by Ariel Cohen, April 24, 2002
Taking clergy hostage at gunpoint in a church is a war crime  and a violation of international law

This is exactly what Palestinian terrorists have done at the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem, one of Christianity's holiest sites.  Over fifty gunmen took two hundred hostages and locked them up, half-starving, in the sprawling church complex.  Instead  of decrying this act of barbarity, church representatives and spokesmen from a number of foreign ministries around the world blame Israel.

On April 2, leaders of Palestinian organizations,  which are on the U.S. Department of State  "Wanted"  list fought their way into the Church  of  the  Nativity.  Hamas  leaders  include  brahim  Abayat, a senior  operative and  recruiter; Aziz Jubran, a notorious bomb builder; and Jihad Jaara, a weapons dealer.  All these terrorists have murdered innocent civilians.

Palestinian Liberation Organization  (PLO)'s  tanzim  militia  leaders also inside the church  include another  Ibrahim Abayat, this one nicknamed Abu Galif; Abdalah Tirawi, the head of the Palestinian  "general intelligence service"  in Bethlehem; Kamel Hassan Hamid, Fatah, general secretary of Bethlehem, a weapons dealer and a "money bag" for terrorists operations.  These are all Arafat's men, all involved in recent suicide bombings in Israeli neighborhoods, including in Beit Israel,  Kiryat Yovel and Gilo.

Over the last two weeks, twenty-five Palestinians including some gunmen have surrendered. But the hard-core thugs are still holding clergy and innocent civilians  hostage to protect themselves.  They  are denying hostages the  remaining food and water.  They have denied sick priests medical care.  They  have  stolen  church  artifacts and fired  on a Palestinian youth who tried to escape from the compound over rooftops.  On Monday, one of the priests lifted a sign in the window, saying, "Help Us!"

Using priests and nuns as human shields in most sacred locations for Christianity is not just barbaric. 
It is a violation of 1977 First Protocal of the Geneva Convention and is a war crime. Similar cases from the Baltic wars are heard today before the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

Only brutal  terrorists  would  desecrate  religious  shrines  and  hurt  clergy, but  it's  familiar from this crowd, as the bombing of a church  in  Islamabad  in  March  by  Bin   Laden  supporters  demonstrated.  Five  were  killed,  including  two  Americans.  In the Djerba Island Synagogue bombing in Tunis, a cooking gas truck was crashed into the building killing sixteen, most of them German tourists, including several children.  And on Easter eve, twenty-nine Israelis were murdered and almost two-hundred were murdered in the "Passover Massacre" in the Israeli coastal city of Natanya.

Christians have long been targeted in the  Middle East.  Thousands of churches were destroyed during the Arab conquest during the seventh century.  Ten thousand Lebanese Christians were  massacred in the 1860's, while 100,000 were  killed in the Lebanese civil war of 1975-1990.  Thousands of women were raped.  That war was provoked by Arafat's PLO.

The story of the village Dammur where  500  Lebanese  were massacred,  primarily  boys, and whose population was expelled in an ethic cleansing, symbolizes treatment of Christians in the Middle East.  
But instead of an  international  arrest  warrant, of course, Arafat received a Nobel Peace Prize. Nine  hundred  thousand  Lebanese left the once prosperous country during and after the civil war, altering its character forever.  The vast majority of them were Christians.

In  other corners of  the region, ethnic  and  religious  cleansing  is a reality.  The   hard-line  Muslim  government of  Sudan, which harbored Osama Bin Laden in the 1990's murdered between one and two million  Sudanese  Christians  and Animists  in the south of the country. Christian Copts of Egypt,  the  descendants of  the Pharaohs, Assyrians, and Armenians are persecuted, their churches burned down, their communities scattered from Paris to California.   Bethlehem, the site of the current holdup, was seventy percent Christian in 1970.  Today it is close to 70% Muslim.  Tensions are rising between Christians and Muslims in Nazareth.  It seems that this is the scenario Arafat is preparing for Israel. 

After all, it is  Arafat's Tazim and Al-Aqsa leaders who are barricaded in the Church of the Nativity, as  well  as Hamas commanders who have been harbored by Arafat's Palestinian Authority.  Christian leaders and Western diplomats from all over the world, begged him  to facilitate  the  resolution  of  the  hostage  crisis.  When  he f inally  obligated  to  mediate, he s uggested the safe passage of the terrorists - to Gaza.

This is  hardly  surprising.  As  anyone  who  has  read  the  Godfather  knows, the mafia boss will always do his best to protect his capos. An d Arafat  was reportedly called by a senior US official in the region a  "capo di tutti cappi"  - "the boss of bosses".  Earlier this week, he watched  approvingly  as  Palestinians  convulsed  in  blood,  as street executions of alleged collaborators with Israel - or just moderate Palestinians - were spreading from Ramallah to Hebron.

The Bethlehem standoff teaches one other leason. 
The international community, the  United Nations, and its "Peacekeepers" on the ground, don't have  the  guts  to s tand  up  to Arafat's goons - as they did not stand up to terrorists on the Israeli - Lebanese border when  Hezbollah  kidnapped three  Israeli soldiers  in  the  fall  of 2001. Deployment of foreign peacekeepers will achieve only one goal - protecting Arafat and harboring his terrorist, including those who are holding monks hostage in Christianity's
most sacred church (04/24/02).
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