Sally Ibrahim Azar, Palestinian Christian pastor. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo) Sally Ibrahim Azar, Palestinian Christian pastor. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
Sally Ibrahim Azar

The media celebrated the ordination of Palestinian Sally Azar, one of only five Protestant women pastors in the Middle East, refusing to mention the Palestinians’ horrific treatment of Christians.

By United with Israel Staff

At the beginning of the week, both the Associated Press and the BBC ran laudatory stories praising the ordination of Palestinian pastor Sally Azar.

The AP touted Azar as “the first Palestinian female pastor in the Holy Land,” covering her ordination “before a packed crowd inside the church in Jerusalem’s Old City.”

The BBC published similarly positive coverage, quoting an excited Azar as she took up her new mantle.

While the BBC and AP admitted that Christians make up a minority in Palestinian-ruled areas, both outlets conveniently refused to mention the horrific persecution of Christians, both at the hands of the Palestinian Authority in Judea and Samaria and the Hamas terror group in Gaza.

According to a report prepared by journalist Baruch Yedid, an expert in Arab sector affairs who writes for the TPS news outlet, “Church officials have documented two murders and five kidnappings [in Gaza] because the victims were Christian.”

The report continued, “In 2020, a major survey conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research revealed that 25% of Palestinian Christians as a whole had witnessed violence on religious grounds and a large majority said that they felt unwelcome among Muslims.”

Among the other troubling statistics cited in the TPS report were: 25% of Gaza Christians “reported religious discrimination in job interviews,” 30% were “subjected to expressions of hatred on religious grounds,” and 70% said that Muslims told them “Christians’ judgment is to burn in hell.”

And the numbers don’t lie: the Christian population in Gaza at the end of 2022 was only 1,000, down from 3,500 at the beginning of the 2000s. During the same time period, Gaza’s general population doubled.

Gaza, where did your Christians go?

The situation is not much better in PA-controlled areas of Judea and Samaria.

In 2019, “Terrified residents of the Christian village of Jifna near Ramallah asked the PA to protect them after they were attacked by Muslim gunmen,” reported the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA) that May. “The violence erupted after a woman from the village submitted a complaint to the police that the son of a prominent, Fatah-affiliated leader had attacked her family. In response, dozens of Fatah gunmen came to the village, fired hundreds of bullets in the air, threw petrol bombs while shouting curses, and caused severe damage to public property. It was a miracle that there were no dead or wounded.”

“Despite the residents’ cries for help, the PA police did not intervene during the hours of mayhem,” added the BESA report.

Other incidents occurred a month later, when “vandals broke into a church of the Maronite community in the center of Bethlehem, desecrated it, and stole expensive equipment belonging to the church, including the security cameras. Three days … [at] the Anglican church in the village of Aboud, west of Ramallah…vandals cut through the fence, broke the windows of the church, and broke in. They desecrated it, looked for valuable items, and stole a great deal of equipment.”

In none of those incidents were suspects arrested.

A 2020 survey published by the U.S.-based pan-Arab Alhurra Channel indicated that the Christian presence in PA-controlled territories “has significantly decreased during the past century.” Specifically, the number of Christians in Bethlehem, the site of the Church of the Nativity, decreased from 84 percent in 1922 to 28 percent in 2007.

The same survey indicated that while 36% of all Palestinian Christians were considering immigrating, 84% of Christians living in Gaza Strip said they wanted to leave.

Why does the media cover Azar’s ordination while ignoring the terrifying reality for most Christians living under the PA and Hamas rule?

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