Middle East Monitor

December 2011
Monthly Media Digest

By Ibrahim Hewitt, Zulaikha Abdullah and Samira Quraishy

  • Israeli settlements continue to expand unabated, threatening to cut Bethlehem off "from its historic twin, Jerusalem".

  • Though the Archbishop of Canterbury declined mention the plight of his co-religionists in the Occupied West Bank parish of Beit Jala who are "preparing for a legal battle to protect their land and homes from further expropriation by Israel", Vincent Nichols, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster not only offered a special prayer for the people of Bethlehem, but urged his congregation to pull the wool from over their eyes. "See more clearly all those things which disfigure our world," he said, "We too live in a land of deep shadow", that shadow "falls particularly heavily on the town of Bethlehem tonight."

  • There was an excellent Guardian commentary from Phoebe Greenwood on Christmas in the Holy Land - "If Jesus was to come this year, Bethlehem would be closed," says the priest of Bethlehem's Beit Jala parish. "He would either have to be born at a checkpoint or at the separation wall. Mary and Joseph would have needed Israeli permission – or to have been tourists."

  • A House of Lords debate on Christmas in the Middle East initially looked promising. However, quite disappointingly, whenever Bethlehem or the Christian community in Palestine were mentioned, it appeared that some serious re-education in order. One Lord found it fit to assert that "decline [of Christians in Palestine] has two main reasons: emigration and declining birth rates. Emigration represents the end of a long process of exclusion and persecution. On the West Bank, a nearly permanent boycott of Christian businesses is the problem." Boycott? Surely the continuous growth of illegal Jewish settlements and violent radical Jewish extremists must have some, nay, a great deal to do with the declining Christian community.

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