Christmas is here, time to dump on Israel.
That, at last, is what emerges from a report issued Monday by the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor, which categorizes how various anti-Israel NGOs wrap their Israel bashing in Christmas themes and symbolism.
But the NGOs were not the only ones to channel Christmas for their political message.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas wrote a Christmas message in which he claimed Jesus as a Palestinian.
“In Bethlehem, more than 2,000 years ago, Jesus Christ was born, a Palestinian messenger who would become a guiding light for millions around the world,” he wrote. “As we Palestinians strive for our freedom two millennia later, we do our best to follow his example.”
Without mentioning the Islamization of Gaza, or that the Christian population there fell from some 3,000 in 2007 – soon after Hamas took over – to about 1,500 now, Abbas wrote that this Christmas eve, “our hearts and prayers will be with the millions who are being denied their right to worship in their homeland. We are thinking of our people in Gaza, trapped under siege, and of those who are prevented from worshiping in Bethlehem.”
“Our prayers,” he added, “are with the churches and mosques of Jerusalem which remind the world of the Arab identity of our occupied capital."
But that was tame compared to some of the tidbits that appear in the NGO Monitor report, titled “Tis the Season 2013: How Anti-Israel NGOs manipulate Christmas.”
According to the report, “As in previous years, NGOs and well-known charities are exploiting the 2013 Christmas season with political warfare against Israel. Groups such as Christian Aid (UK), Sabeel, War on Want (UK), Amos Trust, Israel Committee Against House Demolitions, and Adalah-NY are again using theological themes to advance immoral anti-Israel campaigns, boycotts (BDS), and, in some cases, anti-Semitism.”
According to the report, “The abuse of Christmas messages is part of a broad international campaign to introduce political warfare against Israel into churches.”
The report points out that many of these NGOs are funded by European governments.
One example was taken from a 50-page Kairos Palestine pamphlet, designed to be used at religious gatherings, that employs religious figures and biblical stories to ram home a political narrative.
“The Holy Family, seeking to protect its Child, stayed in Egypt for a period of time until they learned of Herod’s death and decided to go back to their homeland,” the pamphlet reads. “They chose to stay in a small village called Nazareth, where Jesus lived as a young boy. The Holy Family, taking refuge in Egypt away from danger and death, brings back memories of Palestinian families who sought a similar refuge in nearby villages and countries like Egypt, away from the cruelty and destruction of war in 1948.”
Another example was taken from the UK-based Amos Trust, which says on its website it is devoted to promoting “justice and hope for forgotten communities.”
Amos Trust puts out an annual “Bethlehem Pack” meant to “help individuals and churches talk about the current situation in Bethlehem at carol services and Christmas events.”
“If Jesus was born today in Bethlehem, the Wise Men would spend several hours queuing to enter the town,” the material reads. “The shepherds, despite being residents of Bethlehem, would struggle to graze their sheep because their land would be annexed by the building of the separation wall, and a lack of freedom to travel and restrictions on trade would make it very difficult for them to make a living.”
The Amos Trust is also selling, for 70 British pounds, a wooden nativity set with a wall “to illustrate the current situation in Bethlehem. The wall can be removed, so the set can be used as a visual aid and focus for prayer as well as a traditional nativity scene.”
Yitzhak Santis, head of NGO Monitor’s new BDS in the Pews project that examines church-based NGO involvement in political campaigns against Israel, said that this type of material is distributed to the mainline churches to “enhance efforts in the churches to bringing boycott and divestment resolution to votes.” Often, he said, there are “obsessive and single-issue focused activists” in the churches who make sure the material is distributed.
Increasingly, he said, there is an emerging effort aimed at Evangelical Christian communities to “debunk Evangelical theology that supports Israel, and it has made inroads.”
Other examples of using traditional Christmas themes to bash Israel is a Christmas card circulated by the Canadian NGO Palestine House showing Santa Claus denied entry into Bethlehem by the security barrier.
On the barrier is written the inscription, “This thing was not mentioned on the map. Is there another way to enter Bethlehem?” And Ireland’s Palestinian Solidarity Campaign is selling a Christmas card featuring a drawing of the three wise men denied entry into Bethlehem by the security barrier, while another features a redesign of the Madonna and child wrapped in a Palestinian flag.