Palestinians bulldoze Christian heritage in Gaza, West Bank

by Gregory Tomlin |

(REUTERS/Mohammed Salem)A man walks past ancient ruins which archaeologists say may be part of a Byzantine church or cathedral dating from around 1,500-1,600 years ago, in Gaza City April 4, 2016.

NEW YORK (Christian Examiner) – The Gatestone Institute, a conservative foreign policy think tank located in New York and led by former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, claims Muslim leaders in Palestinian territories are doing little to protect the historic signs of Christianity in Gaza and the West Bank and – in some cases – actively erasing them.

Gatestone published a report from Khaled Abu Toameh, a Jerusalem-based journalist, who said bulldozers were used by Muslims to destroy the recently uncovered remains of an early Byzantine Christian church in Gaza earlier this month.

Where are the heads of the churches in Jerusalem and the world? Where are the Vatican and UNESCO? Where are the leaders and politicians who talk, talk, talk about national unity and the preservation of holy sites? Or is this a collective experience to end our existence and history in the East?
- Sami Khalil

The actions resulted in denouncements from the remainder of the Palestinian Christian community (most have left in recent years). They claim Christians in the Palestinian territories are "systematically targeted" for persecution. They also accused the Palestinian Authority (PA) of adopting the tactics of the Islamic State to remove from memory any opposition to their religion.

One Christian from Nablus in the West Bank, Sami Khalil, said there was no longer any protection for Christians there.

"Where are the heads of the churches in Jerusalem and the world? Where are the Vatican and UNESCO? Where are the leaders and politicians who talk, talk, talk about national unity and the preservation of holy sites? Or is this a collective experience to end our existence and history in the East?" Khalil asked.

UNESCO (United Nations Education, Science and Cultural Organization) should be protecting such finds, Palestinian Christians said, but they have paid no attention to the calls for help.

The ruins of the Byzantine church in the Al-Darai neighborhood of Gaza City may have been as much as 1,600 years old, but when they were discovered construction crews failed to properly curate the remains. Eventually, the ancient marble pillars with Cointhian capitals complete with their carved grape leaves and an impost block with a Latin cross were removed from the site and presumably destroyed to make way for a Hamas-backed shopping mall.