Palestinian Christians and 60 Minutes (Cont'd)

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Taybeh - Copy.jpeg

In the wake of the controversy over last week's 60 Minutes episode on Palestinian Christians, the Israeli website 972 today runs an illuminating post by a Palestinian Christian, Philip Farah. On the question of whether Christians are being driven out of the occupied territory by Islamic radicals or by Israeli policies, Farah writes:

Palestinian Christians are, indeed, worried about the militancy of extremists who cloak themselves in distorted Islamic rhetoric. Yet, the majority of Palestinian Muslims and Christians have chosen peaceful resistance. To say that Hamas is the cause of the declining Christian population in the occupied Palestinian territories is standing the truth on its head.

Our people are fleeing their homeland because the Israelis are confiscating the land of Palestinians -- Muslims and Christians alike -- to build Jewish-only settlements and the Apartheid Wall which is ghettoizing many Palestinian communities. Palestinian Christians are leaving because of Israeli checkpoints and barriers that severely restrict the freedom of movement of Palestinians, destroying their economy and preventing their access to their holy places in Jerusalem. They are leaving because Israel diverts Palestinian water resources in a way that gives illegal Jewish settlements the right to enjoy swimming pools while the fields of Palestinian farmers next door go fallow for lack of water.

This testimony meshes with the one piece of evidence on this issue that I got first-hand. During a trip to Israel and the West Bank last summer, the group I was with visited a Palestinian brewery in the village of Taybeh. After touring the brewery, before getting back on the bus, a few of us were chatting with a Palestinian woman who was one of the brewery's proprietors. Small talk about how her business was doing led her into a pretty intense discussion of the occupation. She didn't deliver a political rant--she didn't talk about Palestinians lacking the right to vote or due process of law. She just talked about how her brewery couldn't count on the things an American-based company would take for granted--consistent access to water, electrical power, etc.--because these were under the control of Israelis who didn't seem very attentive to the needs of Palestinians.

But however mundane her critique, it was no less animated for that. And after watching this articulate, forceful testimony from a Palestinian woman with a cross around her neck, I said to a traveling companion something to the effect that, if you could get this woman on American TV, that could change some American opinions about the Palestinian predicament. I think that's one reason the Israeli government was so concerned about the 60 Minutes broadcast: It provided first-hand testimony about the grim reality of the Israeli occupation from people large numbers of Americans might actually believe.

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Robert Wright is the author of, most recently, the New York Times bestseller The Evolution of God and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic. More

Wright is also a fellow at the New America Foundation and editor in chief of Bloggingheads.tv. His other books include Nonzero, which was named a New York Times Book Review Notable Book in 2000 and included on Fortune magazine's list of the top 75 business books of all-time. Wright's best-selling book The Moral Animal was selected as one of the ten best books of 1994 by The New York Times Book Review.Wright has contributed to The Atlantic for more than 20 years. He has also contributed to a number of the country's other leading magazines and newspapers, including: The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Foreign Policy, The New Republic, Time, and Slate, and the op-ed pages of The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Financial Times. He is the recipient of a National Magazine Award for Essay and Criticism and his books have been translated into more than a dozen languages.

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