“Christian Activist Slain in Gaza” read the headline over a one-paragraph item in The Washington Post’s Oct. 8, 2007 “World In Brief” section. Here’s the item, from news services:
“A prominent Palestinian Christian activist, Rami Khader Ayyad, was found dead on a Gaza City street, sending a shudder through a tiny Christian community feeling increasingly insecure since the Islamic movement Hamas seized control last summer. Ayyad, 32 and director of Gaza’s only Christian bookstore, was shot in the head and stabbed, an official said. He had received anonymous death threats accusing him of missionary work. His store, which is associated with a Christian group called the Palestinian Bible Society was firebombed in April.”
Now imagine the coverage if a prominent Israeli Arab activist, Christian or Muslim, was found shot and stabbed on an Israeli street after receiving death threats for “missionary work” and having his or her place of business firebombed. A news brief, one paragraph, four sentences? Don’t bet on it. CAMERA’s September 24 Washington Post-Watch, “Old Habits Die Hard, If At All,” noted that “bad, if important, news about the Palestinian Arabs is not a Post priority.”
Christians in the Gaza Strip feel “increasingly insecure” not only because “the Islamic movement Hamas seized control last summer.” Oppression by Muslims of Christians has fueled emigration from what is now the West Bank (Judea and Samaria), Gaza, and Jordan for more than a century. The exodus accelerated after creation in 1993 of the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority. That’s why there are only about 3,000 Christians are left among the roughly 1.4 million Arabs in the Strip. That’s why, in the West Bank, Christians as a percentage of Bethlehem’s population plunged from 85 percent in 1948 to 12 percent last year, even without Hamas rule.
The Post is hardly the only media minimizing bad news for Christian Arabs. The somewhat longer Reuters and Associated Press dispatches were actually misleading. Each claimed that Christian-Muslim relations in Gaza have been “generally good.” “Good,” if the dhimmi (Jew or Christian as a “protected” second-class citizen under Islamic law) knows his place and keeps it, and keeps quiet, or leaves if things get worse anyway. — E.R.