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Why Palestine's 'Merry Christmas people' are not so merry

A Palestinian official caused an uproar when he described Palestinian Christians as the “Merry Christmas people.”
A Palestinian marching band parades during a Christmas procession at Manger Square in the West Bank town of Bethlehem December 24, 2015. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman - RTX1ZYV3
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In a long interview with Egyptian ONTV Sept. 1, Jibril Rajoub, the head of the Palestinian Football Association, appeared to ridicule Palestinian Christians. Almost a week later, on Sept. 6, Rajoub insisted in an interview on Al-Quds TV that when he referred to the “Merry Christmas people,” he was merely being jovial. He claimed that he had often used the term and that no one had ever complained about it.

Many Palestinian Christians, including Atallah Hanna, a Greek Orthodox archbishop of Sebastia, weren't laughing and demanded an apology. After initially hesitating, Rajoub apologized on Palestine TV Sept. 7 after a meeting in Ramallah with Catholic bishops who accepted the apology and asked that the incident be forgotten. Regardless, the episode has left a bad taste among a Palestinian community revealed to be fragile.

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