Bethlehem, the centre of Christianity is looking decidedly cheerful this holiday season. Hotels are booked solid through til January and Manger Square is bustling with tourists, and Israeli and Palestinian forces are working to make things go smoothly.
With calm gradually returning to the West Bank, Bethlehem has once again become a magnet for Christmas pilgrims.
These facts, however, bear no relation to the lies and distortions being related in various areas of the world.
Rev Stephen Coulter in London has decided based on Palestinian propaganda that his congregants could not, truthfully sing the carol’s line, “How - still - we see thee lie” in the preparation for Christmas.
So much wool is being pulled over the eyes of the world that many can’t see the wood for the trees. Rev Coulter intimated that a crib set he used in his church had to be “smuggled“out of the West Bank and that the producers of communion wine could not export their produce.
But let’s confuse this issue with facts
1) There is no hold up of wine coming out of the Cremisan winery in Beit Jala -- this has been confirmed by a spokesman at the winery who says they ship out the wine daily (there was a short temporary hitch of a few days) . These shipments go direct to Haifa and Ashdod to be shipped abroad. It is true it is going via Hebron as that is where the most up-to-date modern crossing point.
2) Israel has not banned exports of olive wood models of any type.
3) Tourism into Bethlehem – including of course Christian pilgrims- is up an astonishing 96.5% in the first nine months of 2008, thanks to the significant improvement in the security situation in the last two years.
4) The Palestinian economy in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) has shown signs of strengthening since the beginning of the year, according to a recent analysis by the Civil Administration. The analysis was based on data gathered by the Civil Administration as well as publicly available figures.
There have been large increases in the passage of commercial goods as a direct result of the increase in employment licenses and trade permits issued to Palestinian merchants and business owners by the Civil Administration since the beginning of 2008.
A full report of the progress of the Palestinian economy can be found at http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Government/Communiques/2008/Palestinian_economy_West_Bank_strengthens_2008+8-Sep-2008.htm
Let me also try to remove more of the wool from eyes. Having previously desecrated the Nativity Church, Muslim terrorists confiscated Christian property, burned shops and attacked Christians, so that many have fled, thus the once mainly Christian 60% of the population has become a small, fearful minority of approx 20%
Israels critics are so busy belabouring Israel, perhaps they don’t notice what is going on.
Jeff Alper, another fierce critic of Israel currently touring Scotland has been given free range to his agenda where according to Halper, http://www.honestreporting.com/israel's%20inhumanity.pdf due to Israel, Palestinian Christians are:
“being driven out, very systematically even targeted perhaps. If you eliminate this population, then you will weaken the Palestinian society. So they are being forced out, out of their homes, off their land and out of the country completely.”
The truth is very different. The parlous position of Palestinian Christians, indeed the difficult position of most Christians across the Arab world, is a consequence not of Israeli aggression but of growing Islamist influence. Israel goes out of its way to honour sites and traditions sacred to other faiths while the radicals who are driving Palestinian politics seek to create an Islamist state in which other faiths, if they survive at all, do so with the explicit subject status of dhimmis. But when it comes to Israel's position in these matters it's still a case of “O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see them lie”
It is quite remarkable that the Western media is totally ignoring a systematic campaign of persecution of Christians is taking place in the Gaza Strip, and to a lesser extent in the West Bank. The general silence surrounding this campaign aids its perpetrators.
The perpetrators are a variety of Islamist groups, all of which are manifestations of a process of growing Islamic militancy and piety taking place across the region.
Jonathon Spyer in the Jerusalem Post Dec 11th http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1228728163698&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull reports that :-
a) A recent article in the Palestinian Al-Ayyam newspaper drew attention to the long-simmering issue of "compulsory purchase" of land owned by Christians. This trend has been particularly noticeable in the Bethlehem, Ramallah and al-Bireh areas. Individuals with close links to the Palestinian Authority security forces, or to powerful clans, have adopted a variety of means to lay their hands on Christian-owned land. These have included false registration documents, squatters, and the involvement of senior PA security officers.
b) The Al-Ayyam columnist who raised this issue, Abd al-Nasser al-Najjar, lamented that no "constructive action" by the authorities to protect the Christians has taken place. Najjar listed the PA authorities, the Palestinian political factions, and the myriad of NGOs present in the West Bank among the bodies who might have been expected to take an interest in this situation, and who have not done so.
c) The official bodies of Palestinian nationalism continue to claim that the Palestinians are a single nation, with harmony between Christians and Muslims. The official leadership of Palestinian Arab Christianity repeats this claim.
d) These events reflect broader regional processes. Their failure to become known is also part of a larger trend. The foreign media, NGOs on the ground and some Western political leaderships prefer to foster a version of events in the West Bank and Gaza based on illusion and willful ignorance of the evidence. The slow death of an ancient community is one of the fruits of this.