I gave due warning in my Christmas post that a Grinch was about to descend to ruin the holiday for everyone. Nevertheless I apologize for being the bearer of bad news.
Note the video’s description:
Every Christmas Palestine celebrates the birth of one of its own, Jesus Christ.
“One of its own”?!
Jesus was, of course, born Jewish.
As Jeffrey Goldberg notes (emphasis added):
The most recent manifestation of the desire to de-Judaize Jesus has come not from European Christian churches, but from anti-Israel activists in the Arab world, who have engaged in a campaign to assert that Jesus was, in fact, a Palestinian (in other words, a member of a people that did not come into being until roughly 100 years ago), and that the Jews are guilty of deicide and genocide, among other -cides.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry reacted with scorn to this ridiculous claim:
“He should have read the Gospel before uttering such offensive nonsense, but we will forgive him because he doesn’t know what he’s doing,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told The Times of Israel on Monday. Abbas’s statement is an “outrageous rewriting of Christian history,” according to Palmor.
These rather unfriendly statements are “not exactly in the spirit of Christmas,” Palmor, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, said cynically. “Maybe he needs a hug from Santa?”
But on a more serious note:
An Israeli government official took offense particularly with the suggestion that Israel has caused Christians to leave the Holy Land. “The exodus of Christians from Bethlehem turned into a flood the moment the PA took control,” the official said.
… She did her homework with info on Christian communities in Jordan, Syria, Egypt, and Iraq. That lends context to what reporter Christa Case Bryant had to say about the communities in Israel and the PA:
In Gaza, fewer than 2,000 Christians remain. Muslim militants have bombed churches, killed prominent Christians, and forced others to convert to Islam. In the West Bank, Arab Christians are better off than many in parts of the region, but only an estimated 50,000 live there – about 2 percent of the population, down from 10 percent in 1920. Much of that change, however, is due to faster Muslim growth rather than an actual decrease in Christian totals.
One exception to the decline is Israel, where the Christian population has grown nearly fivefold, to 158,000, since the country’s founding in 1948. Even so, their share of the population has dropped from about 3 percent to 2 percent, and critics note that Palestinian Christian families who fled or were forced out just prior to Israel’s founding gave the country an artificially low baseline. Much of the increase was due to the immigration of Christians from the former Soviet Union, under Israel’s expanded law of return, which welcomes those with a Jewish mother or maternal grandmother.
The situation of the Christians in the Middle East has been dire for a long time, and now even Prince Charles has blamed the Islamists for their persecution:
Christians in parts of the Middle East are being deliberately targeted by Islamist militants in a campaign of persecution, Prince Charles has said.
The Prince of Wales made his comments after visiting the British branches of churches based in the region.
The prince heard accounts of Christians being murdered and families forced from their homes.
The upheavals of the Arab Spring have left many religious minorities vulnerable to accusation and attack.
Later at a reception at Clarence House, attended by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop of Westminster and the Chief Rabbi, Prince Charles said he felt deeply troubled by the plight of Christians.
“For 20 years I have tried to build bridges between Islam and Christianity to dispel ignorance and misunderstanding,” he told the audience.
“The point though, surely, is that we have now reached a crisis where bridges are rapidly being deliberately destroyed by those with a vested interest in doing so.
“This is achieved through intimidation, false accusation and organised persecution including to the Christian communities in the Middle East at the present time.”
Kol hakavod to Prince Charles for his courage in speaking up. Better late than never. Following on from him, the UK Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander called on the British government to do more for Middle East Christians in a very moving op-ed in the Telegraph:
But why, when popes and princes are speaking up, have so many politicians here in the UK forsaken speaking out?
But why, given the scale of the suffering, are these still such lone voices?
Across the world, there will be Christians this week for whom attending a church service this Christmas is not an act of faithful witness, but an act of life-risking bravery.
That cannot be right, and we need the courage to say so.
Another angle of this anti-Christmas misery is the way that Israel is blamed for the assorted ills afflicting Palestinian Christians, and Bethlehem in particular. Honest Reporting brings us a few examples:
“The future of Christianity is gloomy,” he says to a gathering of journalists he has invited to his home . . . “The reasons are the escalations of emigration and the low rates of birth.”
But AFP blames Israel:
The Palestinian territories’ top tourist destination is a victim of the barrier which cuts off the town from nearby Jerusalem, just 10 kilometres away.
The Independent’s vile Mira Bar Hillel gets a dishonourable mention too:
• Tis the season for Mira Bar-Hillel’s blows of folly blaming Israel for the dwindling demographics of Christians in the Holy Land. The Independent columnist is going to find coal in her stockings thanks to chestnuts like this:
A Jewish town, Upper Nazareth, was established on a bluff above Nazareth with the aim of strangling and intimidating the historic city. Nazareth has survived due to the success of three hospitals, founded there by religious charities more than a century ago, and a dozen private schools, set up by religious orders before Israel’s creation for Christian and Muslim pupils.
Bar-Hillel also gave an unusual shout-out to another “expert” on Nazareth, Jonathan Cook. During the 2006 war in Lebanon, Cook blamed Israel for Hezbollah’s rockets falling on Nazareth.
The Independent has another slanted article about Israel’s effect on Bethlehem in which the truth is severely distorted:
For years, Palestinian Christians have been quietly abandoning the place where Jesus is said to have been born in a manger. Middle-class residents here have packed their bags for less chaotic lives in Latin America, Europe and the US. Tourism ground to a halt more than a decade ago, during the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, and is now experiencing a comeback.
But Palestinians say major challenges remain: the Israeli military checkpoints and security barrier that separates Bethlehem from Jerusalem, a 10-minute drive away; the shuttered homes and shops that are symbols of a stagnant economy; and the Israeli settlements that are growing around Bethlehem on land claimed by the Palestinians for a future state.
Where shall we begin? No mention is made of the persecution of the Palestinian Christian community at the hands of the Palestinians themselves. The reasons for the Israeli security barrier and checkpoints are not mentioned either: to prevent Palestinian terrorism against Israeli civilians.
As for those “Israeli settlements growing around Bethlehem” – this is an outright lie. A similar claim was made in The Times, and CiFWatch rips this claim to pieces (as well as the entirety of the Times article itself) by using a map produced by the extreme-left Israeli NGO Betselem.
If we are talking about anti-Israel slanted news reports, how could we not mention the BBC? BBC Watch has two posts concerning biased BBC reports on Christians in Israel and the Palestinian territories. The first article talks about a PSC Christmas smear promoted on multiple BBC platforms:
In all of those various versions of Dalrymple’s ‘point of view’, the following claim is made.
“On the West Bank and in Gaza, the Christians are emigrating fast as they find themselves caught between Netanyahu’s pro-settler government and their increasingly radicalised Sunni Muslim neighbours.”
All the Palestinian Christians in the Gaza Strip (0.7% of the total population) of course live under the rule of the Hamas regime. Well over 90% of the rest of the Palestinians live in areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority and Christians make up some 8% of the total Palestinian population outside the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian Authority controls traditionally Christian towns such as Bethlehem, Beit Jala and Beit Sahour.
The second item relates how Yolande Knell lies about Israel’s security fence:
“That’s correct. In the Bethlehem Governorate there are more than twenty Pal..err…Israeli settlements and now Israel’s West Bank separation barrier. It appears as a high concrete wall around Bethlehem and the people here complain that it has strangled their economy. Israel says of course that it was built for security but the Palestinians view it as a land grab. For Christmas though, there are three gates that open up, enabling the Christmas procession led by the Latin Patriarch coming from Jerusalem to enter the city and so this does open up the city and it makes it a joyful occasion in that way as well.”
Let’s take that one claim at a time.
The ‘Bethlehem Governorate’ is an entity arbitrarily created by the Palestinian Authority. The area which the PA claims as the ‘Bethlehem Governorate’ does not however include areas exclusively under the control of the PA – i.e. districts falling into the categories of Area A or B according to the Oslo Accords – but also includes (as do other ‘Governorates’) large parts of Area C, which is currently under Israeli control according to the agreements willingly signed by the Palestinians and the status of which is to be determined under final status negotiations according to the terms of those same Oslo Accords. Hence, according to the narrative adopted and propagated by Yolande Knell, the area of Gush Etzion also falls within the ‘Bethlehem Governorate’ in much the same way as, say, Gibraltar falls within the ‘Algeciras Governorate’.
Our sorry tale of Christmas woe concludes with an outrageous event taking place at St. James Church, Piccadilly, in London over the 12 days of Christmas. Richard Millett has a detailed report: with pictures:
St. James’s Church, Piccadilly, in London’s West End has installed a life size 8 metre tall/30 metre long replica of Israel’s security wall in its courtyard as part of its Bethlehem Unwrapped festival. The replica wall is so vast that it obscures the Church itself.
The replica wall will be lit up at night and for the next twelve days of Christmas (until 5th January) a montage of images and slogans will be continuously projected onto it. Scenes include parts of London with a wall passing through it.
What you won’t see projected onto the replica wall are scenes of bombed out Israeli buses, hotels, pizza restaurants, bars and nightclubs that were ubiquitous in Israel before the wall.
Last night’s unveiling of the replica wall was introduced by St James’s Church Rector Lucy Winkett.
Rector Winkett said the reason behind the replica wall was that when 20 of them visited Israel and the Palestinian territories in October “one of the lasting memories of our time there was this wall” (see clip).
It is a shame Rector Winkett didn’t also visit the graves of Israeli children murdered by Palestinian suicide bombers or Israelis left disabled by them.
The microphone was then handed to Jeff Halper of Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions who left those who made it to the church despite the dreadful weather conditions in no doubt as to what the next twelves days of Bethlehem Unwrapped had in store. Halper has previously expressed his wish to boycott Israel out of existence.
I understand that there are due to be a couple of last minute voices putting Israel’s case at the panel debate with Halper “Both sides of the Barrier: Separation or Security?” on January 4th but it is a drop in the ocean when compared to what is taking place over the entirety of the festival.
During the festival members of the public are being invited write on the wall. The address of St James’s Church is 197 Piccadilly. It’s very close to Piccadilly Circus tube station. Feel free to head away from the sales for a few minutes to balance out the hate and the lies. But take a good pen with you.
This replica wall has possibly cost thousands of pounds. […] it is shameful that St James’s Church, Piccadilly, has squandered so much on what is nothing more than an anti-Israel propaganda exercise.
I suggest to my UK readers that you take up Richard Millett’s suggestion to head over to the church to write your own pro-Israel message on the wall. The church is a disgrace to its community.
I don’t want to leave those celebrating with all this bitterness surrounding the holiday, so I shall finish with a heart-warming story from Stephanie Saldana in the Wall Street Journal who writes “When Santa lived next door in Jerusalem“:
We don’t live in the North Pole, but in the Old City of Jerusalem, where last spring my husband discovered a small stone house for rent in the Christian Quarter. When we first moved in, I was surprised to see Christian pilgrims climbing the stairs in the courtyard in front of our house and disappearing above us. Soon I discovered that, hidden among the other houses, was the ancient Greek Orthodox monastery of St. Nicholas.
While walking my two sons to school recently, we encountered the Superior of the monastery, Fr. Aristovoulos, and introduced ourselves.
“Why is it named the monastery of St. Nicholas?” I asked. He looked at my two boys and smiled. “It’s because St. Nicholas came to the Holy Land as a pilgrim and stayed in the monastery for a year.” My 5-year-old son’s face lit up. “You mean Santa Claus?” he asked. “The original Santa Claus,” Fr. Aristovoulos answered.
This season, as I’ve thought of the stories of St. Nicholas, I’ve been reminded of the miracle of kindness—what some might say is a lifesaving gift. It does feel a bit like a season of miracles in Jerusalem. There’s still snow on the ground from the city’s largest snowfall in decades. This Christmas Eve, I’ll go with my family to Bethlehem, like we do every year. As we approach the city, I’ll choose the brightest star in the sky and tell my two sons that we’re following it to the place where Jesus was born more than 2,000 years ago. On the way, we’ll pass the hospital where my son was born nearly six years ago, a reminder that miracles don’t just belong in the past.
Then we’ll return home, and I’ll tuck my boys into bed, and we’ll all wait for St. Nicholas to come. If the neighbors are right, he shouldn’t have any problem finding our house.
Read it all. It will help to counteract all the earlier nastiness here and it will surely bring a smile to your face.