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Posts tagged ‘Bethlehem’

Israeli bulldozers are back in Beit Jala

In 2004, I wrote an article about the story of Nabil Saba, a man from Beit Jala whose family was expelled in the early 1970s to make way for the Israeli settlement of Har Gilo. When I first spoke to him some 11 years ago, confiscation of land for the Apartheid Wall was well underway.

“The Wall has taken the land from the people of Beit Jala”, Nabil told me. “They have put us all in a prison. There is no land left for Beit Jala. We are in cantons, ghettoes, now.”

Visiting Beit Jala last week, this grim assessment is only confirmed. There is no more room. If people are building, they are building up; the price of land and property continues to rise, and the town, like so many other communities in Palestine, has no solution to apartheid’s tightening noose. Read more

In the fight against apartheid, Christian Palestinians defy Israel’s propaganda

In 2012, then-Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren penned an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal in which he claimed that “Christians in [Gaza and the West Bank] suffer the same plight as their co-religionists throughout the region.”

While the diplomat was looking to capitalise on more recent developments in the Middle East – like Netanyahu did at the UN, with his “Hamas is ISIS” mantra – Oren’s claim that Christian Palestinians are being driven out by Muslims is a familiar one. Read more

At home and abroad, Christian Palestinians under attack by Israel and its apologists

As the Pope visits the ‘Holy Land’, much media coverage has focused on the current problems facing Christian Palestinians, and in particular, the so-called ‘price tag’ attacks being perpetrated by right-wing Jewish extremists. Ahead of the Papal visit, Israeli police even issued restraining orders against known activists. Read more

Bethlehem Bantustan 2013: Have Yourself an Apartheid Christmas

The tourists heading to Bethlehem this festive season will come from far and wide – but all of them will enjoy more freedom of movement than the city’s residents do, Muslim and Christian alike, in their own land. Read more

Israel’s colonial strangling of Bethlehem

Bethlehem has been “isolated and fragmented” in a way that would devastate any town or community the world over.

At the main checkpoint to enter Bethlehem there is a large sign placed on the Separation Wall by Israel’s ministry of tourism which says “Peace be with you”. An appropriate symbol for Israel’s colonial strangling of the “little town”, this propaganda for pilgrims is a crude microcosm of Israel’s habit of talking “co-existence” while pursuing apartheid.

Over decades of Israeli military rule, more and more land around the city has been annexed, expropriated and colonised, with 19 illegal settlements now in the governorate. Eighty percent of an estimated 22 square kilometre of land confiscated from the north of the Bethlehem region was annexed to the Jerusalem municipality in order to expand settlements (see this briefing). Read more

Christians of the Holy Land

Despite claims by Israeli government officials, Christian Palestinians regularly face discrimination.

A recent report by CBS show 60 Minutes on “Christians of the Holy Land” has received a lot of attention, not least for the embarrassing contribution by Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren.

It is interesting that Israel (and its advocates) have been so concerned about the impact of a short segment regarding the challenges faced by Christian Palestinians under Israeli military occupation. In fact, Ambassador Oren himself only recently tried to exploit Christians for propaganda purposes – only to find that they objected to his cynicism. Read more

Towards a Just Peace

A year ago, Palestinian Christians issued a historic call for global solidarity – and got a timid response from those fearful of being branded antisemitic. Ben White believes genuine interfaith dialogue is only strengthened when we speak out boldly on injustice.

Living on the family farm outside Bethlehem, Daoud Nassar is under constant threat from the illegal Israeli settlements that have sprung up around him. When I visited last summer, he had just had a new crop of demolition orders delivered by Israeli soldiers, targeting ’structures’ ranging from animal sheds to water cisterns and tents.

‘Of course, we will never get a building permit here,’ he told me sadly, as his little boy sat eating crisps on his lap. ‘But I said to the Israeli officer, if I need a permit just for my tents, I’m also expecting you to go to my neighbours and give them demolition orders for their buildings, built on Palestinian land. And of course, his answer was, ‘This is none of your business.’1 Read more

Can the pope help Christian Palestinians?

The pope’s visit to Israel/Palestine has thrown the spotlight on the troubled Christian Palestinian community, a group normally only considered in the western media at Christmas when the world’s media descends on Bethlehem.

However, the feelings of the local faithful about Pope Benedict XVI’s pilgrimage are quite mixed, an ambiguity caused by an uncertainty about the Vatican’s agenda for the visit, and the political atmosphere post-Gaza assault.

Plenty of Christians, especially Catholics, are understandably happy from a personal, religious point of view. Yet for many, the sense of celebration is tempered by a hope that the pope’s visit will contribute something to their dire day-to-day reality. Read more

Money in the bank

Bethlehem recently got a spring-clean. The frenzied rubbish collection and freshly painted road markings meant only one thing – important visitors were expected. This week, an estimated 1,000 foreign representatives from hundreds of companies gathered in the West Bank city for the Palestine investment conference, to discuss private-sector projects valued at around $2bn.

According to the conference organisers, the three-day event, co-ordinated by the Palestinian Authority, had a simple slogan: “You can do business in Palestine.” Scheduled speakers included Tony Blair, in his role as the Quartet’s special envoy, the Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad, and the United Arab Emirates minister of economy, Sheikha Lubna Khalid Sultan al-Qasimi. Read more

Shadow over Bethlehem

Writing for The Times recently, Michael Gove lashed out at the seasonal focus on contemporary Bethlehem’s plight under Israeli occupation. “Demonising” Israel, apparently, has become as festive as “eggnog lattes”.

Gove is at least partly correct. Christmas is an obvious opportunity for Bethlehem’s residents and their supporters to raise awareness. Gove mentioned the latest work done by graffiti artist Banksy, but the Palestine Solidarity Campaign also recently held a concert in London, while the Amos Trust has a downloadable pack for use in churches around the country. Read more