Hundreds of Palestinian Christians attack Greek Orthodox Patriarch's car to protest controversial land deals

Hundreds of Palestinian Christians showed their opposition to the Greek Orthodox Church's controversial sale of Holy Land property by blocking and attacking the car of Patriarch Theophilos III during his visit to Bethlehem on Jan. 6.

(REUTERS / Mussa Qawasma)Palestinian security forces push away demonstrators from the convoy of Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III, during a protest against his visit, in the West Bank city of Bethlehem January 6, 2018.

The Greek Orthodox Patriarch was in the occupied West Bank on Saturday to attend an Orthodox Christmas mass in Bethlehem. However, he encountered hundreds of Palestinian Christians who blocked his convoy and pounded the vehicles with stones and their fists, smashing the windows of three cars, but not the one the Patriarch was in, Reuters detailed.

Some of the protesters chanted "traitor, traitor" while pummeling the cars in the convoy. Fortunately, Palestinian security forces arrived to push them away.

"What happened today is a message to the Palestinian Authority and to Jordan that we will not allow this traitor to stay in the Church," said Elyeef Sayegh, one of the protesters.

The demonstrators were speaking out against the church's decision to sell prime property in the Holy Land to Jewish and Israeli investors. The church explained that the sale was necessary so that it could pay its debt which had amassed in the past few years, but some Palestinians considered the move as an act of treason.

In November, the Orthodox Central Council in Jordan and Palestine spurned the church's reasons for the land deal. For the council, "all lands throughout the Patriarchate in Jordan and historic Palestine are one unit and all of them constitute an endowment which is not entitled to any disposition," the Middle East Monitor reported.

In addition, the Orthodox Council said all the deals that were put in place were invalid because it caused Christians to be displaced from Jerusalem. It also pointed out that this was the result that Zionists wanted to arrive at and called on Christians to support its demand for the upholding of the Orthodox Arabs' historic rights.