Christians of the Holy Land

The exodus from the Holy Land of Palestinian Christians could eventually leave holy cities like Jerusalem and Bethlehem without a local Christian population. Bob Simon reports.

CBS All Access
This video is available on CBS All Access

Ari Shavit: Absolutely.

Bob Simon: Should Israel be concerned about that?

Ari Shavit: I think we should all be concerned about it. Political Judaism and political Islam are rocky. They are harsh. And the friction, the clash between them is very violent.

In 2009, this group of Christian activists did something unprecedented. They published a document called Kairos, criticizing Islamic extremism and advocating non-violent resistance to the Israeli occupation which they called a sin against God.

It was endorsed by the leaders of 13 Christian denominations including Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Anglican.

Michael Oren: These are denominations who have been exceedingly critical of the State of Israel. And sometimes to the point of going beyond legitimate criticism. And so--

Bob Simon: What does that mean to go beyond...

Michael Oren: Well, I think--

Bob Simon: --legitimate criticism?

Michael Oren: Accusing of us-- of crimes that would be very, I think, historically associated with anti-Semitism. And it was actually so inflammatory, Bob, that we didn't-- many of us didn't even bother responding to it.

Mitri Raheb: They are fearful of this document because they are afraid this might influence the Christian world.

Reverend Raheb, who helped write the document, says it's anything but anti-Semitic.

Mitri Raheb: This document is-- doesn't ask for violent. It doesn't ask for revenge. The most powerful thing in this document actually is that asking for hope and love and faith.

Bob Simon: Do you think the Israeli government ever thinks of the fact that if Christians aren't being treated well here, and America is an overwhelmingly Christian country, that this could have consequences?

Ari Shavit: Israel is not persecuting Christians as Christians. The Christians in the Holy Land suffer from Israeli policies that are a result of the overall tragic situation. And this, of course, has consequences for everybody.

For Israel, there could be serious economic consequences. According to Israeli government figures, tourism is a multi billion dollar business there. Most tourists are Christian. Many of them are American. That's one reason why Israelis are very sensitive about their image in the United States. And that could be why Ambassador Oren phoned Jeff Fager, the head of CBS News and executive producer of 60 Minutes, while we were still reporting the story, long before tonight's broadcast. He said he had information our story was quote: "a hatchet job."