Like their Muslim neighbours, Christians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are denied basic religious freedoms. They are routinely prohibited from traveling very short distances to worship in one of the most holy sites in Christianity — the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the Old City of Jerusalem. Bethlehem at Christmas - every week of the year - is a prison, surrounded by a 25-foot high wall and patrolled by heavily armed soldiers. Entry to Bethlehem is through a massive steel and concrete checkpoint designed to humiliate and intimidate Palestinians trying to live and work.
A latter-day Mary and Joseph would probably be unable to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem; checkpoints, roads for Jews-only, and armed settlers are some of Israel’s creative range of obstacles to Palestinian travel.
Being heavily pregnant would make the journey dangerous for Mary since soldiers often delay pregnant women at checkpoints, ignoring all pleas, forcing many to give birth at checkpoints, with predictably tragic results.
One study by researchers for the UK medical journal, The Lancet, found that 10% of pregnant Palestinian women from 2000 to 2007 were delayed at Israeli military checkpoints while they were travelling to hospital to give birth. There has been a huge increase in the number of home births, because women avoid road trips while in labour for fear of not being able to reach the hospital in time. These fears are well-founded, for the researchers found that over half of 69 babies died after being born at checkpoints during those seven years as did five of the mothers.
When Palestinian Archbishop Atallah Hanna visited Scotland as a guest of SPSC (Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign), he denounced Israel's violation of human rights and informed Scottish audiences that “There has never been one day's fighting between Palestinian Muslims and Christians”. The Archbishop is an icon of Palestinian resistance: Christians have always been an integral part of the Palestinian freedom struggle. Azmi Bishara, PFLP founder George Habash, Nayif Hawatmeh of the DFLP, and Hanan Ashrawi are notable examples.
Every Christian denomination in the Holy Land is united against Israel's brutal occupation and state-enforced racism. i.e. apartheid, and they have collectively issued the Kairos Appeal which calls on their co-religionists and others worldwide to support the BDS movement to boycott and isolate the State of Israel until it concedes Palestinian rights.
Israel's recent “Nation State Law" reserves important democratic rights to Jews, denying them to Palestinian Muslims and Christians, whether they are Israeli citizens or under military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza. This law makes explicit what has always been the case - that Israel is based on apartheid structures of violent dispossession and subjugation of the Palestine indigenous people. It is a late-occurring example of the settler-colonial projects that used genocidal violence against the indigenous people of North and South America, Africa and Australia.
Some Christian groups outside Palestine have responded to the call from their coreligionists. British Quakers recently became the first UK church to boycott all companies profiting from Israel’s occupation, continuing that church's history of boycotting the apartheid regime in South Africa. In the US, the Presbyterian Church, the United Church of Christ, the United Methodist Church and Quakers voted to divest from Israeli and international companies targeted by the BDS movement. Seventeen US churches representing seven different denominations signed a pledge to boycott Hewlett-Packard to pressure the tech company into ending its complicity in Israel’s human rights abuses against Palestinians. The Iona Community in Scotland has endorsed BDS and Kairos Palestine.
Not yet committed to supporting the call for BDS from their Palestinian brethren, the Church of Scotland in 2013 challenged "claims that scripture offers any peoples a privileged claim for possession of a particular territory". The Church argues that it is "doubly wrong to seek biblical sanction" given "the fact that the [Palestinian] land is currently being taken by settlement expansion, the separation barrier, house clearance, theft and force". The Church insisted that respecting human rights " should include the right of return and/or compensation for Palestinian refugees". Others, including those who were moved by Atallah Hannah’s address to all the Scottish church leaders at a meeting in Edinburgh in 2014 have remained silent since rather than “speak truth to power”.
Some Christians, particularly in the United States, have become zealous defenders of every Israeli atrocity committed against the Palestinian people. Such groups have not abandoned their traditional antisemitism, which has morphed into a bizarre theology which insists that Jews must all relocate to Palestine/Israel to bring forward the end of the world and the second coming of Jesus.
Epitomising this group are two fundamentalist Christian pastors that Trump sent to Jerusalem on 14th May 2018 for the official move of the US Embassy in Jerusalem. John Hagee is militantly pro-Israel but has argued in the past that Hitler did God’s work in driving Jews out of Europe. Pastor Robert Jeffress has pronounced that all Jews (and Muslims) will end up in Hell, but he loves the self-styled Jewish State of Israel erected in Palestine.
This primitive phenomenon is not restricted to the USA; in Scotland the main leaders of the so-called Friends of Israel groups are fundamentalist Christians; Nigel Goodrich is head of COFIS (Confederation of Friends of srael in Scotland) and Ruth Kennedy heads the Centre for Israel-Scotland Relations In Giffnock. Both Goodrich and Kennedy are run from the Israeli Embassy, in whose service Goodrich invents preposterous incidents of antisemitism, possibly on the basis that antisemitism, real and imagined, will help drive Scottish Jews from their homes to Israel/Palestine. Zionists and anti-semites share a belief that all Jews should move there.
These fundamentalists shun Palestinian Christians even while Jewish settler leaders enjoying Israeli Government grants publicly justify the burning of Christian churches. Scores of churches and mosques have been torched by Jewish extremists with virtual impunity
Christian Zionism – the idea that Jews should leave Britain and colonise Palestine on behalf of the British Empire - can be dated from the first decade of the 19th Century and is thus considerably older than the Jewish version developed by Herzl in the final years of that same century.
Fr. Manuel Musallam of the Catholic Church in the Gaza Strip, “All Palestinians live together in Palestine and they are partners in the case of sacrifice and struggle, they are a unified people of a unified history.”
"The problem in Palestine has nothing to do with religion. It is a conflict between those who are the holders of a rightful cause and those who took away that right by military might [from] Palestinian people as a whole, including Christians and Muslims...Israel has a violent attitude towards the Palestinians as a matter of state policy.” Atallah Hanna