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The National Republic

Turning Tale
by Martin Peretz
Only at TNR Online
Post date: 07.21.04

[This is an excerpt from the original article. Emphasis added.]

On the day that the 216th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted to begin divesting its holdings in corporations that do business with and in Israel, there was a pitched street battle in and around Bethlehem. It was not a battle between Jews and Arabs or between Hamas and Fatah. It was a battle between Christians and Muslims. Bethlehem used to be a largely Christian city. It is, after all, where Jesus was born, so where the Church of the Nativity stands. Roman Catholics, Armenians, and Greek Orthodox have lived and flourished there since the first centuries of early Christianity. No longer. As soon as the Palestinian Authority took over in 1994, the Christians of Bethlehem began to leave, many in an understandable panic. For all its secular pretenses, the PA is a militant Muslim jihadist show. A Christian population that not so long ago stood at roughly 75 percent may now be as low as 30 percent. Many of them have come to the U.S. But American churches have averted their eyes from what is really tantamount to an expulsion of Christians not only from Bethlehem but from the Holy Land itself. The Presbyterians have also turned the other cheek by siding with those who torment their own. And they have disavowed Christian Zionism as a heresy. Of course, there are only two and a half million Presbyterians in the U.S.--way down from what once made up this proud church. Moreover, there is growing alienation between the political leadership of the church and lay believers, as there is in the Episcopal communion, much of this revolving around the implicit support of the clerisy for Palestinian terror.

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