This year Christmas is overshadowed by the destruction of Gaza. While two million Palestinians face potential annihilation the rest of us, including many who have marched for Palestine in these past weeks, will be opening our presents and tucking into our extravagant dinners, seeking a brief respite from the horrors of war. But for those in Gaza and the rest of Palestine there is no respite.
This is what Christmas looks like in Bethlehem. This is what Christmas looks like in Palestine, with occupation, with destruction, with the bombardment of children. While the world is celebrating our children are under the rubble. while the world is celebrating our families are displaced and their homes are destroyed. So this is Christmas to us in Palestine.Reverend Munther Isaac, Christmas Lutheran Church – Bethlehem
With these words the Reverend Isaac captures the contradiction at the heart of our Christmas celebrations this year. Whatever your beliefs it is undeniable that Palestine is central to the Christmas tradition and its message of Peace on Earth and Goodwill To All. While Israel’s assault on Gaza is being cheered on by the ostensibly Christian West, Palestinian Christians are demonstrating their solidarity with their fellow Palestinians in Gaza and the occupied territories of the West Bank.
A hundred years ago Christians formed around ten percent of the population in Palestine. Then as now they identified as Palestinians. In the Nakba of 1948 Christians as well as Muslims were driven from their land and joined the Palestinian diaspora. Today they still comprise ten percent of the global Palestinian population but amount to little more than two percent of the Palestinians that still live in Gaza, the Occupied Territories or within Israel. Only around one thousand Christians remain in Gaza and they fear for their survival. Taking refuge in churches offers little protection. 18 people were killed in the bombing of the Greek Orthodox Church of Saint Porphyrius, the oldest church in Gaza and the third oldest in the world, dating back to the fourth century. On 16 December, two Christian women were killed by an Israeli sniper inside the Holy Family Parish Church where the majority of Christian families have take refuge since the start of the war, according to a statement released by the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
Beyond Gaza, Palestinian Christians suffer together under the brutal Israeli occupation and all that it entails: checkpoints, travel restrictions, confiscation of land, destruction of homes, abuse of children, beatings, killings, and more. While tens of thousands of Christians from around the world can visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, believed to be the site of Jesus’ burial tomb, Palestinian Christians who live only a few miles away cannot reach it without a special permit that they can rarely obtain, even during the Easter season. Since the start of this latest Israeli assault on Gaza, settlers are stepping up their pressure to drive Palestinian Christians out of the Armenian Quarter of East Jerusalem.
This Christmas we do well to remember that Gaza is not Arab-Israeli conflict. Nor is it a Jewish-Muslim conflict. This is a Zionist drive to create an exclusively Jewish state that actually endangers Jews worldwide by its promotion of ethnic cleansing and genocide. We at Creating Socialism encourage you to enjoy the Christmas break. You have earned it with your uncompromising solidarity with Palestine. And it is only a respite before we build for the next National March For Palestine In London on 13th January.
Life long socialist. Now retired, I have been an office junior, a bookseller, a docker and a teacher. I write a lot and read a lot more. Committed member of the Society of Authors, English PEN and the National Education Union. Never voting Labour again.