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As surely as night follows day if you want to make all before you tremble and kneel at your feet you only have to mention religion. The fear of God and a promise of the hereafter is all that is necessary. Cynical? Yes it is, but I am not talking about myself. I am agnostic. I speak of the cynical and evil use of the bible and God to justify the Zionist theft of our land. Not just any bible, but The Schofield Bible, a heavily annotated version by an American Christian evangelist at the turn of the last century, Cyrus I Schofield, who induced generations of American evangelicals to believe that God demands their uncritical support for the modern State of Israel. When John Hagee, the founder of Christians United for Israel (CUFI), said recently that “50 million evangelical bible-believing Christians unite with five million American Jews standing together on behalf of Israel,” it was the Scofield Bible that he was talking about. This callous and inflammatory pronouncement bought the reverend a front row seat at the opening of the US Embassy in occupied Jerusalem.

At the recent Christian Media Summit in Jerusalem, a gathering of Christian journalists from around the world, Mr Benjamin Netanyahu, the propagandist and liar-in-chief for the Zionist colonial project in Palestine had this to say.

“Israel is the only country in the Middle East where the Christian community thrives and grows.”

He went on to say, “When Israel transferred control of Bethlehem to the Palestinian Authority (PA) in 1995, its Christian population was roughly 80%. Now it’s about 20%. That change happened because in the PA areas, as well as throughout the Middle East, Christians are being constricted, pressured, persecuted.”

Rubbish, said Mr Anton Salman, a Palestinian Christian, and incidentally, the Mayor of Bethlehem,

“If Mr. Netanyahu was concerned about the situation of Palestinian Christians, particularly in the Bethlehem area, he would return the 22,000 dunams (5,436 acres) of Bethlehem land illegally annexed to Israel for expansion of colonial settlements.”

He continued. “He would dismantle the annexation wall that divides Bethlehem from Jerusalem for the first time in 2000 years of Christianity and would stop imposing restrictions to Palestinian movement, including the thousands of Palestinian Christians living in exile and whose return is impossible due to the Israeli control over the Palestinian population registry.”

He went on to say, ”For example, in Jordan alone, a few kilometers away, there are at least 20,000 Palestinian Christians from the Bethlehem area that are denied family unification and even cannot enter the city, not even to celebrate Christmas, due to the Israeli military restrictions.

“We would like to remind Mr. Netanyahu that it was himself who supported the building of one of the most damaging colonial-settlements that surround Bethlehem, Jabal Abu Ghneim (Har Homa), and that in 2015 he declared that by doing so he is preventing the connection between Bethlehem and Jerusalem.”

Mayor Salmon was relentless, ”There are over 100,000 Israeli settlers surrounding Bethlehem from all sides,” he said,” reducing the area of Palestinian control over Bethlehem to less than 13% of the district, and making it impossible to plan for the future of our city.

“Furthermore, it was Mr. Netanyahu who voiced objection to declaring the Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage route as a World Heritage site and his policies of harassment were behind the decision of the churches to close the church of the Holy Sepulchre for three days in Jerusalem in objection to church taxation policy.”

“It is shameful that while calling himself a ‘protector of Christianity,’ he would use Christians as a tool for his Islamophobic talking points. The decrease in percentage of Christians in Bethlehem, as well as in the rest of Palestine, was provoked with the Nakba of 1948 that is still ongoing due to Israel’s colonial plans and policies that started in 1967.

“We would like to advise Mr. Netanyahu to stop using Christians as a tool to whitewash the occupation. The best he could do for a future of peace and coexistence, where the Christian community would thrive again, 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.”

Salman concluded with the chilling message, ”It is not the Palestinian government that prevents their return Mr. Netanyahu; It is your government.”

One question from me, Mr Netanyahu. When a Christian boy from Nazareth wants to marry a Christian girl from Bethlehem do you allow them to live together.

Brother Anton Salman, thank you. You could have added that there are many Christian churches, dotted around Palestine which have been desecrated, burned and damaged by Israeli settlers and daubed with disgusting graffiti and threats.

There is an old Palestinian proverb which goes something like this.

“ He beat me yet he was the one who cried
He beat me and then he blamed me for my beating.”

Jafar M Ramini is a Palestinian writer and political analyst, based in London, presently in Perth, Western Australia. He was born in Jenin in 1943 and was five years old when he and his family had to flee the terror of the Urgun and Stern gangs. Justice for the people of Palestine is a life-long commitment.