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If Arafat Goes to Church, Sharon Can Go to the Mosque
Last uploaded : Wednesday 25th Dec 2002 at 02:05
Contributed by : The Editors



?They have prevented me for the second time from going to the Holy Place, the Nativity Church, to pray with my brothers, in a place that is so holy to Muslims and Christians.?

So said Yasser Arafat on Christmas Eve, live on Sky News and broadcast to the world. Well, lucky for him that Israel is a democracy and it allows SKY News in to Ramallah to interview him for worldwide television on Christmas Eve.

I have a question for the legion of broadcasters who have spent today lambasting Israel for ?putting Christ?s birthplace under siege? and for Mr Arafat.

Why is it that a visit by Ariel Sharon -- let?s forget his history and just regard him as a Jewish person -- to the Temple Mount in 2000 was regarded as an outrage by the Muslim world ? Pakistan and Libya are Judenrein (and look what happened to Daniel Pearl when HE ventured into a Muslim country), and other Muslim countries are soon to follow suit. Where is the international outrage about THAT form of ethnic cleansing? Why is the world outraged that Arafat, a Muslim, is not allowed to go to a service in a church but was incensed that the Jew Sharon wanted to visit a place of worship holy to Jews as well as to Muslims and Christians?

The coverage on British television this past twenty-four hours of the Israeli withdrawal from Bethlehem has been painfully biased, stressing that the people of the town have suffered for no reason and that this is just another example of Jewish brutality in ?the place so holy to Christians around the world.? No mention is made of the scores of innocent Israelis killed by suicide bombers and snipers who have emanated from Bethlehem. I seem to recall being told by tourists when I lived in Israel in the Rabin-Peres-Netanyahu era that even though Bethlehem had been handed back to Palestinian control, Jewish -- and sometimes Christian --groups who tried to tour the place were pelted with stones. Where was the ?brutal? Israeli presence then? Where was the Palestinian leadership and infrastructure to guide its youth to studying arts and sciences instead of stone-throwing?

It is lamentable that broadcasters and writers, including AN Wilson, whose poisonous utterings about Israel continue to appear in the Evening Standard newspaper, have no shame about their coverage of the Bethlehem situation. In his article, ?A quiet terror in the city,? Mr Wilson even has the temerity to suggest that ?the Palestinians have behaved with quite astonishing restraint? . Does he live on another planet? Has he seen the waves of angry young humanity marching with guns and masks even in the hopeful time when I was there? He goes on to say ?they are simply not a violent or bellicose people.? He says that Christians and Muslims have united this year to show the world the situation of a people who ?have been stripped of everything.?

As we have said in other columns, we cannot accept that Israel is the sole cause of this situation; during the Rabin era every effort was being made to bring prosperity to both peoples and no Israeli troops were to be seen in these newly autonomous places (I did notice how impoverished the people remained -- whose fault was, and is that??)

The anchors on Sky News have actually been doing hourly ?updates? on what they see as the appalling hush in the town where in previous years there have been loud celebrations and fireworks. They have been interviewing people in Bethlehem who despair of their lot -- not being able to feed their families of eight, or ten, or twelve -- but no-one bothers to go to a WIZO orphanage in Israel to visit children made parentless by Palestinian terror.

The inordinate fuss over Bethlehem and Christmas and the wily technique of the Christian press in making it look like ?those bad Jews trying to stamp us down again? is a form of anti-Semitism, and we deplore the lack of balance in these reports, some of which border on old-fashioned Jew-baiting incitement.

We have in these columns roundly criticised Ariel Sharon and have endorsed Amram Mitzna for Prime Minister, but we are dismayed that the non-Jewish world continues to view Israeli destiny as an irritant rather than as an inspiration. Israel rose from the ashes of Auschwitz generated by white Christian Europe, and that same Christian world has a moral responsibility to report on events in the Holy Land with fairness and compassion to all of its peoples.


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