeting Christian population is invariably blamed on the “Israeli occupation.” But if this is so, why isn’t the Muslim population diminishing too?
Christians are escaping the West Bank because of anti-Christian persecution. In Bethlehem, Christians are not just a minority population in an overwhelmingly Muslim community. They aren’t simply marginalized; they don’t just suffer discrimination. Too often, they are threatened and intimidated; injured or even killed. They are cautious. They are uneasy. Many of them live in fear. In the March 2016 issue of Providence Magazine, The Philos Project Executive Director Robert Nicholson wrote a persuasive article, “Why are Palestinian Christians Fleeing?” He explained that “the Palestinian Authority – the government created by the PLO to manage the West Bank and Gaza – is, by its own constitution, an Islamic state that embodies the principles of sharia.”
Reuters reported in 2012:
Hundreds of Christians have staged protests in Gaza’s main church in the past week, demanding the return of members of their community of 2,500, whom they said were kidnapped by Islamist proselytizers and forced to convert to Islam. Christians are blaming the Hamas-affiliated Palestine Scholars Association and its chairman Salem Salama, a senior member of the Islamist Hamas movement.