Menacing anti-Israel demonstrations in the street, rabid anti-Israel resolutions at the United Nations, obsessive anti-Israel boycott resolutions among western academics, relentless anti-Israel headlines in the world media are “politics as usual,” involving the young and the fanatic. Most civilians barely notice it. They are worried about employment, health insurance, college tuition for their children—or about celebrities, whose decadent rise and fall distracts them from their own more ordinary miseries.
What worries me more are the movies and plays that subtly and inexorably shift the civilian point of view, movies which glamorize Arab tyrants and terrorists and demonize Israeli soldiers, “settlers” and politicians. Gradually, almost imperceptibly, ordinary people have come to believe that the Muslim world is peaceful, friendly, safe; that its “rough edges” are due to it’s having formerly been oppressed by Europe; that Islamist terrorism has probably been caused by the United States’ invasion of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan; that much of this is Israel’s fault—or rather, that much of this may now be solved if only America sacrifices Israel for the sake of world peace, including its own survival.
Take the pre-eminent, planet-friendly magazine, National Geographic. It boasts a readership of nearly eight million people. Courtesy of a gift subscription, it arrives faithfully. Sometimes I look at it, often I don’t. So many glossy photos, so little time. But this issue immediately caught my eye because the cover story is titled: “The Christian Exodus from the Holy Land.” What ho! I thought. So, the animal-friendly magazine “gets” it. My hopes raised, I turned to the article which is also titled “The Forgotten Faithful: Arab Christians.”
Here’s what the article does: It essentially blames the Christian Crusaders, American Christians, and Israel (!) for the persecution and disappearance of Arab Christians from the Middle East. I could not make this up. The lies, omissions, biases, both subtle and overt are mind-boggling. For example, the article, written by Don Belt, does not explain why the Crusades ever took place—namely, to protect the Christian Arabs from being slaughtered and forcibly converted by Muslims. In any event, Belt writes that “ironically, it was during the Crusades (1095-1291) that Arab Christians, slaughtered along with Muslims by the crusaders and caught in the cross fire between Islam and the Christian West, began a long, steady retreat into the minority.”
Just a minute. How has Belt managed to bypass the Arab Muslim conquest of the Christian and Jewish Middle East? For example, according to the pre-eminent scholar, Bat Ye’or, (and cited in Andrew Bostom’s excellent The Legacy of Jihad),
“Abu Bakr organized the invasion of Syria (Syro-Palestine) which Mohammed had already envisioned…the whole Gaza region up to Casarea was sacked and devastated in the campaign of 634. Four thousand Jewish, Christian, and Samaritan peasants who defended their land were massacred. The villages of the Negev were pillaged by Amr b. al As…in his sermon on Christmas day, 634, the patriarch of Jerusalem, Sophronius, lamented over the impossibility of going on pilgrimage to Bethelehem…Sophronius, in his sermon on the day of Epiphany 636, bewailed the destruction of the churches and monasteries, the sacked towns, the fields laid waste…thousands of people perished in 639, victims of the famine that resulted from these destructions. According to the Muslim chronicler Baladhuri (d.892 C.E.), 40,000 Jews lived in Caesarea alone at the Arab conquest, after which all trace of them is lost.”
Based on scholarly sources, Bostom carefully and comprehensively chronicles the systematic Arab Muslim pillaging of the entire Middle East which included their enslavement and murder of Christians and Jews. What Don Belt fails to note, even in passing, is that more than four centuries of such Arab Muslim persecution of Christians is precisely what led to the Christian Crusades.
Yes, ’tis true: some Caliphs were temporarily kind to their Dhimmi populations; the Egyptian ruler granted asylum to the great Jewish scholar and philosopher, Maimonides who was, however, in flight from Muslims in Spain. Maimonides became the ruler’s personal physician. The Turkish Sultan granted asylum to the fabulously wealthy, Donna Gracia HaNasi, who was, herself, in flight from Catholic persecution in Spain and Portugal. But mainly, Jews lived in enormous poverty and danger and were routinely murdered, jailed for ransom, and exiled, their goods confiscated. The largest untold refugee story of the Middle East is that of Arab Jews in flight from Muslim persecution.
Just today, a letter addressed to Egypt’s First Lady demanded urgent intervention ‘to save the Egyptian Christian children from forced Islamization’. The letter was sent by Dr. Naguib Gibraeel, President of the Egyptian Union of Human Rights Organization (EUHRO).
But let’s move on. After blaming the Crusaders (!) for accidentally slaughtering Christian Arabs, Belt goes on to blame contemporary Israel (!) for persecuting Christians. Without mentioning how Palestinian terrorists have routinely used the holiest churches as toilets, and as places to stash weapons and hostages, Belt quotes an Arab Christian from Bethlehem who attributes his suffering mainly to the “giant (Israeli) Wall” and to an Israeli bureaucracy which does not allow him to live with his wife who is an Israeli citizen, in Jerusalem.
Sounds like South African Apartheid, doesn’t it? Omitted entirely, is the horrendous reality of terrorism and hate propaganda factories that exist in cities and villages all over the West Bank—cities and villages which are entirely “judenrein.” Jews cannot visit their places of worship, however holy, nor can Christians do so today without risk, if those places of worship are under Muslim rule. Thus, only for the sake of security, does the much besieged Israeli government place restrictions on travel. The restrictions are not due to skin color or religion. In fact, the Israeli government handed over total control to the Islamic Waqf of the Temple Mount and the Dome of the Rock mosque in Jerusalem. No Arab or Palestinian government has ever handed over total control of Christian and Jewish holy places to Christians or Jews. On the contrary. They have pillaged and destroyed those places, sometimes built mosques over them, forbidden Christians and Jews from worshipping at the ruin or at the intact building, or have allowed them to worship there at their own considerable risk.
Do the Israeli authorities really shut off water to a Christian Arab neighborhood? According to my informants, there are really no Christian Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem and the water is never shut off in Jerusalem in order to send it to “the settlements”—what kind of blood libel is Belt perpetrating? Of course, according to Belt’s informant, the allegedly callous Israelis purposely shut off the water on Easter Sunday in an undisclosed location so that “Mark,” (not his real name—but then his information is not that real either), cannot wash the car that will take him and his family to church.
After the Christian Crusaders and the Israelis, the third group whom Belt blames for the disappearance of Arab Christians from the Holy Land are….American Christians (!). Belt quotes Razek Siriani, who works for the Middle East Council of Churches in Aleppo, Syria. Here’s what Siriani, (dancing for his life, I might add), has to say:
“We’re completely outnumbered and surrounded by angry voices,” he says. Western Christians have made matter worse, he argues, echoing a sentiment expressed by many Arab Christians. “It’s because of what Christians in the West, led by the U.S., have been doing in the East” he says, ticking off the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. support for Israel, and the threats of ‘regime change’ by the Bush administration.” To many Muslims, especially the fanatics, this looks like the Crusades all over again, a war against Islam waged by Christianity. Because we’re Christians, they see us as the enemy too. It’s guilt by association.”
Apparently, neither Don Belt nor Razek Siriani seem to have a clue about the history of Islam as the regions’s largest practitioner of genocidal jihad and religious apartheid, a brand of imperialism characterized by slavery, theft, and plunder.
Thus far, Belt manages to blame Christian Crusaders, then Israelis, then American Christians who are pro-Israel and/or whom, perfectly peaceful and friendly Muslims, understandably view as the new Christian Crusaders. Belt goes further. He blames the Lebanese Christians who fought back against Palestinian terrorist gangsters for an increase in Islamic anti-Christian attitudes. He presents the Lebanese Christians as armed and dangerous men–but we do not see any photos of the even more heavily armed and far more dangerous men of Hezbollah and of the PLO who terrorized and have now occupied the country of Lebanon.
Belt goes even further: He shows the mobs of Christian worshippers on Easter Sunday in Jerusalem at the Church of All Nations next to the Garden of Gethsemane, as callously nearly trampling Nadia, an Israeli Arab Christian mother, (‘Mark’s’ wife), and her baby in the stroller. The foreign Christian pilgrims (from Europe, the United States, South America, and Africa), simply did not see that there was a baby in the stroller and they pushed aggressively into what they thought was a vacant space. When Nadia tried to get out, these same awful Christians “reacted poorly to this tiny Arab woman moving in the wrong direction…Nadia asks:”‘Do you see how it is?…This is our home. And it’s like we’re not even here.”
Have either Belt or Nadia ever heard about how Muslims tragically trample each other as they circle the Ka’aba in Mecca, also on pilgrimage? That near-trampling does not necessarily imply a Christian or Israeli plot?
Who, alone, is barely “blamed” or held accountable for the persecution of Christians historically and contemporaneously, a persecution which has led to the radically dwindling numbers of Christians in the Middle East?
Muslims of course who, according to Belt, have always lived in peace with Christians and Jews in the Middle East. In fact, Belt shows us touching scenes of Muslims who worship at Christian shrines for miracles. In Syria, Belt quotes a mother, Miriam, whose family “used to be Christian” (wonder why they converted?) and who now says “I believe in the prophets—Muslim, Jewish, and Christian—I believe in Mary, I’ve come here so my boy will be healed.” Belt presents the forced conversions to Islam from Christianity as benign, free choices, partly for economic reasons, often “in order to have a more personal connection with God” as opposed to only the mediated connection possible due to the “oppressive hierarchies of the Byzantine Church.”
Is National Geographic Magazine a subsidiary of or on the payroll of Saudi Arabia or Iran? I ask because their party line in terms of Middle East coverage seems to be startlingly similar.
So, am I writing a letter of protest to National Geographic’s editor and board? No. Why not? Because CAMERA, (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America), has been doing so since 1996. I did not know this but when I read Belt’s article I began to research National Geographic’s previous articles on the Middle East. I found that CAMERA had been analyzing their biases and also asking the magazine to realize that their work was inaccurate, untrue, highly biased, and filled with outright lies. HERE, HERE, and HERE. Camera showed them chapter and verse. Each time, the editors stood by their story and refused to make any change, issue any apology, or write any articles without a blatant anti-Israel bias.
However, before you cancel your subscriptions, here’s what I hope my readers wil do: Write to National Geographic to protest these Blood Libels, and to protest Belt’s incredibly anti-American, anti-Christian, and anti-Israeli piece.
Here are the contact addresses:
Chris Johns, Editor in Chief
711 5th Ave.
New York, NY 10022