…by Stuart Littlewood, Britain
[ Editors Note: Stuart has a Christmas message with Bethlehem as his palette today. I remember years ago reading that Christmas visitors to Bethlehem who were singing Christmas carols were routinely told by hotel management that they would have to leave if they did not stop “spreading good cheer.”
In the early 2000 period when he was in Atlanta on tour, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah, a Palestinian, confided in me the bitterness he felt toward the Christian Evangelicals in the United States for their cruel support of Israeli apartheid toward the Palestinians.
VT wishes Mr. Littlewood a happy new year in 2021… Jim W. Dean ]
First published … December 25, 2020
British people in lockdown over the festive season feel resentful, prevented from driving the length and breadth of the country, hugging family and friends, scoffing mountains of junk food and downing great quantities of booze in the local pub.
But it will hopefully give them an opportunity to ponder the real meaning of Christmas. Do they ever think about the people of Bethlehem smouldering under the brutal lifetime-long lockdown imposed by Israel’s military? And from which there’s no escape, no respite?
Do they realise that the Little Town of Bethlehem they sing Christmas carols about is ringed and hemmed in by Israel’s ugly 8-metre concrete apartheid wall, with goon towers and machine guns at regular intervals? When finished it will run 440 miles.
It is built under the pretext of Israel’s security and supposedly follows the 1949 international armistice border called the Green Line, but it’s actually twice as long because it deviates wherever it wishes to steal, enclose and plunder prime Palestinian agricultural land and other resources along the route. The Israelis’ aim of course is to establish a border of their own choosing at the expense of their Palestinian neighbours.
The Wall makes it very difficult for Palestinians to reach their fields and market their produce. Restrictions on freedom of movement limit their access to neighbouring villages, hospitals, schools and universities. Maintaining family ties and social connections is often impossible. The Wall’s route not only ignores but deliberately denies Palestinians their human rights.
In July 2004 the UN General Assembly accepted a resolution condemning the Wall with 150 countries voting for and 6 against. The objectors included, as always, Israel and the US. They rejected both the verdict and the resolution.
Also in 2004 the Wall was declared by the ICJ (International Court of Justice) to be “contrary to international law” and should be removed. The Court made the point that Israel was obligated to return confiscated land or make reparations for any destruction or damage to homes, businesses and farms caused by the Wall’s construction .
But of course the international community hasn’t the balls to enforce any of that or tell Israel that if they don’t dismantle that gruesome barrier they’ll face worldwide sanctions.
I well remember one evening returning from Jerusalem to Bethlehem by ordinary service bus and joining Palestinian workers on their way home through the checkpoint, just for the experience. The long queue threading through the labyrinth of steel-barred holding pens, familiar in any large cattle market, moved at a snail’s pace, the flow deliberately held up by the Israeli soldiers.
I was eventually plucked from the crowd by two of these uniformed gunslingers and accelerated towards the exit. I arrived back at the hotel just in time to join my friends for supper. But my fellow travellers would have been lucky to get home in time to see their kids off to bed, snatch a bite to eat and catch an early night, only to rise before dawn to go through the same soul-destroying cattle-pen routine at the checkpoint next day – twice.
The Israelis are pastmasters at inflicting human misery in all areas of Palestinian life, as well as committing horrendous crimes against humanity. The sadistic bastards enjoy their work even to the point of abducting Palestinian children, imprisoning them, torturing them, and shooting at their legs to maim them.
For an inside account of their murderous siege of the Church of the Nativity in 2002 see pages 62-65 of my book ‘Radio Free Palestine’ . Then ask yourself why the Israel lobby is allowed to thrive in the fabric of our political parties (Conservative Friends of Isreal, Labour Friends of Israel, Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel, etc) and even within the Christian church itself (Christian Friends of Israel, Anglican Friends of Israel and, in the US, Christians United for Israel).
Isn’t Western Christendom ashamed and angry at letting the birthplace of their faith be reduced to this? Apparently not. Church leaders and their congregations couldn’t care less otherwise they’d rise up.
Happy Christmas, Bethlehem…. They’ll do their best of course, but it won’t be all fun and frolics under Israel’s vile lockdown. Sick, isn’t it?
22 December 2020