Arutz Sheva, Israel National News, reports Christian community leaders in Bethlehem believe that Islamist extremists are responsible for a fire at St. Charbal Church this past Saturday:

In its sole statement, the [Palestinian Authority] said that the fire at the St. Charbal church in the city was caused by an “electrical malfunction” – a description that is at odds with an account by Israeli Christian Arab Father Gabriel Naddaf, who said that the church was burned down Saturday night by “Palestinian extremists.” . . .

According to Christian community leaders in Bethlehem, the fire was started by extremist Islamists who for months have been threatening community members with harm. As a result of the fire, several rooms on the church’s second floor were completely destroyed. No one was killed or injured.

Sources quoted by Naddaf said that the fire was just another in a long series of attacks by Muslims against Christians in Bethlehem.

While the culprits — or whether it was some other cause — are not yet known for sure,
Father Naddaf has called out the PA and its President for failure to condemn the fire:

Abbas and the PA, however, are not the only ones whose silence is notable. Where has the international media been on this? If Jewish arson was suspected, there would be a media frenzy.

In June, when Jewish arsonists were suspected of the fire at the Church of Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes, The New York TimesCNNThe Washington PostThe LA TimesThe IndependentReuters, The Associated Press, and The International Business Times all covered it.

The Guardian covered the June story particularly extensively, reporting on what it called “an unusually strong condemnation” by a Catholic bishop in Britain, and quoting the bishop calling the perpetrators “Jewish zealots.” The Guardian also relayed that that bishop “demand[ed] the Israeli authorities act against religious bigotry.”

If any of the above publications reported on the St. Charbal case, I haven’t found it.

The only US or British news outlets in which I have seen this story reported are Breitbart and The Jewish Press.

Notably, after the attack in June, Prime Minister Netanyahu ordered Israeli police to “act aggressively to bring the perpetrators of the crime to justice” — which they did.

There is no report of any such order from President Abbas, whose Palestinian Authority controls Bethlehem.

There is one political leader who spoke out on behalf of the church — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu wrote on his Facebook page (automatic translation):

I am proud that the Christian community in Israel has grown each year. Unfortunately, across the Middle East, that trend happens only in Israel. In many other parts of our region, the Christian community is persecuted and attacked. Even in the territories of the Palestinian Authority, including Bethlehem, the cradle of Christianity, the Christian community is shrinking every year.

I am disturbed by the damage to St. Charbel Monastery in Bethlehem, which was burned last Saturday. If we are speaking about the actions of extremists, I expect the Palestinian Authority to catch those responsible, as Israel has done to extremists who have attacked the holy sites of all religions.

No house of worship, of any religion, should ever be attacked, and both cases are tragic and outrageous. So why do the international media and the Palestinian Authority care only about one?

[Featured Image via Fr. Gabriel Naddaf Facebook]

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Mirabelle is a non-practicing lawyer and blogger, writing about Israel, the US-Israel relationship, and media bias at Israellycool.com. On twitter: @MirabelleW18