Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Secretary-General Saeb Erekat denounced Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on Tuesday, for using Christianity to distort facts.
“Israel’s Prime Minister continues to distorting facts even by using Christianity to support his racist and xenophobic claims,” Erekat said in a statement in reference to Netanyahu’s comments on Palestinian Christians at the so-called Christian Media Summit.
He said Netanyahu’s remarks on Palestinian Christians and Bethlehem are baseless.
“Every Palestinian, regardless of their religion, is an integral and an indivisible part of our nation, both in Palestine and in exile,” he said.
Netanyahu claimed at the conference that Palestinian Christians have dwindled in number since the arrival of the Palestinian Authority in 1994, claiming that Christians have thrived only in Israel.
“It is Israel that has been engaged in the forcible displacement and transfer of Palestinians, including Christians, since the Nakba of 1948. Dozens of Palestinian Christian communities were in fact ethnically cleansed by Israel and now live as refugees, including in Al Dbayeh, Al Bassa, and Mar Elias Refugee Camps in Lebanon, among other places. Following the occupation of 1967, and for the consolidation of its colonial settlement enterprise, Israel has been engaged in a massive campaign of land grabbing that led to walling off Bethlehem and the construction of 18 illegal colonial settlements around the city,” said Erekat.
“Israel has also denied Palestinian family reunification, something that has particularly affected the Palestinian Christian presence in occupied Jerusalem. Dozens of thousands of Palestinian Christians are prevented from even praying in their holy shrines due to Israel’s racist policies that divide families and prevent the return of Palestinians because they are not Jews.”
Erekat said Israel, following the passing of the Jewish Nation-State law, with the support of their partners in the Trump Administration, “is continuing to using religion to justify its crimes and violations of Palestinian rights.”
He called upon “all peace-loving people, including religious leaders worldwide, to raise their voice against the cynical use of religion to justify the oppression of the people of Palestine. The rise of populist right-wing politicians worldwide is a threat to world peace as shown in the blind decisions being taken by some with regards to Jerusalem, a holy city to the three monotheistic religions.”
Bethlehem Mayor Anton Salman had also lambasted Netanyahu for his statements on Palestinian Christians.
He said in a statement on Monday that Netanyahu’s comments were “full of historical inaccuracies.”
“We would like to advise Mr. Netanyahu to stop using Christians as a tool to pinkwash the occupation. The best he could do for a future of peace and coexistence, where the Christian community would thrive again, it is to respect his obligations under international law, including Security council resolutions 478 on Jerusalem and 2334 on settlements, dismantling illegal colonial-settlements and the annexation wall surrounding Bethlehem, including in the Cremisan Valley, fully end the occupation of Palestine and allow for the return of our people to their city. It is not the Palestinian government that prevents their return Mr. Netanyahu; It is your government,” said Salman, who is a Christian.