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Decemebr 25, 2012


Xmas in Palestine

EDITOR: Christmas news…

For those who, like me, had to puke over Netanyahu’s Christmas speech, the piece below is doubly poignant. All over Israel, the only Jewish democracy in the Middle East, special forces are seeking and destroying Christmas trees, and Silvester parties have made illegal. I may be wrong, but this has still not happened in the Iranian Islamic Republic…

Forbidden to celebrate: Israel’s war on Christmas continues despite Netanyahu’s claim of tolerance: Electronic Intifada

Submitted by Ali Abunimah on Tue, 12/25/2012 – 18:09

Palestinian children play outside Deir Latin church in Gaza City on Christmas Eve 2012.

(Ezz Al-Zanoon /APA images)

In his Christmas greeting video, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu boasted of Israel’s supposed religious tolerance.

“Today Christian communities around the Middle East are shrinking and in danger. This is of course not true in Israel. Here there’s a strong, growing Christian community that participates fully in the life of our country,” Netanyahu said.

Vowing to “continue to protect freedom of religion and thought,” Netanyahu also promised “to safeguard Christian places of worship throughout our country” and not to “tolerate any acts of violence or discrimination against any place of worship.”

Making a pitch for Christian Zionist tourism he urged listeners to “Come see our ancient land with your own eyes. Visit Nazareth and Bethlehem, wade in the Jordan River, stand on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and next year come visit our eternal capital, Jerusalem.”

His inclusion of Bethlehem, in the occupied West Bank, as well as the banks of the Jordan River, can be taken as another affirmation that Israel, despite its rhetoric, has no interest in a “two-state solution” and intends to absorb all of historic Palestine as an exclusively “Jewish state.”

Disappearing Christmas trees

Netanyahu’s professions of tolerance would have come as news to Palestinian Christian students at Safad Academic College in the Galilee. There, students who could not get home for the holidays bought a Christmas tree and set it up outside their dorm.

But in the evening when they got back from class, they found the tree was gone, Israel’s Walla! News reported.

“This is the saddest Christmas,” said Gabriel Mansour, 24, a third-year political science student, identified by Walla! as a representative of Arab students. “All we wanted to do was provide some good cheer for all the students who remained alone in the dorms, and who were unable to go home to their families.”

When Mansour investigated, he was told by college officials that the tree had been hidden lest it spark riots among the Jewish students.

“I was angry to hear this,” said Mansour of the claim that the tree might spark riots among Jewish students and residents of Safad. “Unfortunately they don’t respect our holidays. We fully respect all Israeli holidays. Why can no one respect our traditions? Why can’t we put up a Christmas tree?”

“I do not think Christmas should be marked with such ostentation,” Walla! quoted an unnamed Jewish student saying. “The college has a distinctly Jewish character. It’s not healthy for anyone to be able to do whatever he wants.”

State rabbis order bans on Christmas

The ban on Christmas at Safad college is no isolated incident. For several years, Shimon Gapso, the notoriously racist mayor of the Israeli settlement of “Upper Nazareth” in the Galilee, has banned Christmas trees, calling them a provocation. “Nazareth Illit [Upper Nazareth] is a Jewish city and it will not happen – not this year and not next year, so long as I am a mayor,” Gapso said.

According to journalist Jonathan Cook in Nazareth, such bans continue and are widespread this year with Israel’s state-financed rabbis warning hotels and restaurants that they will lose their kosher certifications if they put up trees or other Christmas decorations or hold Christmas events.

“In other words,” Cook says, “the rabbinate has been quietly terrorising Israeli hotel owners into ignoring Christmas by threatening to use its powers to put them out of business. Denying a hotel its kashrut (kosher) certificate would lose it most of its Israeli and foreign Jewish clientele.”

Hatred of Christianity inherent in Israel’s “Law of Return”

Israel claims to be a “Jewish state.” Its blatantly discriminatory “Law of Return” grants the automatic right to those it recognizes as Jews from anywhere in the world to emigrate and receive citizenship even if they have no connection to the country. At the same time, Israel prevents indigenous Palestinian refugees, including those born there, from returning home just because they are not Jews.

But according to the US State Department in its 2011 report on religious freedom around the world, Israel specifically applies a blatantly anti-Christian test in applying this bigoted law:

The question of whether one believes Jesus is the Jewish Messiah has been used to determine whether a Jew was qualified to immigrate. The [Israeli] Supreme Court repeatedly has upheld the right, however, of Israeli Jews who believe Jesus is the Messiah to retain their citizenship. The immigration exclusion was routinely applied only against Messianic Jews, whereas Jews who were atheists were accepted, and Jews who chose to believe in other religions, including Hindus and Buddhists, were not screened out.

In other words a “Jew” can be an atheist, Hindu, or Buddhist – anything at all – and be granted citizenship by Israeli authorities. It is only a belief in Jesus that disqualifies them.

As for Netanyahu’s promise that Christian holy sites would be protected, he failed to mention that in recent months, Israeli settlers, acting with the collusion of Israeli authorities, have stepped up so-called “price tag” attacks on Christian holy sites.

Meanwhile, Christmas celebrations proceeded in Gaza and in Iran, two Muslim-majority places Israeli propaganda likes to paint as particularly hostile to minority religious groups.

Few countries live up to their own claims about religious freedom and tolerance and many must do better. But selling Israel in particular, whose whole raison d’être is to privilege Jews qua Jews over the indigenous Palestinian population of any religion, as a paragon of tolerance and pluralism is patently absurd.

Merry Christmas!

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