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5 Things You Should Know about Christians in the Middle East

1. Recent news from the Middle East tends to be either about the Israel-Hamas conflict or about sectarian violence between Muslims groups. Are there any Christian communities in the region?

Indeed there are. Christianity began in the Middle East. Jesus, of course, lived in the Holy Land; St. Peter and St. Paul preached in Syria and launched the Christian faith there; and Christianity became the dominant religion in Egypt during the fourth century CE. Christianity long predates Islam in the region.

2.  What is the situation of Christians there today?

While for centuries majority-Muslim societies tolerated their Christian minorities and allowed them to participate fully in economic life and even, at times, in political affairs, their situation deteriorated sharply with the rise of militant Islam. Most recently, the so-called Arab Spring, which held out the hope of democratizing the region, has instead all too often brought into power Islamist groups that—to put it mildly—do not take kindly to...

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Date: 7/25/2014
5 Hamas Media Myths the Press Needs to End Now

1.  Civilians evacuating have nowhere to go

While mentioning that Israel has dropped thousands of leaflets telling Gazan civilians to evacuate a certain part of Gaza, news reports claim that these civilians have nowhere left to go. This is untrue. The leaflets dropped by Israel give explicit instructions about where civilians can find a place nearby that is safe.

2.  The international community is against Israel

Leaders from around the world have reiterated that Israel has the right to defend itself. In addition, these leaders, like U.S. President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper have condemned Hamas for its ceaseless rocket fire on Israeli civilians. Click here to read statements from these and other world leaders in support of Israel.

3.  The skewed casualty count shows that Israel’s response is disproportionate

The media has compared the Palestinian death toll and the Israeli death toll, often without reporting that...

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Date: 7/22/2014
Anti-Israel Rallies in Europe: Spotlight on France, Germany and Turkey

Since the hostilities between Israel and Hamas began, and especially once Israel launched its ground attack on Gaza on July 17, pro-Hamas and anti-Israel demonstrations have taken place in many cities around the world. While these events are similar in their political aim, they have played out in a variety of ways that reflect the unique political, social and cultural realities of the communities involved. What has occurred in three large and important countries, France, Germany and Turkey, requires special attention.

France

France has the largest Jewish community in Europe, some 600,000; it is also home to the continent's largest Muslim community, estimated at some 6 million. Pro-Hamas and anti-Israel demonstrations have occurred in Paris and other cities, with banners, signs and shouted slogans too often displaying blatant anti-Semitism; a firebomb was hurled at a synagogue outside Paris, and more than 100 congregants were besieged for hours in a central Paris synagogue by an angry mob. The latest developments must be understood in the context of rising threats from violent Islamist extremists in France in recent years, including the murder of three Jewish students and a teacher at a Jewish school in Toulouse in 2012, the earlier murder of three French Muslim soldiers in and near Toulouse, and the torture and murder of a kidnapped Jewish man near Paris in 2006. A sense of insecurity has led to a significant increase of French aliyah to Israel. To prevent violence in the recent anti-Israel manifestations, French authorities banned further pro-Hamas rallies, declaring them threats to public order.  Despite the ban, anti-Semitic rallies have continued to take place, prompting Prime Minister Manuel Valls to declare: "The fight against anti-Semitism is not the problem of the Jews, it is the problem of the Republic, of all of France.... It is a national concern."  Valls also asked the Jewish community "to have trust in their country."

Germany

Numerous pro-Hamas and anti-Israel rallies in recent weeks featuring anti-Semitic chants and signs equating Israel with the Nazis have taken place in Germany, a country that for many decades has established itself as a friend and partner of Israel.  Participants at demonstrations include large numbers of Muslims, but also representatives of far left-wing groups and even neo-Nazis. Some of the demonstrations have ended in violence, including an attack against a member of the German parliament who was speaking out for Israel. At a recent Berlin demonstration, an Israeli couple narrowly escaped an attack.  Although anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi slogans often contravene the law, police have been criticized for insufficient intervention to stop such rhetoric. A legal complaint filed by AJC Berlin prompted the Berlin police to ban some anti-Semitic phrases and to monitor chants more carefully at anti-Israel demonstrations. AJC Berlin advocacy also prompted leading German politicians to condemn publicly the spate of anti-Semitic incidents.

Turkey

The situation in Turkey differs sharply from that in France and Germany. Unlike the governments in Paris and Berlin that recognize Israel's right to protect its citizens from Hamas rockets, the Turkish government, at odds with Israel for years, has denounced Israeli policies as "genocidal." In fact, anti-Israel sentiment is so politically popular in the country that Prime Minister Erdogan and the leaders of the parliamentary opposition have accused each other of being too soft on Israel. The intense provocation coming from the country's leaders triggered mob attacks on Israel's embassy in Ankara and its Istanbul consulate, with members of the ruling Justice and Development Party taking part, and a break-in was attempted at the residence of the Israeli ambassador. Israel ordered the evacuation of the families of its diplomats in Turkey - and called on the government to assure the security of its diplomatic outposts and personnel. Amid rising tensions, Turkey's small Jewish population of some 20,000 is attempting to maintain a low profile.  In recent days the head of IHH, an extremist Turkish NGO, threatened that "Turkish Jews will pay dearly" for Israel's actions.

The Response from European Leaders

After these violent rallies, AJC welcomed a powerful statement on European anti-Semitism by the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Italy. The three foreign ministers denounced “the ugly anti-Semitic statements, demonstrations and attacks of the last few days,” and stressed that “nothing, including the dramatic military confrontation in Gaza, justifies such actions in Europe.” Read more here.

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Date: 7/21/2014
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