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Israel builds ties to Christians while Arabs remain AWOL

Israel has expanded its powerful and effective public relations campaign to appeal to American Christians, while the Arab world continues to ignore the growing needs of Christians in the Middle East. Christians have continued to suffer in the region and the Muslim world, as Arab and Muslim leaders have urged their media to downplay stories that highlight tensions with Christian minorities.

Christians say Muslims and Arabs need to do more to address their needs and concerns in public forums where the topics have been taboo and marginalized, and to support their communities not just in the Arab world but in Israel too.

Israel, however, is making Christians’ concerns a top priority, licensing an American Christian evangelical group to broadcast their issues, and support of Israel, to Christians throughout the Middle East and the Muslim world. What is the Arab world doing for Christians other than repeating the empty phrase “we don’t discriminate between Muslim or Christian; we’re all the same”?

The Israeli Christian radio network is called The Voice of Hope, and is focused on the beliefs of Christians in the West, not in the Middle East or in Israel, where they are oppressed daily. Radio station officials announced in a press release — something most Arabs do not know how to write — that their target audience will be Christian Arabs living in Israel, the occupied territories and Arab countries.

The radio station’s founder and president, John Tayloe, said in the press release: “I am excited that this powerful Christian radio station was licensed by the State of Israel to deliver a message of hope and encouragement to the people of the Middle East. The Voice of Hope is established in support of Christians of the Middle East and is a gift of love from Christians in the United States and Canada.”

I bet the radio station will not be discussing how Christians like my family are being persecuted and denied our rights, because that will upset the Israelis. My family owns 33 dunums of land just outside Jerusalem, but Israel’s government has refused to allow my family to do anything with it. So much for caring about Christians!

It is merely taking advantage of the Arab world’s failure to stand up for the rights of Christian Arabs and non-Arab Christians from the Middle East, such as Chaldeans, Phoenicians and Assyrians. These minorities deserve more support than they are receiving.

Ray Hanania

A few years after Israel took over the West Bank militarily, it destroyed the home that was on the land and sealed the water well to redirect water to the racist and illegal Jewish-only settlement of Gilo, which surrounds my family’s land. But this is not the only case of Christian land being under siege that The Voice of Hope will ignore.

Lands in Shepherd’s Field and in the Christian Triangle of Bethlehem, Beit Jala and Beit Sahour have been forcibly taken from Christian Palestinians to build illegal settlements for Jewish fanatics. I doubt the station will discuss that because whenever an Arab one highlights Israeli brutality against Christian and Muslim civilians, Israel’s military ransacks the studios, destroys the equipment and jails the employees without legal representation or charges.

Israel’s Palestinian citizens have been denied government support to launch radio and television stations, and they have no newspaper that represents their views. This is part of Israeli governments’ racist policies that discriminate against non-Jewish citizens. Israel spends millions on public relations and propaganda to bury the truth about how non-Jews are oppressed in Israel.

In 2015, Israel shut down several Arab radio stations and went berserk over the launch of an Arab television station based in Nazareth called Palestine 48. Israel does not allow its schools to teach its children about the Palestinian viewpoint on the 1948 war and Israel’s establishment, and its brutality is often minimized.

Israel is merely taking advantage of the Arab world’s failure to stand up for the rights of Christian Arabs and non-Arab Christians from the Middle East, such as Chaldeans, Phoenicians and Assyrians. These minorities deserve more support than they are receiving.

The Arab world provides funding to Muslim groups to expand their religious presence in the West, supporting the building of mosques and Islamic schools. But no programs offer financial aid to the fast-dwindling Christian-Arab community. That needs to change to prevent Israel from stealing an important role — which should be held by Arabs — of championing the rights of Christians in the Middle East.

• Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian-American former journalist and political columnist. Email him at [email protected]