Sunday, March 18, 2012

John Esposito On Christians

John L. Esposito, also known as the Huffington Posts's resident Arabist, has gone where other Huffington Post bloggers fear to tread in defending Arab treatment of Christians. Most of his defense consists of pointing the finger back at Israel but that's pretty much to be expected. This time around he is going against Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to America, about an article he wrote on this very subject, which Mr. Esposito calls a "cynical piece of propaganda." Let's a take a quick look. After admitting that yeah Muslims aren't always so nice to Christians "from Nigeria and Egypt to Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and Malaysia," he focuses on Iraq.
"As Oren observes, "Since 2003, 70 Iraqi churches have been burned and nearly a thousand Christians killed in Baghdad alone, causing more than half of this million-member community to flee." The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, the International Organization for Migration, and the United Nations have reported that due to the scale of violence against Christians, more than half of Iraq's Christians have fled the country since the U.S. led invasion in 2003. [response] Oren's piece fails to point out that intimidation, violence and terrorism by extremists has not been just limited to Christians, but has affected nearly every segment of Iraqi society."
I don't really get what Mr. Esposito is saying here. Is he saying that more than half of Iraq's Christian community didn't leave? That 70 Iraq churches weren't burned and almost a thousand Christians weren't killed? It is possible that the Iraqi Christians were the victims of factional violence there just like everyone else, but considering the history of abuses there I find it difficult to believe that it's not personal. Although for the most part this article is fact based I can't help but wonder if Mr. Esposito's argument would benefit from an alternative explanation of why these things are happening rather than simply pontificating, as he does when the conversations shifts to the Palestinians. First, another ad hominem attack:
"Regrettably, Oren takes a tragedy and uses it as a backdrop for a deceptive piece of anti-Palestinian propaganda, attributing the changes in Christian demographics to religion rather than Israeli domestic and economic policies and presenting Israel as a resplendent safe haven for Arab and Palestinian Christians: "Under Israeli auspices, [Bethlehem's] Christian population grew by 57 percent. But under the Palestinian Authority since 1995, those numbers have plummeted. Palestinian gunmen seized Christian homes -- compelling Israel to build a protective barrier between them and Jewish neighborhoods -- and then occupied the Church of the Nativity, looting it and using it as a latrine. Today, Christians comprise a mere one-fifth of their holy city's population.""
Sorry for the long quotes but I felt like everything should be included. First Mr. Esposito says that that 57 percent growth was normal growth not anything special, which in fact damages his point because that means the PA did not even allow the Christians to grow as they should, let alone "help" them. And here's his response:
"Second, simply stating that Christians today comprise a mere 20 percent of Bethlehem's population does not provide any context nor consider what other factors (lower birth rate, Israeli enforced political, economic, and travel restrictions, etc.) are at work." 
True. But of course neither do you. And just like the earlier paragraph, is Mr. Esposito saying that Palestinian gunmen don't seize Christian homes, that the Church of the Nativity siege never happened? That this article is a pack of lies? Or this one? Instead he simply declares:
"Oren might want to talk to Christian leaders, many of whom are on record, of the devastating impact that Israeli policies have had on the lives and livelihood of Palestinian Christians as well as Muslims as a catalyst for emigration."
Ha, right. Because if you walk up to a Palestinian in the street he will always give you the straight story, right Mr. Esposito? But of course the phrasing of this sentence is always very informative. Mr. Esposito doesn't come right out and say that the treatment of Christians by Muslims is bad, or good for that matter. He just says "Israel treats them badly" and doesn't say anything about the rest of the Palestinians at all. You can't call him a liar because he doesn't lie, he just avoids the issue.

Anyway the next section is about Michael Oren blaming the murder of a Christian in Gaza on a Hamas TV program that happened earlier. So it's safe to see that Oren made a mistake there. But it doesn't delegitimize his entire article, as I'm sure Mr. Esposito would love for us to conclude.

Instead he finishes by quoting another article that blames Israel for everything, for example noting the declining number of Christians in Jerusalem while ignoring the increasing number of Muslims there.

In the end this article is just another Huffington Post hit piece. Blame Israel for everything, ignore any mitigating factors, and hit "send." That's all you need at this point.

1 comment:

  1. He's saying that it's unimportant BECAUSE they're not Muslim.


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