bethlehem christmas 248 88 ap.
(photo credit: AP [file])
In time for Christmas, several British NGOs have returned to past theological offensives against Israel by combining emphasis on Bethlehem, stories of Palestinian suffering, and false allegations of Israeli cruelty, NGO Monitor said in a report issued Tuesday.
Through Christmas cards, carols and charity fund-raising, War on Want, Amos Trust, Pax Christi and others condemn the West Bank security barrier and ignore the Palestinian terror campaign that necessitates it, according to the report.
As in previous years, when NGOs used London Underground station advertisements and greeting cards, these campaigns capitalize on holiday sentiment and Christian religious symbols to declare: "The wall must fall," and present a biased view of the conflict, NGO Monitor said. War on Want and Amos Trust are marketing Christmas cards depicting the security barrier and conflating Jesus with the Palestinians - a familiar theme among British NGOs.
The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign is selling similar items to protest the "illegal structure" of the "apartheid wall," thereby also appealing to religious prejudices.
War on Want's cards feature "the three wise men trying to get to Bethlehem but being forced to dig underneath Israel's separation wall." A second card shows Mary and Joseph encountering a Bethlehem that is "effectively sealed off from the outside world by Israel's Separation Wall," and "Mary and Joseph being frisked on their way to find an inn for the night."
Similarly, Amos Trust advertises cards that portray Santa Claus walking along the security barrier with a bag of gifts, ringing a bell. The inside text ends, "As we celebrate the child born in Bethlehem - let us not forget God's children living in Bethlehem today." Additionally, as in previous years, Amos Trust offers the "Wall Nativity," which comes with a prayer guide and "complete with separation wall [and] depicts the current situation in Bethlehem." This project has been criticized for its anti-Semitic undertones.
On November 26, a fringe group calling itself Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods organized an event titled, "Bethlehem Now: Nine Alternative Lessons and Carols for Palestine," involving "traditional carols with untraditional lyrics, interspersed with poetry and prose readings, to highlight current reality in the Holy Land."
The event was held at a prominent Anglican church, St. James, Piccadilly, and proceeds supposedly went to Medical Aid for Palestinians and Open Bethlehem. While Medical Aid for Palestinians is funded to provide just that, medical aid, many of its activities focus on political campaigning, including accusations that the Israeli government is responsible for "harsh (and illegal) measures of collective punishment."
And Open Bethlehem, an NGO funded by Trocaire (the overseas development agency of the Catholic Church in Ireland), blames the "Israeli-built wall" for "an unprecedented wave of emigration, particularly among the city's Christians," ignoring the targeting of Christians by Muslim extremists and Palestinian terror.
Lyrics for the "Twelve Days of Christmas" include: "Twelve assassinations, Eleven homes demolished, Ten wells obstructed, Nine sniper towers... and an uprooted olive tree."
"Once in Royal David's City" was changed to "Once in royal David's city stood a big apartheid wall..."
Christian and Jewish community leaders strongly condemned the event.
"It was appalling to see a church allow one of its most endearing seasonal traditions to be hijacked by hatred," Israeli Ambassador Ron Proser said.
Israeli government sources said the work of these NGOs - some of which include Jews and Israeli citizens - crosses the line of legitimate criticism and feeds into efforts to delegitimize Israel.
The problem, the sources said, is that these NGOs create "a certain atmosphere that infiltrates into the policy-making circles and in that way influences policy."
There is concern in Jerusalem that policy-makers look at the actions of these NGOs and conclude that they represent a substantial part of public opinion, something that could erode support for Israel at the governmental level.
The officials said Israel's supporters in the United Kingdom needed to speak out more clearly against this type of Israel-bashing, and not leave it to the embassy to respond.
Numerous NGOs participated in the Piccadilly event. War on Want was an official supporter and Bruce Kent, vice president of Pax Christi, was a special guest with a reading role. After the event he said, "The carols pointed out exactly what is going on in occupied Palestine today. I am delighted they have had the publicity that this has generated. Anyone who speaks against Zionist policies is labeled anti-Semitic."
Also in attendance was Baroness Jenny Tonge, former trustee of Christian Aid. The composers drew inspiration from Garth Hewitt, founder of the Amos Trust, who also wrote some of the alternative lyrics.