What Now For The Christians of Hamastan?

Question: What sort of life are Palestinian Christians to expect now
that Hamas has been elected to govern the Palestinian Territories?
Answer: more of the same, and worse.


Hamas’ electoral win is not a surprise result that cannot be
explained. Hamas will not radicalise Palestinian Muslims. Hamas won
the elections because the Palestinian Authority has already
radicalised Muslim society to the extent that it freely elected a
terrorist organisation as its government. Hamas’ win is the
culmination of decades of growing discontent – with the economy,
violence and corruption – coupled with the increased radicalisation
of Palestinian Muslim society.

Institutionalised discrimination, inequality, and pervasive
persecution of Christians have been escalating in the Palestinian
Territories for decades. When the Palestinian Territories came under
Palestinian Authority (PA) administration after the Oslo Accords,
security deteriorated and Islamic zeal and radicalisation increased.
This has made life in the Palestinian Territories increasingly
difficult for Christians. They live in a state of fear. Those who
are able, emigrate. For a detailed scholarly description of the
conditions suffered by Christians in the Palestinian Territories see
“Human Rights of Christians in Palestinian Society” by Prof. Justus
Reid Weiner. (Link 1)


In a 31 January Stratfor Geopolitical Intelligence Report, George
Friedman comments on Fatah’s loss of power in the recent Palestinian
National Authority (PNA) elections. “It was not simply internal
Palestinian politics that drove the Hamas victory. A wave of
Islamist politics is sweeping the Muslim and Arab worlds, and the
Palestinians are far from immune. The Islamist movement is doing far
more than simply challenging the West: It is challenging the secular
Arabists who were the heirs of the Nasserite tradition… In many
ways, Fatah was the embodiment of secular Arabism — the purest form
of Nasserism. The Palestinians were among the most secular in the
Arab world. Therefore, challenging and defeating Fatah represents a
critical moment in the history of the Arab and Muslim world. It
represents a new high-water mark for Islamists.”

Friedman suggests that Hamas will be primarily concerned with
internal, not international politics, as it works to consolidate its
position. Hamas will therefore say and do those things that will
increase the fervor of their followers and discourage their
opponents. They will look to the Islamic world while provoking the
West. The West will react to the benefit of Hamas which, as Friedman
says, “benefits from a sense of embattlement – the sense that it is
confronting the enemies of Islam. As it backs the Israelis and
Americans into a corner, and both start reacting, Hamas will
increase its strength and authority.”

Even before its election victory, Hamas was preparing to further the
Islamisation of the Palestinian Territories. In December 2005 the
leader of the Hamas contingent at the municipal council of
Bethlehem, Hassam El-Masalmeh, told The Wall Street Journal that
Hamas intends to re-institute the “jizya”, a tax mandated by the
Qur’an (sura 9:29) to be imposed on non-Muslims who have chosen not
to convert to Islam and must now pay for their right to life. (Jizya
is a form of systematic religious humiliation, persecution and
extortion). (Link 2)

On 3 February 2006, Hamas leader Khaled Mash’al gave a fiery speech
at a mosque in Damascus that demonstrated clearly Hamas is not
interested in peace or any dilution of Sharia (Islamic Law). In his
speech Mash’al warns that “…the law of Allah cannot be changed or
replaced”, and threatens that Hamas is prepared “…to place the
entire Palestinian people at the disposal of the resistance and its
weapons”. (Link 3) We need to ask: what will this mean for
Palestinian Christians who do not support Islamic jihad?


For years, the institutionalised discrimination against and
persecution of Palestinian Christians has been covered up by
Christian leaders who are either afraid of the consequences of
upsetting the status quo, or afraid of losing their good standing
with the PA; and by Western nations and human rights organisation
that are only interested in appeasing and coaxing the Palestinian
Authority into peace negotiations. Well the “status quo” (as
intolerable as that was) has ended, and peace is not on the table.

Writing prior to the elections, Professor Justus Reid Weiner called
on the PA to crack down on Hamas and eliminate its influence and
role as an enforcer of Sharia. It is too late for that now that
Hamas controls the PA. But as Friedman notes in his Stratfor
commentary, “Since peace is always made with enemies, better to deal
with your worst enemy than with hapless moderates.” This is as good
a time as any to commence advocacy on behalf of the persecuted
Christians of the Palestinian Territories.

Elizabeth Kendal
[email protected]


1) “Human Rights of Christians in Palestinian Society”
by Prof. Justus Reid Weiner, Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs.

2) “Democrats” For Jihad and Jizya
by Andrew G. Bostrom. 30 Dec 2005

3) Hamas Leader Khaled Mash’al at a Damascus Mosque
MEMRI (No 1087). 7 Feb 2006

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