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December 27, 2013 5

Campaigns In Atlanta And London Target Israeli Policy In Bethlehem

st-james-church-wall-bethlehem

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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October 5, 2012 0

Anti-Israel “Tribunal on Palestine” to Take Place at Cooper Union this Weekend

The Rus­sell Tri­bunal on Pales­tine (RTOP), which aims to bring the issue of Pales­tin­ian rights to “a court of the peo­ple,” will hold its fourth and final ses­sion this week­end at Cooper Union in Man­hat­tan. Three pre­vi­ous RTOP ses­sions that have taken place in Barcelona, Lon­don and Cape Town since 2009 pro­duced con­clud­ing doc­u­ments call­ing Israel an apartheid state, describ­ing the Gaza block­ade as “slow motion geno­cide” and denounc­ing alleged “cor­po­rate com­plic­ity” in the Israeli occupation.

The tribunal’s “jury” and “wit­nesses” are com­prised of anti-Israel activists and ana­lysts like Cyn­thia McK­in­ney; Mairead Maguire, a par­tic­i­pant in the May 2010 flotilla; and John Dugard, a South African attor­ney and for­mer Spe­cial Rap­por­teur on human rights for the U.N. who authored a report com­par­ing Israeli poli­cies to apartheid, as well as Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters and Alice Walker, the author of The Color Pur­ple. In light of this extremely biased com­po­si­tion, it is obvi­ous what the final “ver­dict,” which will be announced at a press con­fer­ence on Mon­day, Octo­ber 8, will look like.

A num­ber of promi­nent anti-Israel activists are also sched­uled to speak at spe­cific ses­sions, includ­ing Huwaida Arraf, co-founder of the Free Gaza Move­ment; Phyl­lis Ben­nis, a co-founder of the U.S. Cam­paign to End the Israeli Occu­pa­tion; and Diana Buttu, who recently appeared at a “one-state solu­tion” con­fer­ence at Har­vard University.

In fact, the tribunal’s web­site makes it clear that it will not be an objec­tive inquiry: “The Tri­bunal aims to bring atten­tion to the com­plic­ity and respon­si­bil­ity of var­i­ous national, inter­na­tional and cor­po­rate actors in the ongo­ing Israeli occu­pa­tion of Pales­tin­ian ter­ri­to­ries and the per­pet­u­a­tion of Israel’s impunity under inter­na­tional law.”

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