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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Ethnic cleansing, real and imagined

The always reliable Ramzy Baroud writes a tedious essay in the Arab News/Al Jazeera saying that Israelis are engaging in "ethnic cleansing" of the Palestinian Arab population, and have been since 1947.

It is really wondrous that a population that has been ethnically cleansed for some 60 years has managed to multiply by 600% since then.

It is also interesting to compare the number of Jews in Arab-controlled areas in 1947 with the number today, if one was seriously concerned about "ethnic cleansing."

But what I'm wondering today is how come the words "ethnic cleansing" is never used to describe the situation of the Christians in Palestinian Arab areas, as well as the Arab world altogether?

This recent article from AP sheds some light on the matter:
BETHLEHEM, West Bank - The death threat came on simple white fliers blowing down the streets at dawn. A group calling itself "Friends of Muhammad" accused a local Palestinian Christian of selling mobile phones carrying offensive sketches of the Muslim prophet.

The message went on to curse all Arab Christians and Pope Benedict XVI, still struggling to calm Muslim outrage from his remarks on Islam.

While neighbors defended the merchant - saying the charges in the flier were bogus - the frightened phone dealer went into hiding, feeling less than satisfied with authorities' conclusion that the Oct. 19 note was probably a harmless rant.

Now the dealer is thinking of going abroad.

Call it part of a modern exodus, the steady flight of the tiny Palestinian Christian minority that could lead, some predict, to the faith being virtually extinct in its birthplace within several generations - a trend mirrored in many dwindling pockets of Christianity across the Islamic world.

...Nearly everywhere in Muslim lands, Christian populations are in decline.

No place is this more striking than the Holy Land.

The Palestinian uprisings - and the separation barrier started by Israel in 2002 - accelerated the departures by turning once-bustling pilgrimage sites such as Bethlehem into relative ghost towns.

The growing strength of radical Islamic movements has added distinct new worries. During the protests after the pope's remarks in September, some of the worst violence was in Palestinian areas with churches firebombed and hit by gunfire.

"Most of the Christians here are either in the process of leaving, planning to leave or thinking of leaving," said Sami Awad, executive director of the Holy Land Trust, a Bethlehem-based peace group. "Insecurity is deep and getting worse."

The native Palestinian Christian population has dipped below 2 percent of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Arab East Jerusalem, down from at least 15 percent in 1950 by some estimates. Meanwhile, the Muslim Palestinian birthrate is among the highest in the world.

Dire predictions abound. The Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land said Christians could become "extinct" in the region within 60 years.

"It certainly doesn't look good for us," said Mike Salman, a Palestinian Christian who has conducted studies on demographic trends.
So, the number of Jews in Arab lands has plummeted. The population of Christians in Arab lands has plummeted. The number of Arabs in Israel has increased almost tenfold, and the number of Arabs in the territories tripled since 1948.

What was that you were saying about "ethnic cleansing" again, Ramzy?