The Plight of Christians in the Middle East

FrontPageMag | Jamie Glazov | July 9, 2008

Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Pierre Rehov, a French filmmaker who has filmed six documentaries on the Palestinian Intifada. One of his recent documentaries, Suicide Killers, explores the psychology of suicide bombers. It is based on interviews with the victims of suicide bombers, the families of suicide bombers, would-be bombers themselves, and experts on suicide killer mentality. He has just completed a film: “First Comes Saturday, Then Comes Sunday,” which explores the plight of Christians in Lebanon, Egypt and Palestinian Territories. He is also working on a film, “Proliferation,” which documents the contagion of suicide killing around the world, including inside the U.S. He recently moved to the U.S.

FP: Pierre Rehov, welcome to Frontpage Interview.

Rehov: It is always a pleasure to answer your questions.

FP: Well, it is always a pleasure to listen to your answers.
Tell us about the film you just completed.

Rehov: It’s a film that was inspired by the horrible episode at the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem in 2002. If you remember, after a series of deadly suicide attacks, which had ravaged Israel, the Israeli government finally decided to eliminate the terror infrastructure inside Palestinian territories. A large military operation took the IDF inside Jenin, Bethlehem and other areas and fierce battles ensued, as Israeli soldiers fought Palestinian gunmen.

In Bethlehem, about 100 Palestinian terrorists and wanted criminals found refuge in the Church of Nativity. The IDF organised a siege which went on for a few weeks, while international media could film, for free, their prime time show at Israel’s expense. From time to time, the Palestinians inside would fire at the soldiers, hoping for retaliation.

During their stay, they desecrated completely this Christian holy shrine. They used priests, monks and nuns as human shields. They behaved like barbarians. But nobody reported the real facts. Nobody really took the side of the poor Christians locked up with those Palestinians. The international media was silent on this crime. The only thing the media could report, day after day, was that the IDF was putting a Christian shrine under siege, risking Christians lives, and not providing those “poor” Palestinians with food or water, which actually was a lie.

FP: So what angle does your film take?

Rehov: My film uses testimonies of some of the monks who had been victims of those Palestinians. It gives footage from different sources and also testimonies of Christians living in Palestinian territories. It tries to understand why the Christian population of Bethlehem, among other Christian towns of the Middle East, has come from being 80% Christian, down to only 20%.

While filming, I discovered what kind of persecution most Christians have had to suffer under Palestinian rules, since Arafat had been in power. The film was very useful for a lot of Christians to understand who their real enemy is, even though many might still be blinded by traditional anti-Semitism.

I started this year five years ago and decided to go back to it. Five years later, having progressed in my work, and looking at this film, I found a lot of technical, artistic mistakes. At the same time, it was only focusing on Palestinian Christians. Last summer, then, I decided to make another film about that important and tragic matter, but this time I extended the subject to Lebanese and Egyptian Christians, in addition to the Palestinian ones. I discovered the suffering of two large and vivid communities under Islamic rules, and was proud and happy to give them a voice through my film.

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