A video was uploaded onto YouTube which featured a young Palestinian Christian woman describing what it was like to live under Israel military occupation. If that was all the video was about, it would have simply been added to the thousands of other YouTube videos which describe the same thing. What made Christy Anastas’ video unique was that she bravely revealed how Palestinian Christians have and are being treated by Palestinian Muslims and nationalists.
Breaking through the silence and fear faced by so many Palestinians, Christy described how her uncle, a Palestinian Christian from Bethlehem, had to pay the al-jizyah, protection money that is often levied against non-Muslims. After some time her uncle refused to pay the protection money because he noticed the militants would shoot and launch rockets near the Christian homes so that the retaliation would come on the Christians. Because of his refusal to pay up he was murdered in front of his house.
She painfully describes the sexual harassment she faced as a young woman, “I used to get sexually harassed while walking to university. I used to get to university and turn around feeling so disgusted.”
She wondered why it is that the Palestinian Christians are fleeing traditionally Christian areas like Bethlehem, whose Christian population has fallen from 85 to 7 percent in the last two decades, for supposedly economic reasons, but they have been replaced by Muslims.
While still in the Palestinian Territories, Christy was encouraged to visit Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust museum. She also visited a popular Christian church in Jerusalem where Jews and Palestinians worship together. Learning more about Jewish history and the Bible she began to speak about her rejection of dhimmitude (second class status for non-Muslims) and her right for the Jews to have a nation.
Because of this, a member of her family said to her, “I have a gun, I have a bullet, I will put it in your head and end your life. You’re playing with big fire you’re going to burn your family before you burn yourself and I was sent to stop you.” Under significant pressure she fled to the UK where she received political asylum.
So what happened when the YouTube video began to go viral?
In the first video released by Christy on April 16th which featured the presentation she gave at a university in Sweden. In the video Christy described where she grew up in the Palestinian Territories and the unique position of her family’s home in that it is surrounded on three sides by the separation barrier. It did not take long before people began to identify who her family was.
Almost immediately Christy’s family began to receive death threats and visits by security and intelligence officials from the Palestinian Authority. Even the churches in her home town asked for the video to be pulled down because of fear of attacks from Muslims.
After a week of intense pressure and just 6500 views the video was pulled off YouTube.
But it was too late. Word had spread that the daughter of the Anastas family was a traitor to the Palestinian cause. Christy’s sister was afraid to go to school. Christy even received death threats in the UK. Tragically the only option left for the Anastas family was to publicly disown Christy. The family went on Palestinian radio stating:
We as a family reject fully and completely and remove ourselves from any word that has rolled off of Christy’s tongue in her speech. We denounce and express disapproval of what she has done and believe that what has happened is a result of direct duress currently imposed upon her. We were surprised, as we heard what she said just as you have heard it, and we have no connection to what she has said. We consider what has happened to Christy to be an act of entrapment and exploitation perpetrated by the Israeli occupation in an attempt to weaken us and remove us from our home, which has been targeted ever since the apartheid wall has been built. The occupation has exploited Christy in an attempt to grab us by the hand and cause us further pain. We plea with all of you to understand our point of view, as we are trying to follow up on this issue and learn more on what is happening to her in Britain.
Following the release of this statement by her parents, Christy released a second video that includes a promise made to her by Dr. Saed Erekat, Chief Negotiator for the Palestinian Authority, on Al Jazeera, that he would protect human rights, freedom of speech, and the rights of women.
Sadly, what has happened to Christy is not limited to Palestinian Christians. It is becoming increasingly evident that anyone who speaks out in a way contrary to the party line will be publicly reprimanded and disowned. Just last week, Mahmoud al-Habbash, the Palestinian Minister of Religious Affairs, was disowned by his family for stating that Palestinian blood is like Israeli blood.
According to Khaled Abu Toameh, from the Gatestone Institute, al-Habbash was speaking to journalist about the killing of a, Israeli police officer in Hebron. al-Habbash said, “We reject all forms for violence, whether they are directed against Israelis or Palestinians. Palestinian blood is like Israeli blood. It is human blood and precious and no one wants anyone killed.”
For equating Palestinian and Israel blood al-Habbash’s family issued a statement, “We are proud of the heroic operation in Hebron and of every man and child fighting against the occupation. We disown him and anyone who embraces the despicable Israeli enemy.”
Fatah leader Mansour al-Sa’di blasted al-Habbah, “We call for lifting his diplomatic immunity and for prosecuting him for administrative, financial and political corruption. We also call on President Abbas to fire him immediately from the Palestinian cabinet.”
During the recent Christ at the Checkpoint conference in Bethlehem there was a breakout session where student delegations from the US and Europe could interact with students from Bethlehem Bible College. One of the foreign students asked how the Palestinian Christians were treated by the Muslims. One student began to describe how he and his fellow Christians were treated as second class citizens, but before he could expound further he was silenced by one of the professors.
It seems rather clear that whether a Palestinian supports Israel or doesn’t hate Israel enough the outcome is the same. Last week’s reconciliation between Fatah and the terrorist organization, Hamas, should not be seen as a move towards a unified Palestinian state where democracy and basic human rights, like freedom of speech, flourish. Instead, it seems more likely that if a Palestinian state were established tomorrow it would just be another hard-fisted autocracy–one that we helped create.