It is common knowledge that any decision to reopen the US Consulate in Jerusalem will be subject to mutual understanding with Israel, given that the US Embassy is located in Jerusalem. On the other hand, opening a PLO office in Washington, DC could be hampered by many Christian groups that closely monitor Christians’ dire living conditions in the West Bank, and especially in the Bethlehem area – writes Samir A. Zedan
In line with the State Department’s recent statement regarding the “unacceptable bias against Israel” on UN Human Rights forums, the United States should also send a clear message regarding the violations of the law and the crimes committed against Christians in the Palestinian Authority areas.
The new decision by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to bring the issue of human rights to the forefront of US foreign policy has raised many questions about the role that the US wants to play within the UN Human Rights Council.
In the past, the Human Rights Council has served as a public forum that selectively addressed human rights issues in a manner that was biased against some countries, such as Israel, and that was parroted by many Arab nations with a long history of human rights violations.
When the infamous Palestinian Intifada broke out at the end of 2000, after the Palestinian Authority refused in Camp David talks to accept any Jewish connection to Jerusalem in general or the Temple Mount in particular, Christian Palestinians were exposed to all kinds of human rights violations, including extortions and killings by militias close to the Palestinian Authority.
In fact, a pattern has emerged in the West Bank of human rights violations due to the crimes against Christians that took place almost two decades ago and were not investigated; nor were the culprits held accountable.
Christians continue to be abused for being a minority on their own land, as shown by the illegal arrests and imprisonments of two Christian prominent landlords in Bethlehem.
Jihad Watch recently reported on Charlie Botto’s plight in the media. Soon after that report appeared, charges were finally filed against him and Elias Kitlo — another prominent Christian Bethlehemite — in a Bethlehem courtroom after four months of arbitrary arrest. They are accused of “attempting to sell a property owned by Botto family inside Israel to Israeli businessmen.”
After the arraignment, Mona Botto immediately communicated with this writer, along with her father Charlie on a telephone from inside prison.
Charlie, after expressing his thanks and gratitude to Jihad Watch, made it clear that “we, the Christians, will not give in to any threats and will live in the land of our forefathers despite these illegal scams against us.”
“My father [Farah Botto] was slain unjustly, and the perpetrators of that heinous crime were spared criminal punishment. It has become an ordeal that, even now, I am having to endure.” Charlie uttered these words in apparent shock regarding the slaughter of his father by Fatah militants in May 2001 after he refused to continue paying protection money. (Mona’s sniffling and sighs because of weeping could be heard during the phone call.)
Elias Kitlo’s sister Shamiram expressed deep concern about his health conditions while being kept underground. “Elias is diabetic with high blood cholesterol, and the Covid pandemic is looming and spreading wildly in the region.” She also fears that he may experience renal failure due to uncontrolled high blood sugar, as she did.
There are numerous cases of human rights violations against Christians in Gaza, which is under the full control of the terrorist group of Hamas, as well.
Apparently this recent Jihad Watch article about Botto, which was translated into Arabic and widely spread through social media, has broken a cycle of fear among many Christian Palestinians, who have always been scared to express their grievances.
A local journalist with the Holy Land Press has already contacted the Botto family for a full report about their ordeal with the Palestinian Authority.
However, a dhimmi Christian Fatah member posted on this writer’s Facebook page: “Oh Samir, you rely your Christian Zionist thinking in reporting and analyzing news. And you have a mission that has become clear to everyone in distorting the true picture of the situation in Palestine in the service of your Zionist masters…. while you are destined to failure.” Amjad Abuaita, who lived in the United States from 1998 to 2006, wrote this in a comment on the article.
Shamiram Kitlo suggested that the plight of her brother and Charlie Botto should also be brought up in public demonstrations in front of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem on Sundays, when more masses are held. Nonetheless, many Christians are still not ready to stand up to the Palestinian Authority, which thrives on various tactics to divide and rule them.
Asked if she was worried about disciplinary actions by the Palestinian Authority, Shamiram empathized that her poor health condition and the need for three times-per-week dialysis sessions made her ready to take any risk so that her ailing brother could be released as well.
It is worth noting that the Palestinian Authority has been showing signs of euphoria, believing that its decision to restore security coordination with Israel will make it immune to charges of human rights violations, just as some US analysts are announcing steps to boost the position of the Palestinian Authority.
Regardless of the direction the US takes with the Israeli-Palestinian issue, the U.S. State Department must explain to the Palestinian Authority that neither Fatah extremists nor corrupt judges are to be continuously allowed to terrorize or oppress Christians in particular or practice nepotism in general.
It is common knowledge that any decision to reopen the US Consulate in Jerusalem will be subject to mutual understanding with Israel, given that the US Embassy is located in Jerusalem. On the other hand, opening a PLO office in Washington, DC could be hampered by many Christian groups that closely monitor Christians’ dire living conditions in the West Bank, and especially in the Bethlehem area.
Furthermore, the US tax dollars allocated by the US government to this Palestinian Authority should be closely scrutinized, as the Palestinian Authority continues to ignore any and all reports about the corruption of its senior members.
Samir A. Zedan is a former Senior Counter-Terrorism Analyst at the US Department of State, and a former Development Outreach and Communication Specialist at USAID/Iraq. He has contributed to hundreds of articles published in major media outlets with assignments in the Palestinian Areas, Israel, Jordan, Iraq, and Europe.