Foreign Policy Digital

Don’t Blame the Orthodox Church for Nasty Political Games in the Holy Land

The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate is not deliberately selling off land to Israeli settlers. It has been the victim of fraud and attacks by Israeli extremists.

In her Jan. 7 article for Foreign Policy, “Holy Land for Sale,” Dalia Hatuqa presented a picture of large-scale discontent within the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem that exaggerates the numbers and importance of the dissidents within the church, misstates many facts, and distracts attention from an existential threat to all Christian churches in the Holy Land, not just the Greek Orthodox Church.

The article unwittingly serves the interests of extremists among the Israeli settler movement, allied with politicians seeking political gain, who have targeted the land holdings of all the churches—Orthodox, Catholic, Armenian, Coptic, Anglican, and half a dozen others—that make up the Christian community of the Holy Land.

Ateret Cohanim, a settler organization that aims to expel Muslims and Christians from Jerusalem, has, as correctly noted in Hatuqa’s article, systematically acquired property in the Old City through a toxic mixture of intimidation and bribery—and occasionally violent occupation. Once Ateret Cohanim acquires a property, its adherents occupy the buildings and terrorize the surrounding neighborhood. They play loud music at night, assault women, and spit on priests. Jerusalem Christians believe that Ateret Cohanim has also vandalized

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