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May 22, 2014

Palestinians Welcome Pope Francis To Bethlehem With Anti-Semitism

On Sunday, when Pope Francis celebrates mass in Bethlehem’s Manger Square, he may be confronted with billboards depicting Jesus being attacked by Israeli soldiers.jesus-palestinian-pope-israel

This not-so-subtle modern day version of the deicide is transparent classical anti-Semitism in the guise of criticism of Israel.  The posters are a product of The Palestinian Museum, which announced that at the request of the Palestinian Authority (PA)’s Supreme Presidential Committee for Church Affairs, it had prepared special billboards to decorate Manger Square which “combine recent media photographs of the Palestinian landscape and its people with Western baroque paintings of biblical scenes.”

The posters, some of which depict Jesus suffering at the hands of Israeli soldiers, will highlight “the tension between the popular image of the Holy Land and Palestine’s ongoing history of suffering under occupation and oppression,”  according to the Museum.

Palestinian efforts to present themselves as the direct descendants of Jesus are nothing new.  Nor is the manipulative and anti-Semitic comparison of Palestinian suffering at the hands of Jews just as they claim Jews were responsible for suffering and death of Jesus.

The message carefully chosen by an official Palestinian body to publicly welcome Pope Francis demonstrates how deeply intermingled anti-Jewish and anti-Israel attitudes are in the Palestinian public sphere.

At the weekly meeting of Israel’s cabinet, Prime Minister Netanyahu decried Palestinian incitement, citing the ADL Global 100 Survey findings about the high level of anti-Semitic attitudes in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

While the PA regularly complains that incitement is an Israeli-manufactured excuse, there is no denying that extreme anti-Israel and anti-Semitic messaging appears routinely in official Palestinian publications and institutions.

Earlier this week, the May 21st edition of the Palestinian Authority daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, featured an op-ed by one of its frequent writers, Yahya Rabah, entitled “No One Believes Shylock,” featuring the denial of the Jewish connection to the Land of Israel, comparisons of Israel to the Nazis and other outrages.   Rabah writes:

“… Israel lives on a broad and extensive system of laws from the British Mandate, on illusionary Torah maps, as well as on hallucinations from the Babylonian captivity or from the Roman, the existence of neither has no single evidence. (It also lives) on practices borrowed from the Nazis, currently imitated by the Israelis against the Palestinian people, as clearly established by a number of intellectuals, authors and historians in Israel these days.”

The issue of Palestinian incitement, and the PA’s chronic failure to prepare the Palestinian public for peace with Israel was on ongoing concern cited by Israeli officials during the recent cycle of US-brokered peace negotiations.

And with these egregious examples appearing almost-daily, it is certain to continue to alarm all those committed to true Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation.

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December 27, 2013

Campaigns In Atlanta And London Target Israeli Policy In Bethlehem

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St. James Church Wall

Right in time for Christmas, two campaigns have begun that demonize Israeli policy in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus.

In Atlanta, Georgia, five electronic billboards are currently on display for a two week duration that depict Jesus’s parents Mary and Joseph being unable to gain entry into Bethlehem in modern times because of Israel’s security barrier on the border of the West Bank (the image was created by the artist Banksy). These billboards are sponsored by If Americans Knew (IAK), a virulently anti-Israel organization that has been running anti-Israel billboards in cities across the United States over the past year.

In London, England, St. James’s Church erected a large display outside of the church to depict the security barrier that surrounds Bethlehem. The church’s reverend, Lucy Winkett, claimed that the display, which resembles the security wall in Israel, was designed to show passersby “what the people of Bethlehem are experiencing today.”

The mock security wall outside St. James’ Church is part of a festival called “Bethlehem Unwrapped,” which is being sponsored by the Holy Land Trust, a Bethlehem-based group that advocates for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns against Israel. The festival will take place in London from December 23, 2013 until January 5, 2014. It will feature, among other programs, a comedy show called “Stand Up Against the Wall,” a “Bethlehem Christmas dinner,” and a debate titled “Both sides of the Barrier – Separation or Security?” which will feature Jeff Halper, the founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions; Leila Sansour, a resident of Bethlehem; Yiftah Curiel, the Public Affairs spokesman at the Embassy of Israel in London; and Alan Johnson, a representative from the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre.

Both the billboard and mock wall display deliberately fail to account for Israel’s legitimate security concerns. While IAK claims that their billboards, “will be seen an estimated 4 million times,” those who view the billboards will not receive any information about why the security barrier was built and what it has done to thwart terrorist attacks.

Indeed, Israel’s security barrier was built as a defensive measure that was first approved by the Israeli government in 2002 to prevent Palestinian terrorists from reaching their civilian targets inside Israel. Since it was built, there has been a sharp decrease in Palestinian terrorism – not because there have been no attempted attacks, but because the security barrier has impeded terrorists from reaching Israeli cities, or has forced them to take more circuitous routes, leading to their capture.

Although both campaigns seek to reinforce the point that Bethlehem has become inaccessible because of the wall, thousands of Christian pilgrims from around the world visit Bethlehem for Christmas Eve celebrations every year. This year was no exception, according to news reports, the turnout was “the highest in years.”

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