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December 27, 2013

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

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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