I want to give you an urgent update on the grave crisis that Palestinian Christians are facing in the Gaza Strip.
On Friday, you may recall, I wrote this column, VERY URGENT: Israeli leaders, please evacuate Palestinian Christians out of Gaza and into the West Bank immediatley – these Christians face genocide by Hamas if they are forced to move south.
Since then, I have also done several interviews to explain the situation, including this one for ALL ISRAEL NEWS and this interview with Billy Hallowell and the Christian Broadcasting Network.
At the same time, I have been working to alert Israeli officials on the crisis facing Christians in Gaza.
Forty-eight hours later, I can report that these concerns regarding the safety, security, and future of these Palestinian Christians are now, in fact, being discussed at the highest levels of the Israeli government.
Both Israeli civilian and military leaders – including those in the war cabinet and the security cabinet – have been informed and are having internal discussions regarding the crisis facing the Christians holed up in the three churches in Gaza City.
I cannot report at this time that a decision has been made about how to proceed.
But the matter is squarely on their radar screen.
And this is a good thing.
At the same time, I can report that there has been sharp criticism of my column by some Christians in the region and in the U.S. who care deeply about the Christians in Gaza, and have a measure of contact with Christians in Gaza City.
Some have argued that my reporting is inaccurate and alarmist.
Some argue that Palestinian Christians have no fear of going South or of living among their Muslim neighbors in the South.
Others argue that these Christians do have great fear of being raped and killed by Hamas – and by other violent Islamist jihadists operating in the South – but that they don’t want to be moved to the West Bank.
Rather, some say, the Christians want to be allowed to exit the Gaza Strip entirely and take shelter in Egypt.
Others say the Christians want to leave for the U.S., Canada or Europe.
Still others say the Christians want to stay in Gaza, come what may.
What’s more, some have raised fears that any help given to these Christians by the Israeli military will brand Palestinian Christians as traitors and put them in more danger.
It is not surprising that there are disagreements among the 1,000 or so Christians in those three churches about what to pray for and what would be best for them right now.
Nor is it surprising that people who care for these Palestinian Christians have different views on what would be best to protect them and safeguard their future.
That said, I stand 100% by my reporting.
I cannot reveal my sources lest they be put in even greater danger.
But I trust them.
I know that they are telling me the truth.
And I am not ashamed to say publicly what they cannot.
This is what the Bible commands me to do.
“Speak out on behalf of the voiceless, and for the rights of all who are vulnerable. Speak out in order to judge with righteousness and to defend the needy and the poor.” (Proverbs 31:8-10)
Even minutes ago, my sources are telling me that Palestinian Christians in Gaza remain terrified.
They fear leaving the three churches they are in lest they be accidentally shot or bombed by the IDF, or purposefully shot by Hamas snipers who have been opening fire on many Palestinians trying to flee south, out of Gaza City.
Many of these Christians also fear that even if they could get to the south of the Gaza Strip in a safe manner, their wives and daughters will be raped precisely because they are Christians. And that they all face genocide just as Christians in Syria and Iraq experienced genocide at the hands of ISIS jihadists.
To be sure, there is widespread support among Gaza Christians for a ceasefire.
But a ceasefire is not coming anytime soon.
And possibly not at all.
Israeli leaders say they are committed to completely destroying Hamas and liberating Gaza from Hamas’ reign of terror.
Israel has agreed to create “pauses” from time to time.
The IDF has stopped fighting Hamas briefly – for a few hours at a time – or briefly stopped fighting Hamas in certain areas of Gaza, in order to facilitate the arrival of food, clean water, medical supplies, and even a limited amount of fuel to keep the sewage system working.
However, the Israeli government says it will not agree to a ceasefire while Hamas and its allies continue to hold nearly 240 hostages.
In such a dangerous, tense and fluid environment, therefore, it’s not surprising that Palestinian Christians may even shift their views regarding what is the best way forward, given the near certainty of no ceasefire for the foreseeable future.
Few if any Palestinian Christians want to be seen as accepting – much less seeking – help from Israel.
And I understand that, and sympathize with their fears.
But the fact remains: These Christians are in harm’s way right now.
If they cannot stay put in Gaza City, then what is the best thing for them?
If Egypt won’t accept them, what is the best thing for them?
If the U.S., Canada and European countries won’t accept them – at least not right now – what is the best thing for them?
Some critics have maliciously attacked me as a “racist” and an “Islamophobe” for urging the IDF to rescue these Christians and provide them safe passage to the West Bank.
But this is as preposterous as it is slanderous.
I care deeply for the lives and souls of every Palestinian in Gaza.
That’s why I have strongly and publicly supported Israel’s policy of urging – and facilitating – the movement of Palestinian Muslims to the south of Gaza for their own protection.
That’s why I have strongly supported efforts by the international community to bring more food, clean water, and medical care into southern Gaza, and strongly applaud Israel for making the arrival of such urgently needed aid possible.
To be clear, I am not worried about Christians interacting with Muslims, in general.
But I am horrified about the prospect of genocidal Hamas operatives slaughtering Christians for sport, just as they slaughtered Jews for sport.
You should be, too.
Some of my critics may be morally confused about the threat Hamas poses to Palestinian Christians.
I am not.
I remain determined to mobilize more global prayer for my brothers and sisters in Christ in Gaza.
I also remain determined to do everything I possibly can to get the Israeli government and military to focus on how best to protect Christians in Gaza and make sure they are not starved or slaughtered by Hamas or any other radical Islamist terror group.
Let’s take a moment to remind ourselves of what we know for sure:
Israel completely withdrew all soldiers and civilians from the Gaza Strip in 2005 – there has been no “occupation” for almost 20 years.
Since 2005, the people of Gaza could have created a Palestinian Paradise along the Mediterranean Sea – instead, they elected Hamas to rule them and this has brought absolute disaster upon them.
Ever since the Hamas terror organization was voted into power and took full control of the Gaza Strip around 2007, the number of Christians living there has dropped dramatically. By some estimates, the numbers have dropped from about 7,000 then, to only about 1,000 today. Still, other estimates suggest the numbers have dropped from about 3,000 then, to 1,000 today.
Palestinian Christians have been fleeing Gaza over the past 15 years for a variety of reasons: fear of Hamas persecution; fear of Hamas terrorism; fear of Israeli air strikes in retaliation for Hamas terrorism; the lack of good jobs because of Hamas rule; and the lack of economic opportunity and quality education for their children due to the abysmal conditions created by Hamas and its terror allies.
The exodus of Christians out of Gaza began in April of 2007, when Hamas terrorists were suspected of blowing up the Palestinian Bible Society bookstore in Gaza City.
The exodus of Christians out of Gaza accelerated in October 2007, when Hamas terrorists were suspected of murdering Rami Ayyad, the Evangelical Christian manager of the Bible bookstore.
Every innocent civilian in Gaza – their lives, their soul – is precious, be they Christian or Muslim.
No Palestinian is safe in Gaza so long as Hamas is in power.
The Gaza Strip must be liberated from Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and all Islamist extremists.
After the Oct. 7 slaughter of more than 1,200 innocent Israeli civilians living in peace next to Gaza, Israel cannot allow an ISIS-like state to exist in Gaza any longer.
Israel has both the right and the responsibility to protect its citizens.
Israel also has the responsibility to do everything possible to minimize civilian casualties in Gaza and to ensure humanitarian relief can get to the people.
Christians around the world need to be praying urgently and without ceasing for the liberation of Gaza from terrorist control.
Christians around the world also need to be praying urgently and without ceasing for the protection of our brothers and sisters in Christ in Gaza.
What’s more, Christians around the world also need to be praying urgently and without ceasing for the Lord God Almighty to show mercy and grace and to save the lives and souls of every Palestinian and every Israeli amid this horrific war.
I want to thank everyone who is praying and acting in Christ’s name.
And I want to assure you that we will continue to provide updates on what’s happening to resolve this crisis with the Christians right here on ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS.
Joel C. Rosenberg is the editor-in-chief of ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and the President and CEO of Near East Media. A New York Times best-selling author, Middle East analyst, and Evangelical leader, he lives in Jerusalem with his wife and sons.