it is christmas again. or christmas eve anyway. a time when most americans over-consume, and over-eat. though it seems like many americans are not able to do the former as a result of the recession. and i think that is a good thing. americans who are more secular and christian, like my grandma, see it as a time to spend with family, eat lots of sweets(though if you are my grandma your diet consists almost entirely of chocolate year round), and give/receive gifts. americans who are more religious i imagine spend time in church and perhaps they read the bible (i don’t really know any such people so i’m assuming here…) but relatively few of either secular or religious american christians will spend any amount of time thinking about palestine, where jesus was born and whose birth they are supposedly celebrating tonight and tomorrow. certainly they may sing christmas carols that have allusions to palestine–such as that song with the line in “the little town of bethlehem”–but i imagine few will think about where bethlehem is and what is happening in bethlehem today to the christians and muslims who live there. here is one example of what is happening now in bethlehem–exile, house demolitions, an illegal apartheid wall, illegal and increasing israeli settlements, as nour odeh reports on al jazeera:
mazin qumisiyeh also describes this process of ethnic cleansing by illegal settlements in bethlehem:
When I look out the balcony of the faculty lounge at Bethlehem University, I hear the constant hammering of the construction in the settlement that separates us from Jerusalem and I see Israeli settlements built on Palestinian lands surrounding Bethlehem on three sides. Every two weeks, Jewish settlers “visit” the hill on the fourth side (called Ush Ghrab) that they have set their eyes on. Yet, I hear the U.S. media is focused on other things, including the weighty matter of dodging shoes.
likewise the apartheid wall that is choking bethlehem is another form of forcing exile on palestinians as the economy is deeply affected by this. the system of the apartheid wall and its corollary checkpoints are also forcing palestinians to leave palestine:
Bethlehem has also been badly affected by Israel’s separation barrier causing widespread economic hardship among both Muslims and Christians. Yusuf Nassir 57, is looking for a way to emigrate. “The problem is that we are a minority and minorities always suffer in times like these. My house was attacked [by Muslims] over nothing. There was a dispute between a Muslim and a Christian boy, this turned into a communal fight and then around 70 men turned on us. My sister got injured. She said to me ‘you must leave for the safety of your family’, but finding the money is not easy,” he says. “I have also had Israeli soldiers fire at me, once when I was driving a car. The bullet missed me by about 25 centimeters.
“But it is the wall which has destroyed my business. I now owe $120,000 in back rent. I have had to sack staff, and other businesses around here have had to do the same. This just adds to the unemployment and social problems here.”
this excerpt above from england’s independent newspaper gives a far more accurate picture of the economic conditions facing palestinians everywhere, including bethlehem. while tourists may be coming to see the church of the nativity, most of these tours are organized by israeli companies and the tourists are shuttled in and out of bethelehm so fast they don’t have enough time to shop or even eat a felafel sandwich (which is a shame because afteem felafel sandwhich shop across from the church is one of the best places for felafel in the world). not surprisingly, though, the ever clueless new york times published a piece yesterday talking about the economy improving here:
It might seem obvious that in the days leading up to Christmas this city, which lives in the hearts of Christians worldwide, would become a tourist magnet. But only six years ago the Church of the Nativity was the site of a five-week standoff between Israeli troops and armed Palestinian militants. Even today, to get into Bethlehem requires passing through an Israeli checkpoint under the shadow of the enormous Israeli separation wall.
Yet there are more tourists in Bethlehem this year than at any time in a decade, and their presence signals something beyond the Christmas spirit: life for West Bank Palestinians, oppressive and challenging though it remains, seems to be making substantial, if fragile, improvement.
Both Israeli and Palestinian officials report economic growth for the occupied areas of 4 to 5 percent and a drop in the unemployment rate of at least three percentage points. The Israelis report that in 2008 wages here are up more than 20 percent and trade by 35 percent. The improved climate has nearly doubled the number of tourists in Bethlehem and increased them by half in Jericho.
It is not just tourists. The Bethlehem Small Enterprise Center, financed with German aid, has been open for eight months and busy, helping printers improve their software and olivewood craftsmen their marketing.
“It has been the best year since 1999,” noted Victor Batarseh, mayor of Bethlehem. “Our hotels are full whereas three years ago there was almost nobody. Unemployment is below 20 percent. But we are still under occupation.”
And all this in a year when the global economy has been sinking at an alarming rate.
if an american journalist can’t get it right i expect even less from the average christian american (though to be fair this is ethan bronner and his reports can be largely characterized by how out of touch he is with reality on the ground). i imagine relatively few american christians will also spend the next twenty-four hours thinking about the road from nazareth to bethlehem as bbc journalist aleem maqbool recently did. he traveled on foot and donkey from nazareth to bethlehem and wrote and filmed his experiences, which you can see on the bbc website. but he ran into some troubles that i don’t think jesus ever encountered:
After a wait at the checkpoint, I was happy to be told that I would be allowed to pass. However, the Israeli authorities informed us that our donkey did not have the correct paperwork. Donkey number two would have to be left behind.
I would like to think her stubborn resistance to getting into the animal trailer was because she wanted to stay with me. However, I have a feeling it was more the prospect of a bumpy ride home.
For those Palestinian farmers in the West Bank who have land on the “wrong side” of the barrier (in many places it runs well inside West Bank, leaving Palestinian land outside), such bureaucracy can really impact on working life. Many farmers have given up tending their land in these circumstances.
Two donkeys down, I crossed into the West Bank alone.
The Israeli government says the barrier, and the checkpoints, are necessary for the security of its citizens – to keep potential Palestinian bombers out. It is one of the main reasons given for the massive decrease in the number of suicide bombings in Israel.
But the Israeli army has also arrested and killed hundreds of people it suspects of militancy, in regular raids on West Bank towns and cities.
and here is what we can imagine evangelical zionist christians to be doing today and tomorrow–totally ignoring history and even their own religious books in order to facilitate the zionist regime’s redrawing the map:
For the first time this year, yuletide celebrations in Christ’s birthplace will be streamed live on the internet – and if you’re busy feasting on turkey or watching the Queen’s speech you can revisit the scene a couple of days later when it is repeated.
The online broadcaster IPrayTV.com, which says it wants to strengthen Christian ties with “Israel and the Holy Sites”, has mounted a permanent camera in the Franciscan section of the Church of the Nativity.
The broadcaster, founded by a pro-Israeli evangelical, has also placed a camera overlooking Manger Square in the centre of the Palestinian town.
apparently to these christians bethlehem is in israel now (see map above). it’s not, of course, though the illegal settlements strangling the city are trying to make it become one (as seen in the video from al jazeera posted above). i wonder if these same christians think that it is “christian” (whatever that means) to behave in the murderous way the zionist state behaves every day. as some of these people are fond of saying: what would jesus do? what would he do, for instance, if he were to know that the people in gaza had to shut their bakeries down again once more?:
Bakeries’ owners in Gaza announced today they have shut down doors before residents due to their inability to get cooking gas and wheat to make bread.
Abdelnaser aL-Ajrami, head of the bakeries society in Gaza, stated to media outlets that more than 27 bakeries out of a total of 47 in Gaza city, have been shut down completely due to lack of cooking gas and wheat, as Israel closes commercial border crossings for almost two months now.
” the current crisis is increasingly becoming crippled as there are only 400 tons of wheat left at Gaza’s seven windmills”, he explained.
aL-Ajrami made clear that the said quantities will be distributed at the bakeries for the next four days, maintaining that there have been relentless efforts to ensure the needed cooking gas.
Last month , Israel imposed a restrictive closure on Gaza’s commercial crossings following a series of Israeli army attacks on Gaza Strip. Gaza-based resistance factions responded with homemade shells fire.
According to petroleum officials in Gaza, Gaza’s 1.5 million residents need at least 350 tons of cooking gas on daily basis.
i’d like to think that jesus would find a way to resist this inhuman behavior by calling for a boycott of the zionist regime. for if jesus were still alive he’d be either living behind that apartheid wall or living as a third-class citizen in 1948 palestine. either way i don’t think he would be silent about what the zionists have done and do. the most recent update on a company on the boycott list is l’oreal cosmetics:
In this holiday season, the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee, BNC*, calls upon people of conscience all over the world to boycott all the products of the French cosmetics giant, L’Oreal**, due to its deep and extensive involvement in business relations with Israel, despite the latter’s continued occupation and apartheid policies against the indigenous Palestinian people.
L’Oreal’s operations in Israel began in the mid-1990s, motivated in part by political considerations. Since then, L’Oreal Israel, the company’s subsidiary in Israel, has operated a factory in the Israeli town of Migdal Ha’emek in the Lower Galilee. The settlement of Migdal Ha’emek was established in 1952 on lands belonging to the ethnically-cleansed Palestinian village of al-Mujaydil, whose original inhabitants are still denied the right to return to their homes. Like almost all other Jewish settlements built in the midst of Palestinian villages in the Galilee, inside Israel, Migdal Ha’emek discriminates against Palestinian citizens of Israel, denying them the right to buy, rent or live on any part of the town, simply because they are “non Jews.”
L’Oreal Israel manufacturers a line of products using Dead Sea minerals under the name “Natural Sea Beauty” that is exported to 22 countries. It should be noted that one third of the western shore of the Dead Sea lies in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. While the entire shore and its resources are systematically closed to Palestinians by Israeli military occupation and apartheid practices, Israel exploits the Dead Sea for international tourism, mining, and improving its image.
L’Oreal’s activities in Israel are not, however, limited to L’Oreal Israel. While Palestinian academics and students in the occupied territories and Israel are systematically impeded by Israeli occupation roadblocks and other oppressive measures from conducting normal academic life and research, L’Oreal awarded a $100,000 “lifetime achievement” award to a scientist at Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science in July 2008. The Weizmann Institute, since its establishment, has been a major center for clandestine research and development of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons on behalf of Israel’s military establishment with which it has close ties. It is, therefore, one of many academic institutions in Israel that are in collusion with the state’s violations of international law and Palestinian human rights, and which are targeted for academic boycott by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI).
The chairman of L’Oreal Israel is Gad Propper who is the founding chairman of the Israel-EU Chamber of Commerce, and has also been heavily involved in promoting trade between Israel and Australia and New Zealand. The French government has recognized the important role that L’Oreal’s Israeli operations play in the company’s global business by awarding Propper France’s highest civilian honor, the Legion d’honneur earlier this month. “The award was in recognition of Propper’s contribution to the global success story” of L’Oreal, according to a report in the Jerusalem Post.
In 1994, L’Oreal bought a 30 percent stake in Propper’s company Interbeauty, from which L’Oreal Israel was created. Since then Israel has become L’Oreal’s commercial center for the entire Middle East.
POLITICAL MOTIVATIONS FOR L’OREAL’S ISRAEL INVESTMENTS
In 1995, L’Oreal agreed to pay $1.4 million to the US government to settle charges that it had cooperated with the Arab League’s official boycott of Israel. The company was accused of providing information in the 1980s about its US subsidiaries’ ties to Israel, to the now effectively inactive official Boycott Office of the Arab League. The company denied that it had broken US laws designed to prevent American firms from cooperating with the official Arab boycott of Israel, but mounted a campaign to placate Zionist critics by emphasizing its desire to invest in Israel.
Following the settlement, then chairman of L’Oreal, Lindsay Owen-Jones, apologized for the company’s actions in a letter to the US-based pro-Israel lobby group the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
According to the ADL, Owen-Jones thanked the pro-Israel group “for its support of L’Oreal’s business and community service activities in Israel,” and assured the ADL that “The forward-looking approach that you have taken is an encouragement to L’Oreal and other companies that are already involved in Israel to expand their involvements till further.”
One of L’Oreal’s most well-known global brands, The Body Shop, boasts that one of its core values is “We’ve never been afraid to champion the vulnerable and the disadvantaged, and we continue to campaign for social justice and human rights.” Yet its parent company’s deep politically-motivated and profit-driven involvement with Israeli apartheid indicates, if anything, a flagrant disregard for the human rights of Palestinians and a disservice to justice and peace.
Business-as-usual should not continue with a state that has not only practiced apartheid and colonial rule against an indigenous population for decades, but is also, today, committing grave and persistent war crimes described as “a prelude to genocide” by Richard Falk, a prominent Princeton international law professor and UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the OPT.
Under these circumstances L’Oreal’s vast investment in Israel amounts to complicity in severe abuse of human rights, to say the least; it should be stopped at once.
al mujaydil, the palestinian land that l’oreal occupies, is in the district of nazareth, the district where jesus came from. yet another reason i suspect jesus would boycott this company (and all others supporting the zionist regime).
there are many other american and european companies to boycott, of course, many of which i’ve written about here. and there are links in the side bar to learn more about that. but given that it is christmas i thought it would be nice to end with boycott christmas carols, from adalah new york, against the israeli diamond billionaire who builds illegal settlements in the west bank and who recently opened a shop in dubai. this is a little more of the sort of christmas spirit that i can get into…