Q&A: Justus Reid Weiner on Palestinian Christians
Weiner is scholar-in-residence at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and recently published Human Rights of Christians in Palestinian Society.
How has the situation for Christians in Palestinian society changed since the Oslo Accords in 1993?
Before the Oslo accords, which were intended to empower Palestinians to govern themselves, Israel was in control on a day-by-day basis in the West Bank and Gaza. People could walk the streets. The presence of soldiers and local police was sufficient that people felt secure in their houses, churches, and businesses. Sure, there was a background of knowing your place and knowing where to back off, but people lived normal lives. They worked. They taught. They studied. They conducted their family affairs.
Anarchy has taken over since 1994, when the Palestinian Authority moved in. Everyone suffers in anarchy, but the weak and those who can be targeted at little or no price suffer the worst. A lot of the attacks on Christians are not ideological. They're not intended for someone who's handing out Bibles or trying to live a Christian life or speaking to people about Jesus. People see the Christians as weak, as not having connections in the entourage first of Yasser Arafat and now of Abu Mazen, as not having the economic power they once had. If they're weak and anything goes, why not burn their cars, steal their land, harass the women? You can get away with it with the Christians.
Some argue that the territories are such a disaster that anything could happen to anybodythat the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad are all equal-opportunity human-rights violators. I don't think that's correct. I think it happens much more to Christians than to Muslims. And I think it happens ...