Since October 7, 2023, there has been an Israeli genocide in Gaza that has claimed the lives of almost 23,000 people, including over 8,000 children, and injured 60,000 more. Israel is carrying out ethnic cleansing in the name of stopping Hamas operations. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently declared that Israel will take control of the Gaza side of the border with Egypt and that their battle in Gaza would last for many more months. Even though Muslims are the ones most affected by Israeli extermination, Christians are also not being spared. Thus, this holocaust became an assault by the Jews on all other faiths.
Israel expanded its territory while continuing to act hostilely against the Palestinians and violating the 1948 agreement on the states borders. Over 80,000 Palestinians have died, millions have been injured, more than 1,00,000 houses were destroyed and over two million have been displaced by Israeli forces since 1948. Israel retained the territory given to it under the 1948 Partition Plan and went on to seize almost 60% of the territory Palestine had been granted. Therefore, Israel never truly ended the conflict, and the present conflict did not begin with the October 7th Hamas strike. Instead, it has been going on since 1967, and the Hamas strike on October 7 is merely a reaction to the terrors committed by Israeli.
Although the conflict between Israel and Palestine is frequently framed as one between Jews and Muslims, Israel has really committed horrific crimes against both Christian and Muslim adherents. On December 17, an Israeli soldier mercilessly shot and killed two Christian women, an elderly mother and her daughter, on the grounds of a Catholic church in Gaza City. The three months that this massacre has been going on have not spared the Christians who sought sanctuary in various churches throughout Gaza.
The joint territories of Palestine and Israel, which include Bethlehem and Jerusalem, are revered by Christians, Jews, and Muslims. The third holiest mosque of Islam, Baitul Muqaddas (Al Aqsa Mosque) is situated in the Old City of Jerusalem. The first ever human on earth, Prophet Adam (As) first constructed Baitul Muqaddas, 40 years after constructing Baituallah (Kabaa) in Mecca. Prophet Ibrahim (As) later reconstructed Baitul Muqaddes. Prophet Sulaiman (As) also reconstructed Baitul Muqaddes at a later period. Throughout the first fourteen years of the Prophet Muhammads (Sm) teachings, Jerusalem was the first Qibla that Muslims faced during prayer.
The Prophet Muhammad (Sm) stopped in Jerusalem during his nighttime voyage and ascent to the heavens, which adds to the citys significance. In a single night, the angel Jibrail (As) transported the Prophet Muhammad (Sm) from Mecca to Jerusalem and ultimately to the heavens. The Prophet Muhammad (Sm) met numerous other prophets on this remarkable voyage, such as Ibrahim (As), also known as Abraham, who was the ancestor of the Israelites and Ishmaelite Arabs; Isa (As), also known as Jesus, the leader of the Christian faith; and Musa (As), also known as Moses, the leader of the Jewish faith. It was the birthplace of several Islamic prophets, such as Musa (As), also known as Moses, and Isa (As), also known as Jesus Christ, who was born in Bethlehem. As a result, the area holds special significance for Christians, Muslims, and Jews alike.
With a history stretching back to the first century, Gazas Christians are among the regions most ancient populations. In addition to atrocities in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian Christians-whose history in Palestinian territory extends over 2,000 years-also endure persecution and violence in the occupied regions. Many Christians have been slain by Israeli soldiers, who have also attacked and psychologically and physically assaulted them.
Extremist Jewish groups periodically damage churches in the occupied Palestinian territories. These groups are labeled as fanatic Jews and are supported by right-wing officials in the Israeli government. Churches and leaders of the Christian community in Jerusalems Old City allege that the Israeli government is ignoring Jewish settlers attacks on public spaces, clergy, and sacred places. Attacks by Jewish settlers on Christians, religious leaders, and holy places in East Jerusalem have increased recently. Israeli police dismissed nine out of ten investigations into hate crime incidents against mosques and churches between 2018 and 2020, according to a study published in 2021 by the Israeli daily Haaretz.
Unfortunately, on Dec 25, 2023 – the Christmas day, Bethlehem and the whole Jerusalem turned into a ghost city as the Christians from all around the world did not came to visit their most sacred places. Because of the ongoing Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian Christians in the West Bank, especially those in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, did not celebrate Christmas this year. Usually, Bethlehem is visited by the whole globe around Christmas. Since October 7, there has been a noticeable decrease in the number of tourists visiting Jerusalems Old City. The streets of the historic West Bank city of Bethlehem were devoid of the Christmas decorations that had been seen in previous years. This year, small miniatures of the infant Jesus were positioned among the debris and barbed wires, symbolizing the ruins, in churches around Palestine in support of the people of Gaza.
In the occupied West Bank, Bethlehem is located only a few miles south of Jerusalem. Israeli border guards question Palestinians who are walking through scanners at checkpoints set up to let them entry and exit the city. Due to the Gaza War and the increase in violence in the West Bank, many of those checkpoints are now either closed or only open for a few hours each day. Mayor Hanna Hanania of Bethlehem spoke about this year of grief in his yearly Christmas speech, denouncing Israels handling of the Gaza conflict as “ethnic cleansing” and “genocide.” Similar terminology is used here by Christian clergy, who hold international leaders, including US President Joe Biden, accountable for their inability to defend the innocent.
Bethlehems economy also suffered greatly as a result of the cancellation of the Christmas celebrations. An estimated 70% of Bethlehems revenue comes from tourism, nearly all of which occurs during the Christmas season. There aren many foreign visitors to Israel as a result of major airlines stopping flights there. Thousands of people in Bethlehem lost their jobs as a result of the forced closure of over 70 hotels, according to local officials.
As part of its ongoing genocide in the Gaza Strip, Israel attacked numerous mosques and churches. Israels targeting of houses of worship is blatantly against both the laws of war and international humanitarian law. In the first month of the genocide, new Israeli attacks destroyed or partially damaged 66 mosques in the Gaza Strip. In addition, during the same time frame, 3 historic churches in different parts of the Strip underwent destruction. Israeli forces also attacked Christian missionary hospitals, run by the Christians, mercilessly killing thousands of patients and staffs.
Although the Israeli genocide in Gaza is frequently seen as a political battle, it is actually a religious conflict. While Israel completely violates human rights, no one is effectively speaking out. The Muslim World meaning the Middle East is often blamed for not taking effective measures against Israel to stop such genocide. However, as Christians are also victims of Israels ruthless ethnic cleansing, the Christian World-that is, the US and Europe-must also act hard.
For Muslims, Christians, and Jews, Israel is home to important holy sites. All three religions should be able to access and protect these sites. Since the West, especially the US, supports Israel blindly, its actions continue to harm peoples religious sentiments throughout the world. But the West must maintain control over this vicious monster known as Israel. If not, the violence might cost them their positions, particularly at a time when the world is seeing a shift in the polarization of power.
We wish that everyone, regardless of religion, be granted the freedom to practice their faith without hindrance. If world leaders stand together, ethnic cleansing and genocides will end everywhere, and human rights will be fully protected. One is nothing more than a hypocrite if he defends human rights violations in one context while remaining oblivious to them in another. Hopefully, human rights will triumph against all deceits.
The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA) and Editor at Kishore Bangla