Among the top 50 countries in which Christians were persecuted in 2023 were Yemen, Libya, Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Morocco, Qatar, Egypt, Turkey, and other Middle Eastern and Muslim-majority countries. Israel, needless to say, was not on the list.

On the same day that US television personality Tucker Carlson interviewed a pastor from Bethlehem who falsely accused Israel of mistreating Christians, Israel's University of Haifa announced the appointment of Professor Mona Maron as Rector. A Maronite Christian from the village of Isfiya, near Haifa, Maron has been a trailblazer for the integration and advancement of women in the sciences, particularly within the Arab community. She was the first Arab woman from her village to earn a doctoral degree and Israel's first Arab professor of neuroscience.

"I am grateful for the trust I received from the members of the University senate and look forward to taking up the position," Maron said.

First and foremost, the University of Haifa is a home for me. A home that welcomed me into its ranks more than 30 years ago, as an undergraduate student, then as a faculty member in the neurobiology department and now with the Rector's role.

Unlike Maron, the Bethlehem pastor, Munther Isaac, does not live in Israel and is not an Israeli citizen. Isaac lives and works in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, which has been controlled by the Palestinian Authority (PA) for the past three decades. Yet, the fact that Isaac does not live in Israel did not stop Carlson from providing him with a platform to flood Israel with hatred.

In 1948, Christians made up 85% of Bethlehem's population. Under Jordanian occupation between 1948 and 1967, the Christian share of the population declined to 40%. Israel then assumed control of Bethlehem from 1967 to 1995. By 1993, the Christian share of the city's population rose from 40% to 65%. Since the Palestinian Authority assumed control of Bethlehem in 1995, the Christian share of the population has dropped, to only 12% today.

By contrast, the Christian population in Israel has been on the rise in recent years. According to Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), about 187,900 Christians live in Israel, making up 1.9% of the population. In 2021, the population grew by 1.4% to 182,000, and in 2022, there was about 2% growth to 185,000, according to the CBS. This contrasts not only with Bethlehem, but most countries in the Middle East, where Christian populations are declining due to the "horrifying growth" of the persecution of Christians, according to the organization Open Doors, which puts out an annual "World Watch List" of places that Christians suffer very high or extreme levels of persecution and discrimination for their faith.

Among the top 50 countries in which Christians were persecuted in 2023 were Yemen, Libya, Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Morocco, Qatar, Egypt, Turkey, and other Middle Eastern and Muslim-majority countries. Israel, needless to say, was not on the list.

According to the Open Doors:

More than 365 million (one in seven) Christians face high levels of persecution for their faith – and persecution is becoming dangerously violent in countries on the World Watch List.

Attacks on churches and Christian properties sky-rocketed in 2023, as more Christians than ever reported violent attacks.

Last year, the organization revealed, 4,998 Christians were murdered in several countries around the world. Nigeria remains the deadliest place to follow Jesus; 82% of the murders occurred there. In addition, 14,766 churches and Christian properties were attacked last year, especially in India, China, Nigeria, Nicaragua, and Ethiopia.

Despite these disturbing statistics, Carlson, in his interview with the Bethlehem pastor, chose to single out Israel, the only country in the Middle East where Christians feel safe and where their number is increasing every year. Carlson did not bother to ask the pastor about the persecuted Christians of Egypt.

The British newspaper The Guardian reported on January 10, 2018:

Christians in Egypt are facing unprecedented levels of persecution, with attacks on churches and the kidnap of girls by Islamist extremists intent on forcing them to marry Muslims, a report says.

In the past year, Egypt has moved up an annual league table of persecution of Christians compiled by the charity Open Doors. According to its World Watch List, North Korea is still the most dangerous country in the world in which to be a Christian, and Nepal has had the biggest increase in persecution.

But Egypt, home to the largest Christian community in the Middle East, is of particular worry. Officially about 10% of the 95 million population are Christian, although many believe the figure is significantly higher.

Carlson also did not bother to ask about the Christians of Syria, whose number has dropped from 1.5 million to 300,000. On November 18, 2022, The Syrian Observer reported:

A report published by the Catholic charity, Aid to the Church in Need, revealed that Christians in Syria are suffering more repression and persecution now than when the Islamic State (ISIS) took control of large areas of the country in previous years.

The organization's director in the Netherlands, Peter Broders, lamented the recent increasing persecution of Christians, saying: 'What struck me the most was that our Christian brothers in the Middle East (Syria, Palestine and Iraq), the birthplace of Christianity, are now suffering worse than they were in the days of ISIS.'

Here's another inconvenient truth that Carlson and the Bethlehem pastor did not discuss: The Christian population in Iraq has been steadily declining for decades, from around 1.4 million in 2003 to about 250,000 today. Archbishop Michale Najeeb of Mosul, Iraq, said that Christians in the country continue to endure intimidation and violence from local militias and that most of their houses, which were destroyed by ISIS, remain in rubble.

If Carlson really wanted to learn about the situation of Christians in Israel, he should have interviewed Christian citizens of Israel, and not a pastor living under the Palestinian Authority, whose Basic Law stresses that "Islam is the official religion... The principles of Islamic Shari'a shall be a principal source of legislation."

Carlson could have interviewed, for example, Shadi Khalloul, a Christian Maronite who describes himself as a "patriotic Israeli."

Here is what Khalloul had to say about Carlson's interview with the Bethlehem pastor:

I am Native Christian living in Israel who speaks the language of Jesus Christ.

Most of us 180k Christian Israelis prefer to live under Israel freely rather than under a Palestinian Islamic Authority regime controlling Bethlehem. Israel gives us freedom while living under Arabs has been genocidal for Christians all across the Middle East.

Tucker, I invite you to visit our Aramaic Christian Galilee center. Don't be deceived by collaborators of the Satan.

Instead, Carlson chose to interview Isaac, who has long history of promoting falsehoods about Israel and the Arab-Israeli conflict in his roles as pastor, academic dean of Bethlehem Bible College (a self-identified "Palestinian Christian Evangelical university college" that promotes a "Palestinian Christian theology"), and director of the "Christ at the Checkpoint" conferences -- the infamous venue where anti-Israel libels are proclaimed in the name of Christian love, justice and peace.

For many years, the Committee For Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA) has exposed the deceptiveness in Isaac's teachings, as well as the fallacious theological and historical foundation of the narrative promoted by Bethlehem Bible College and Christ at the Checkpoint. Examples of that documentation can be seen here here, and here.

"In light of the blatantly anti-Jewish activism of Isaac and these institutions, it is appalling that Carlson would provide a platform for such thinly-veiled hatred," CAMERA noted.

Carlson's conversation with Isaac promoted multiple false claims including the alleged mistreatment of Christians by Israel, the cause of the significantly diminished Christian population of Bethlehem, and reasons behind the current suffering of Gazan civilians. The obvious agenda behind Carlson's line of questions and Isaac's libelous answers was the demonization of Israel and all elected officials and Christians who dare to support the Jewish State.

Thanks to Carlson, anti-Israel Christian Palestinians have found a new outlet through which to propagate their deceptive propaganda, rooted in theological, historical and geo-political error. It is irresponsible, and in fact dangerous, for Carlson to facilitate the presentation of blatant lies and antisemitic libels when there is an unprecedented rise in Jew-hatred worldwide and Israel is in the midst of an existential war initiated by terrorists who seek its annihilation.

On October 8, 2023, Isaac gave a sermon in which he said that Hamas' attacks on Israel the day before – in which 1,200 Israelis were slaughtered, was a logical outcome.

"What is happening is an embodiment of the injustice that has befallen us as Palestinians from the Nakba until now," Isaac said, using the Arabic word for "catastrophe," that Palestinians use to mark the creation of Israel in 1948.

On Christmas Eve last year, Isaac said that "if Jesus were to be born today, he would be born under the rubble in Gaza."

Isaac is a board member of Kairos Palestine, an organization launched in 2009 whose founding document makes antisemitic statements, such as engaging in Replacement Theology -- which "basically sees the Church replacing Israel" -- to deny the Jewish people's historic connection to Israel. The Kairos Document calls the Torah a "dead letter... used as a weapon in our present history in order to deprive us of our rights in our own land." The document also states that "Christian love invites us to resist," and describes the First Intifada, a campaign of bloody attacks on Israelis, as a "peaceful struggle."

Isaac is also the director of the Bethlehem Bible College's biannual "Christ at the Checkpoint" annual conferences, meant to promote Palestinian nationalism among Christian leaders, or as they put it, "challenge evangelicals to take responsibility to help resolve the conflicts in Israel-Palestine by engaging with the teaching of Jesus." Its manifesto states that "the occupation is the core issue of the conflict."

Among the antisemitic statements made at the conference over the years, collected by NGO Monitor, an organization that researches the activities and funding of nonprofits relating to the Arab-Israeli conflict:

If God wanted the Jews to have the land... I didn't want that God anymore!

If you put King David, Jesus and [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu [through a DNA test], you will get nothing, because Netanyahu comes from an East European tribe who converted to Judaism in the Middle Ages.

Jews who reject Jesus Christ are outside the covenant of grace and are to be regarded as children of Hagar, as opposed to Abraham and Sarah. This final quote is from Stephen Sizer, a British pastor who has engaged in Holocaust denial and blaming Israel for 9/11.

"[T]hose of us who track these things know that Munther Isaac has long been the high priest of antisemitic Christianity," said Reverend Johnnie Moore, president of the Congress of Christian Leaders, "sadly, he spreads his hate from the city of Jesus' birth."

"Since Oct. 7," Moore added, "Isaac seems to have graduated from being an anti-Zionist Lutheran preacher to a terror sympathizer. There's really just no other way to describe him."

Jonathan Elkhoury, a Christian refugee from Lebanon granted Israeli citizenship, said he was "appalled and ashamed" at Carlson's choice to invite Isaac onto his show, preferring "rhetoric of lies and misinformation about Israel or its treatment of minorities" rather than "a voice that speaks about Christian life in the Holy Land."

Tucker Carlson should have taken his platform more seriously, and not invited political activists, in the disguise of a religious robe, to support the ongoing dehumanization of Israelis and the denial of the right of Israel to exist...

Hamas prevented Christians [from] celebrat[ing] their holidays freely under its control since taking power, and Christians under the PA have faced many ongoing threats and attacks. The last one of them was an attack on the Jacob's Well monastery in Nablus by a Palestinian mob last January.

Finally, if Carlson really wanted to learn about the plight of Christians in Bethlehem, he should have interviewed Samir Qumsieh, a prominent and brave Christian leader from the town of Bet Sahour (near Bethlehem).

Unlike Isaac, Qumsieh speaks the truth about the challenges facing Christians living under the Palestinian Authority.

In an interview with Gatestone Institute, Qumsieh said:

We have a mafia here that is seizing Christian-owned lands. I protested against this Muslim mafia, and I even called a large gathering. I invited 80 people to my home. That same night, fliers were distributed in Bethlehem threatening to kill me. Of course, I am worried about the future of Christians here. Looking at the facts on the ground, you can see that there is no future for the Christians here. We are melting; we are disappearing. I fear the day will come when our churches will become museums. That is my nightmare.

© Gatestone Institute