Samir A. Zedan
After the memo that was released by the Hamas government in Gaza, in which it called for “activities to reduce interaction with Christmas,” a new campaign is being launched on social media that also seeks to thwart any activities that might be related to Christmas.
“I am a Muslim. I do not relate to God to have had a son. This is my belief. I do not celebrate Christmas or New Year’s Day. This holiday means nothing to me” is the content of a poster that was put up on Twitter. The same poster was also tweeted by other accounts, and all the comments endorsed and supported its content.
This poster, which followed Hamas’s memo, candidly reflects Sharia teachings regarding Christianity and its feasts. Any informed person should not be taken aback.
In the video below, while a tourist guide was filming a short video about the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, his camera unintentionally captured what really happens on a daily basis in Manger Square in front of the church, which is considered one of the two most important Christian churches in the world, besides the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.
The volume of the mosque’s speakers is turned to the maximum as verses of the Quran are recited before the call for prayer (which is conducted five times a day). This has been noticed to be an organized practice by mosques in areas populated by Christians, to serve as a reminder that they live in the land of Islam.
The Church and the local people have been appealing to the Palestinian Authority to lower the volume, especially at dawn; their efforts have been to no avail. German tourists at Abraham’s Herberge in the town of Beit Jala had protested in the past because of the high volume of the mosque’s speakers at dawn (the mosque is located a few meters away from the hostel).
It is worth noting that during the visit of Pope Francis to the Church of the Nativity in May 2014, the imam opened the mosque’s window and started reciting the call to prayer while Pope Francis was celebrating mass in the Manger Square of the Church of the Nativity a few meters away.
Midnight Mass in Bethlehem this year will be empty of tourists due to the coronavirus pandemic, which deepens the economic scars of a town that is usually visited by more than two million tourists annually. This served to stabilize the Palestinian economy and made it better off than many neighboring countries.
Over the last few years, Bethlehem and the surrounding towns experienced massive economic growth. Tourism constituted the main source of revenue for the Palestinian economy. Nowadays, unemployment has reached a devastating level, while hotels are totally vacant.
It seems that the absence of tourists and the money they used to pump into the hands of the Palestinians have made many of them forget the importance of Christmas, and thus returned them to the usual abrasive Islamic rhetoric. Hamas’s supporters have been present in all walks of life in Bethlehem, as it is no secret that some members of its Municipal Council are either affiliated with the terrorist group or are staunch supporters of it.
Perhaps the current anti-Christian campaign by Hamas seeks to remind Palestinian Christians that they can live and survive under these harsh conditions only because of the “tolerance of Islam.”
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.