West Bank: Taiba Attack Exposes Christian Vulnerability

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Late on Saturday evening 3 September, a riotous, murderous Muslim
mob from the West Bank village of Deir Jarir attacked the
neighbouring Christian village of Taiba, northeast of Ramallah. They
came armed with clubs, kerosene and Molotov cocktails, chanting,
“Let’s burn the infidels, let’s burn the Crusaders.” Residents were
beaten, houses were looted and cars were burned. At least 13 homes
were torched. The attack lasted until the early hours of Sunday
morning when Palestinian Authority (PA) security police finally made
it through the Israeli checkpoints.

The Muslims were searching for Christian shop-keeper Mehdi Khouriyye
(also written as “Mahdi Abu Houria”) and targeting the homes of his
extended family. PA police arrived just in time to save Mehdi
Khouriyye from being lynched, but not in time to save the homes of
all his relatives. Mehdi Khouriyye and 15 of the Deir Jarir Muslim
attackers were then arrested. But after several hours, the police
released the Muslims in order to “cool things down”. (Link 1)
Meanwhile, victim Mehdi Khouriyye remains in “protective custody”,
where he is reportedly routinely beaten.

Whilst Muslim intolerance of Christians has escalated, the attack on
Taiba is the biggest and most organised Muslim attack upon a
Palestinian Christian community in years. Palestinian legislator
Hanan Ashrawi regards the Taiba attack as a “a very serious
development”. She says she has witnessed a “regression of social
norms”. (Link 2)

The implications for vulnerable Palestinian Christians, especially
if the PA police are going to be partisan, are horrendous.


Mehdi Khouriyye, has a tailoring business in Taiba. He employed
Hiyam Ajaj (30), a Muslim woman from Deir Jarir, and the two fell in
love. The pair had been in a romantic relationship for two years
before Hiyam’s family learned of the affair in late August (2005).
Making matters worse, Hiyam was six months pregnant. Within days,
she was dead, poisoned by her own family in an honour killing.
Hiyam’s body was then quickly buried and the death not reported.

Initially the family claimed that Hiyam was raped and had committed
suicide. Insisting the baby was not his, Mehdi Khouriyye requested
that Hiyam’s body be disinterred for DNA testing. The Guardian
reports that Palestinian president Abu Mazen gave permission for
Hiyam’s body to be exhumed and for DNA testing to be done to
determine paternity. Despite the family’s protests, Hiyam’s body was
disinterred on Tuesday 30 August.

According to the Guardian, Palestinian women’s groups claim that if
a woman is raped by a family member then she will be killed to
restore family honour and an innocent man will be blamed – made a
scapegoat – and killed in “revenge”. (Link 3)

The 3 September Muslim attack on Taiba has left at least 13
Christian families homeless. The Muslims attackers from Deir Jarir
seek to justify their criminal barbarity with talk of “honour”.
Meanwhile the Christians of Taiba say the violence against them was
inspired by pure religious hatred and was nothing less than Muslims
using vulnerable Christians as scapegoats.


Suleiman Khouriyye, a cousin of Mehdi Khouriyye, blames
sectarianism. “They did this because we’re Christians. They did this
because we are the weaker ones.” (Link 2)

Samir Qumsieh runs the only Christian private TV channel in the West
Bank, the Bethlehem-based al-Mahed (“The Nativity”) which is
struggling for funds. (Link 1).

Qumsieh told Adnkronos International (AKI), “Many cases like this
are happening and the time has come for Abu Maazen (PA president
Mahmoud Abbas) to take a decisive stand.” Qumsieh told AKI that he
has registered more than 100 attacks against the Christian community
since 2003. Qumsieh calls the violence “religious racism”, and says
the attacks include murders, rapes and extortion.

“Some people lay the blame on Islamic extremists,” he says, “but
this is only part of the truth.” Qumsieh says the most common
attacks are perpetrated by what he calls “the Muslim land mafia”,
criminals who target Christian land or home owners and threaten them
with the aim of forcing them off their property. Qumsieh believes PA
officials are involved in this practice. “It was the situation under
[former PA president] Arafat and it is the situation under Abu
Maazen,” he says.

In February, Samir Qumsieh, together with other prominent Christian
Palestinians, wrote a letter to the PA president outlining their
fears and grievances. “We have had no reply,” he says, “and our
anger and our fear are growing.”

Elizabeth Kendal
[email protected]


1) Houses torched as Muslim -Christian tensions flare.
AKI, 6 Sept 2005

2) Honour killing feud exposes rift between Palestinian Muslims and
Christians. LARA SUKHTIAN (AP), 7 Sept 2005

3) Homes razed in mob fury at couple’s ‘affair’
Chris McGreal in Jerusalem, 5 September 2005

Muslims ransack Christian village
By Khaled Abu Toameh, 6 Sept 2005

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