This Christmas card shows Joseph and a heavily pregnant Mary encountering a Bethlehem that is “effectively sealed off from the outside world by Israel’s Separation Wall” and “Mary and Joseph being frisked on their way to find an Inn for the night.” Linking the suffering of Palestinians with that of Jesus and Bethlehem is a common strategy for emphasizing accusations of Israeli brutality.
Such an insidious narrative, which uses Christmas as a means to demonize the Jewish state – including the conflation of Jesus with the Palestinians – is not uncommon among the British NGOs most hostile to Israel such as War on Want, Amos Trust, and Pax Christi, and other NGOs, such as Sabeel and Adalah-NY.
A recent essay – to which NGO Monitor President Gerald Steinberg contributed – noted:
UK-based Amos Trust is advertising its annual Bethlehem Pack, “a resource…which refers to Christian symbols in order to conflate the suffering of Jesus with the experience of Palestinians, explaining “If Jesus was born today in Bethlehem, the Wise Men would spend several hours queuing to enter the town” and “If Jesus was born today in Bethlehem, much of the shepherds’ fields would have been confiscated for illegal Israeli settlements.”
As the author of the essay observed, “These theological references are direct successors to millennia of Christian anti-Semitic campaigns.”
Such tropes are also employed by the Guardian’s Phoebe Greenwood.
Here is the headline of her Dec. 22 report:
Here’s the Guardian photo and caption which accompanied Greenwood’s report – evoking Jesus Christ, the ‘Good Shepherd’ (John, verses 11-13), which is among the most common symbolic representations of Christ found in Early Christian art:
Greenwood’s tale leaves little to the imagination, beginning thusly:
If Joseph and Mary were making their way to Bethlehem today, the Christmas story would be a little different, says Father Ibrahim Shomali, a parish priest in the town. The couple would struggle to get into the city, let alone find a hotel room.
“If Jesus were to come this year, Bethlehem would be closed,” says the priest of Bethlehem’s Beit Jala parish. “He would either have to be born at a checkpoint or at the separation wall. Mary and Joseph would have needed Israeli permission – or to have been tourists.
However, as I pointed out in a previous post, the ONLY place in the Middle East where the Christian population has grown since the end of WWII is Israel, and the flight of Christians from Palestinian controlled areas, such as Bethlehem, is primarily the result of persecution by the majority Muslim population.
Today, Christians make up just 1% of the population of the Palestinian territories. In 1920, they represented 10%. And, in Bethlehem in particular, not only has the number of Christians continued to dwindle, but Bethlehem and its surroundings also recently has become hotbeds for Hamas and Islamic Jihad supporters and members.
Undeterred, Greenwood continues:
Dr Jad Isaac, an expert in Bethlehem’s demographics and a consultant to the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, says aside from the physical restrictions on development, Bethlehem’s economy is being strangled by the loss of land and restrictions on Palestinian movement. [Emphasis mine]
With millions of tourists expected in the West Bank town of Bethlehem during Christmas, local merchants and tourism officials say they are enjoying an economic boom. Palestinian minister of tourism, Kholod Daibes, predicted that two million tourists will visit the city by the end of 2011.
We expect to attract greater numbers who are making a special visit so there will be more who stay in the Palestinian hotels, especially when the number of rooms and facilities is increasing,” she said. Daibes said that despite the Arab Spring revolutions in the region, which is expected to impact on tourist numbers, the outlook is still better than in previous years.
“The little town of Bethlehem? It will soon be the little ghetto surrounded in all directions by Israeli settlements,” he predicts. “We’ve already passed the stage where Bethlehem can be saved. Frankly, that’s why I don’t celebrate Christmas any more.”
In the media there are, to be sure, small lies, big lies and moral obscenities.
The small lie in Greenwood’s tale pertains to her suggestion that Bethlehem is being economically strangled by Israeli policy.
The big lie is that Israeli Jews are, in any way, oppressing Christians.
The morally obscene charge is that, if Christ, Mary and Joseph were all alive today, they’d be persecuted by the Jewish state.
The indisputable fact, however, is that Israel remains the sole nation in the Middle East where Christians thrive and worship freely.
Is this even debatable?
- Palestinian persecution of Christians: Postscript to ’95 Guardian story on Israeli withdrawal from Bethlehem (cifwatch.com)
- Phoebe Greenwood continues Guardian tradition of dishonest reporting about Palestinian incitement (cifwatch.com)
- Dear MP Richard Burden: Please don’t wish us a Happy Chanukah (cifwatch.com)
- The Guardian’s Phoebe Greenwood promotes the new kinder, gentler, peaceful Hamas (cifwatch.com)
- Jews to build new bridge. Guardian characterizes it as a provocation. (cifwatch.com)