As Christians worldwide observed the Holy Week last month, they received greetings from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. On Twitter, the far-right leader wished “[a] very Happy Easter to all our Christian friends around the world!” Meanwhile, the Israeli regime has continued to oppress Palestine’s indigenous Christian community, which, once again, faced obstacles in trying to celebrate Easter.
The Holy Sepulchre Church in Jerusalem, said to be the site of Jesus’s resurrection, is a central landmark for Palestinian Christians in particular. But, while it is crowded with foreign tourists, most Palestinian Christians cannot visit the holy shrine. This is because Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza must beg Israel’s colonial bureaucrats for permits in order to visit Jerusalem. The criteria about who is allowed to even apply for these permits is arbitrary and inflexible. Gazans, for example, are not allowed to visit Jerusalem at all, as Israel has barred them from traveling to the area.
On top of this, during the Jewish Passover, which lasted from April 19 until April 27, Israeli authorities closed off all checkpoints surrounding the occupied West Bank. Movement into and out of the territory and into Israel was impossible, further isolating Palestinian Christians from their holy sites. This situation, in which the privileged population is able to celebrate its holiday, while the subjugated population is prevented from doing so, is the epitome of apartheid.
This treatment stands in stark contrast to Israel’s approach towards Christians in the West. Israel depends politically, and, to a certain extent economically, on support from white evangelical Zionists in the United States. The indigenous Palestinian Christians have, by contrast, been ignored and erased. Dominant Israeli and Western depictions of the “conflict” in Palestine have, by contrast, largely obscured the existence of Palestinian Christians. Arab Christians simply do not fit into Israel’s binary notions of good and evil which is based on ethnic and religious markers. According to Israel’s narratives, Arabs and Muslims are one in the same and evil. Indeed, Israel presents itself as the Western frontier in an existential battle against Muslims living in a genocidal Middle East. This Islamophobic and otherwise racist rationale cleverly depends and builds upon Western Orientalism, and is generally accepted by many in Europe and North America.
Instead of practicing their so-called Christian values, pro-Israel evangelical Christians have turned their back on Palestinians in general, and Palestinian Christians in particular.