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Christian Zionists prefer to ignore Bethlehem's Palestinians

Why does America’s largest Christian Zionist organization continue to ignore the plight of its co-religionists in Jesus’ birthplace?

Text and photos by Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org

Graffiti on the Israeli separation wall in the West Bank town of Bethlehem reads, "Merry Christmas from Bethlehem Ghetto," December 16, 2010.

Graffiti on the Israeli separation wall in the West Bank town of Bethlehem reads, “Merry Christmas from Bethlehem Ghetto,” December 16, 2010.

Happy birthday, Jesus! Once again, Christians United for Israel (CUFI), America’s largest Zionist organization of any kind, has used “Made in Israel” Christmas ornaments the centerpiece of its holiday fundraising campaign while bashing the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement.

In a December email campaign in the weeks preceding Christmas, CUFI’s leaders declared:

Israel’s enemies are also our enemies, and they are mounting an aggressive campaign on all fronts to cause innocents harm, especially during the holidays. The BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) agenda continues aggressively to harm Israel’s economy by organizing boycotts of Israeli made goods.

There are a few telling aspects things about this campaign. Firstly, in denouncing the efforts of Israel’s enemies to “cause innocents harm” there is no mention of the series of knife, gun, and vehicular attacks that have targeted Israeli civilians and security personnel since September. CUFI only mentions BDS. Do they really believe that a nonviolent grassroots movement is a greater threat to Israeli security than direct personal violence against Israelis?

Secondly, while BDS was long dismissed as a marginal movement that had no real economic impact, CUFI now warns that this “aggressive campaign … continues aggressively to harm Israel’s economy.”

Here CUFI may be on to something. This year, several targets of the BDS movement pledged to cease operations in the West Bank, including Veolia, G4S, and SodaStream. In June, the UN World Investment Report cited a 50 percent drop in foreign investment in Israel due to the reaction to “Operation Protective Edge and the boycotts Israel is facing.” More recently, the American Anthropological Association voted to preliminarily support the academic boycott of Israel.

A boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) activist in a Santa suit uses a sledge hammer to smash SodaStream appliances in Oslo, Norway, December 6, 2014.

A boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) activist in a Santa suit uses a sledge hammer to smash SodaStream appliances in Oslo, Norway, December 6, 2014.

In an email blast earlier this year, CUFI warned of a “string of victories” by the BDS movement on U.S. campuses, but declared: “We have provided our CUFI on Campus student leaders with training on how to defeat BDS. They are fighting back. And they are winning!”

The only two victories cited by CUFI: The UC Davis Student Court’s decision to overturn its Student Senate’s BDS resolution and an anti-BDS resolution passed at Liberty University, the fundamentalist school in Lynchburg, Virginia, founded by Jerry Fallwell.

Such paltry successes have seen few additions even now that CUFI’s executive director, David Brog, was named to head the “Campus Maccabees”—the group formed during the multi-billion-dollar Vegas fundraiser hosted by Sheldon Adelson and Haim Saban to combat BDS. Even with those deep pockets propelling their propaganda, CUFI claims that their campus activists are “outnumbered and out-funded by the Israel haters.”

It is interesting that while many conservative Christians in the U.S. rail against the so-called War on Christmas, CUFI’s December email encourages readers to “start shopping!” to support the Israeli economy, yet doesn’t once mention the founder of their faith, let alone the plight faced by those now living in the Bethlehem — the city of his birth.

Several Bethlehem residents have been among the 134 Palestinians and 20 Israelis killed in the latest surge of violence in the region. Those lopsided numbers reflect an all-too-familiar pattern in which some Palestinians have been killed in attacks against Israelis, while many others have been killed during protests, clashes and raids in which Israeli soldiers have used lethal force against unarmed youth.

These include the death of 13-year-old Abed al-Rahman Abdallah in October, whom the Israeli military later admitted was shot by mistake during clashes in an area where the Israeli separation wall cuts deep into the center of the West Bank town. Weeks later, an Israeli officer was suspended after threatening area residents, “we will gas you until you die. Your family, your children, everyone. We will kill you.”

While CUFI is promoting Christmas ornaments “Made in Israel,” Israeli forces continue to shower Jesus’ hometown with tear gas “Made in the USA”.

A child holds a spent tear gas cartridge labeled "Made in U.S.A." as Bethlehem-area activists hang U.S.-made crowd control weapons used by the Israeli military in nearby Aida Refugee Camp on trees decorated for Christmas in Bethlehem's Manger Square, West Bank, December 2, 2013.

A child holds a spent tear gas cartridge labeled “Made in U.S.A.” as Bethlehem-area activists hang U.S.-made crowd control weapons used by the Israeli military in nearby Aida Refugee Camp on trees decorated for Christmas in Bethlehem’s Manger Square, West Bank, December 2, 2013.

Bethlehem has even scaled back its Christmas celebrations in recognition of the mourning that many Palestinian families are enduring this holiday season.

It’s telling that a Christian organization would rather focus on supporting the Israeli economy than in listening to the voices of their fellow Christians who are suffering under occupation. Since CUFI chooses to ignore them, I will give the last word to Jerusalem’s Latin Patriarch Emeritus Michael Sabbah, who expresses his frustration in a recent Haaretz op-ed:

At this holy time of the year, Bethlehem, the city of the Nativity, stands at the center of attention of the whole world. What the world might overlook as it watches is that the very city where Jesus was born celebrates yet another occupied Christmas…

Nevertheless, I will not call on anyone. I will not make yet another failed call on the international community. This time, I only call on the Israeli leaders in search of “security”. I call on them to finally see the inevitable result of walls, stolen lands and illegal settlements: it will only bring more isolation, rejection and hatred, hence, more insecurity. I call on them to see that justice, education for mutual respect and acceptance will bring security and peace.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Sarfaraz (Pakistan)

      Good write-up!

      Reply to Comment
    2. Ruth

      It is my understanding that at least some evanglicals do not consider either Catholic or Orthodox Christians to be ‘real’ Christians, so that might well be why they don’t care about the plight of their ‘fellow’ Christians in Bethlehem.

      Reply to Comment
      • Merkava

        Bethlehem is part of Area A. It is under full PA civil and security control. Israel is not in Bethlehem.

        “The Muslim Fatah-controlled authority in Judea and Samaria is encouraging a “sharp demographic shift” in Bethlehem, where the Christian population went from a 60 percent majority in 1990 to a 40 percent minority in 2000, to about 15 percent of the city’s total population today. It is estimated that, for the past seven years, more than one thousand Christians have been emigrating from the Bethlehem area annually and that only 10,000 to 13,000 Christians remain in the city. International human rights lawyer Justus Reid Weiner, who teaches at Hebrew University, told the Jerusalem Institute for Global Jewish Affairs that, under the PA-Fatah regime, Christian Arabs have been victims of frequent human rights abuses by Muslims.”There are many examples of intimidation, beatings, land theft, firebombing of churches and other Christian institutions, denial of employment, economic boycotts, torture, kidnapping, forced marriage, sexual harassment, and extortion,” he said. PA officials are directly responsible for many of the attacks, and some Muslims who have converted to Christianity have been murdered.” http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/127592#.VoA7VLbhDs0

        What have YOUR YOURSELF done to help your Christian brothers and sisters who are enduring GENOCIDE in the Muslim Arab countries and the PA?

        Why do you care about Christians only with regard to discrediting Israel: the only country in the Middle East where Christians have the same Freedom of religion as they do in the West? What kind of a “Christian” are you – especially with regard to that ‘”it is my understanding”-blah, blah, blah’?

        Reply to Comment
    3. Baladi Akka 1948

      Maybe it’s worth to mention that CUFI’s executive director David Brog is Jewish, a rather amazing choice for a socalled Christian organization…..

      Reply to Comment
      • Baladi Akka 1948

        In this interview with Haaretz, Brog says his cousin is Ehud Barak, and that the shrinking Christian population in the West Bank is due to radical Islam (and not the occupation as all pols indicate):
        http://www.haaretz.com/news/david-brog-on-why-christians-support-the-jewish-state-1.186992
        If that’s the kind of people leading CUNI, no wonder they don’t care abour Palestinian Christians, it seems not only Palestine but also the US is occupied.

        Reply to Comment
        • Merkava

          Dude, here is the main reason for the dwindling Christian population in Bethlehem and the West Bank:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjnywPRmAX8&feature=youtu.be

          The summary of your argument runs like this: ‘Brog is a Joo; kick him out; Christians must help us Muslims destroy them Joos; after we have destroyed them Joos, we will get rid of them Christians too by beheading their men, raping the girls and the women and taking them as slaves and concubines as we have been and are still doing to their Christian brothers in Iraq and Syria.

          Ya think Christians are stupid?

          Perhaps YOUR mind is “occupied” by stupidity?

          Reply to Comment
          • Baladi Akka 1948

            I don’t need Justin Weiner – a pathetic liar (cf. his article on Edward Said) and a well-known propagandist affiliated with the likudnik Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs – to tell me about the situation of Christian Palestinians, neither in Bethlehem nor anywhere else, I just have to ask family members of mine.
            Isn’t it amazing how Zionists think Zionist Jews should speak for and about the Palestinians ? When 60 Minutes’ Bob Simon went to Israel/Palestine to make the documentary about Christians in the Holy Land, they didn’t speak with any Israeli Jews at all, and Michael Oren tried to make CBS cancel the program because he knew what Palestinian Christians on both side of the Gree Line would say about their situation, and they did This extract is saying it all:
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=px_6-qd7UX4

            PS. And don’t waste your time responding, I don’t discuss with Zionist extremists who squat this comment section agressing everyone who’s not a fascist.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            The crudest fascistic vilification by the defender of Benzti Gopstein. Really incredible how low you will stoop, Merkava. You are a walking advertisement for the Lehava ethos. And Lisa Goldman has written of how this mindset is not as fringe inside Israel as many assume. She connects the dots.

            Reply to Comment
          • Merkava

            Says the same BEN who posed as “Phil” on this site and supported running Israelis over with cars and buses.

            Says the same BEN who poses on this site as “Israel”, Muslim Jew, Average American and Viktor Arajs to spew anti-Semitic slurs.

            Says the same BEN who hast never condemned, but instead rationalizes, minimizes and justifies the butchering of Israelis with meat-cleavers and kitchen knives as resistance against “occupation”.

            BEN, Gopstein might be nuts, etc. but he is 100x better a human being than YOU. Got that, creepy little old turd?

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Oh, everyone gets it all right, Merkava: Benzti Gopstein supporter, out of the closet. Given your past behavior on this site, no one is actually surprised. Good night.

            Reply to Comment
          • Merkava

            Gopstein might be nuts, etc. but he is 100x better a human being than YOU. Is there something about that you don’t understand, or do you just like repeating yourself over and over again, you anti-Semitic old turd?

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Got your black and yellow t-shirt on tonight I see. Who among us is at all surprised? What? No missions to run for Benzti tonight so you thought you’d drop by? Tell Gopstein I said hello and want to know why he hasn’t been arrested yet for incitement. Thanks.

            Reply to Comment
          • Merkava

            An old, pathetic anti-Semitic turd like you is just a little snack for Bentzi Gopstein. He will shred you and your fellow racist, anti-Semitic jihadis like the cat shreds the rat.

            Reply to Comment
      • Merkava

        Some Jewish organizations have Christian members and some Christian have Jewish members. Some Jewish organization have Muslim members amongst its leadership (e.g. JStreet, etc.), but NO Muslim organization has Jewish and Christian members.

        There is no problem between Jews and Christians working together as they have been doing even before Islam was born. The only reason why you object to Jews and Christians working together and see every Jew as an enemy is because you are an Islamo-fascist, racist thug.

        Reply to Comment
    4. Gustav

      “Bethlehem has even scaled back its Christmas celebrations in recognition of the mourning that many Palestinian families are enduring this holiday season.”

      Ya mean the mourning for those Palestinian Arabs who lost their lives because they randomly attacked Israelis, for being Jewish? With knives, machettes, axes or whatever other weapons?

      Oh dear [sarcasm]…

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        No. He means the mourning for those Palestinians who lost their lives for being Arab, because they were randomly attacked by Israeli troops using .22 ruger rifles like 13-year-old Abed al-Rahman Abdallah, and other deadly weapons used as a first rather than last resort. Against Arabs. But never against Jews. Here, I didn’t make it up. You can read all about it:
        http://972mag.com/using-deadly-force-against-palestinians-as-a-first-resort/112416/

        Reply to Comment
        • Gustav

          Benny the propagandist…

          BEN:”…randomly attacked by Israeli troops….” “….for being Arab…”

          What does that sound like? It sounds like those poor little Arabs were just going about their daily business minding their own business and hurting no one when suddenly they are beset by eeeeeviiiil Israeli troops and are murdered for no reason.

          …now for reality. Those Arabs were killed when they were rioting and throwing stones and molotov cocktails at Israeli troops or civilians.

          Contrast that to how Israelis are killed by Arabs. Those Israelis walk the street doing their normal business when suddenly a crazed and incited Palestinian attacks them from behind with a knife or runs them down with a car for being Jewish, all in the name of protesting the occupation. Then they complain when another Israeli shoots them like the crazed dogs that they are…

          There Benny. That’s reality. Now accuse me of being racist, you dog!

          Reply to Comment
    5. Average American

      There cannot be such a thing as “Christian Zionists”. That is an intentional blur tactic, and part of the blur is to use the word “Zionist” instead of “Jew”, when everyone knows Zionism was set up for Jews, so why not say “Christian Jews”? If you say “Christian Jews”, everyone would immediately recognize it as fake. Pointed out by another poster that the largest “Christian Zionist” organization in USA is headed by a follower of Judaism. The fundamental beliefs of Zionism (and Judaism) consider Christians idolators. The fundamental beliefs of Christians consider Jews the killers of Christ. There is no joining of these opposing beliefs. I don’t have anything against anyone’s religion, just don’t try to fake out.

      Reply to Comment
      • Gustav

        You don’t just fake out? You are a thoroughbred fake, Average…

        First of all you are not American, you are Arab.

        And all your other comments are fakes too. For instance…

        That all Christians hate Jews because we are Christ Killers. The Catholic church has now discredited that claim.

        … and this claim of yours that Israel has been founded as a means of promoting Jewish racial superiority. No it wasn’t. It was founded so as to allow the Jewish people to protect themselves from Jew haters like you Average. Here in this country Jews are a majority so just come and try to do the discrimination and murder which people like you practiced against us for 2000 years and see what’ll happen to ya. You will have to pay a heavy price if you try. That is what really irks you doesn’t it, Average?

        Reply to Comment
        • Average American

          Gustav: Zionism wasn’t to protect you from Jew Haters. It was far more. It was a calculated plan for a Jewish Empire covering all of The Land Of Israel (borders never specified) far bigger than the current State of Israel (borders never specified), because Zionists are more important than anyone who might already be established there. This attitude has been enthusiastically pursued by every Israeli Prime Minister. It was the Nuremburg Trials (legal farces) that tried to create sympathy, no, to create pressure, for Zionism’s plan to be accepted by other governments, and it was Rothschild Banks that added to the pressure. That’s how Israel came to be and that’s what it stands for. Now that you have a good start on your empire, complete with castle walls and shoot-to-kill fence zones and a bunch of unregulated nuclear weapons, you’re all swagger about a heavy price to pay. With that attitude, I’m worried about a jumpy nuclear trigger finger in Israel’s government. But that would probably help Zionism’s goals.

          Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            Average may as well quote straight out of the protocol of the elders of Zion or Mein Kampf.

            As I said our “Mr Average’s” regret is that nowdays it is much more difficult for him to act on his Joooooo hatred so he goes on verbal rants instead, repeating old canards about Jewish bankers, conspiracies and Joooooos taking over the world.

            Reply to Comment
          • Average American

            Gustav: It’s not hatred it’s facts. Herzl did say that about Zionism’s goals, The Land’s borders are undefined, Israel’s borders are undefined, Israeli Prime Ministers have all been Zionists, Nuremberg was a legal farce, Rothschild did finance Israel, Israel does have unregulated nuclear weapons and a Big Boss attitude. What do you want from me?

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            What do I want from YOU? What do YOU want from us?

            Israel’s borders are undefined because the Arabs have not yet signed a deal with us to divide the lands of the old British mandate between us. What would you prefer? Us announcing unilateral borders without negotiations? If we would then you would scream about that as our land grab and you know that’s true!

            Rotschild financed Israel? Maybe, but there are others too. What is your problem with that? Oil Sheiks, Iran and Jew haters finance the Palestinian Arabs. Is that more acceptable to you? If so, why?

            Nuremberg was a legal farce? Awww whatsdamatta, feel sorry for those few war criminals that were hanged? Was Eichman’s trial a legal farce too? And what sorts of trials did those perpetrators who got hung by their necks what sort of justice did they afford their millions of victims eh Average? Why do you feel so sorry for them?!

            Reply to Comment
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