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Holy Land Trust (HLT)

Profile

Country/TerritoryPalestinian Authority
Websitewww.holylandtrust.org/
In their own words“Through a commitment to the principles of nonviolence, HLT seeks to develop spiritual, pragmatic, and strategic approaches that will empower the Palestinian community to resist all forms of oppression, and engage this same community in making the Holy Land be what it is supposed to be: a global model and pillar of understanding, respect, justice, equality and peaceful coexistence.”

Funding

  • According to its website, donations are processed through its U.S. (501c3) affiliate, Middle East Fellowship (MEF). In 2014 (latest available; accessed November 6, 2016), MEF expensed $174,498 for “Nonviolence training and peace building programs in the Palestinian territories implemented in partnership with Holy Land Trust, a Palestinian NGO.” The revenue on this project was $168,948.
  • No other funding information is available on HLT’s website, reflecting a lack of transparency and accountability.
  • Correspondence with the British government shows that HLT received ₤15,000 from the UK in 2010-2011.
  • The National Endowment for Democracy, a US-funded institute, granted HLT a total of $124,300 for the years 2009, 2010, and 2012.
  • In 2014, HLT participated in the “Aswatona Fund for Media Development.” The fund, a €1.5 initiative sponsored by the European Union, aimed to “foster media pluralism, public voice and civil society participation in the media, and to strengthen, through community media, the voices of women, youth, remote and rural communities, and marginalised groups.”
  • In 2014, HLT also received €24,864 from the EU’s European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI) for a project titled “Social and Citizen Journalism.”

Activities

  • Conducts highly politicized tours of Israel and the West Bank promoting the Palestinian narrative and targeting church leaders and the international community, claiming to provide “cross cultural and experimental learning opportunities in both Palestine and Israel.” Suggests that its participants “limit information” given to Israeli airport security and hide the reason for their visits.
  • Sami Awad is Executive Director and Founder of Holy Land Trust (HLT). Awad has stated that non-violent demonstrations are “not a substitute for the armed struggle.”
  • Beginning in 2010, HLT, alongside Bethlehem Bible College, has organized the Christ at the Checkpoint Conference (CATC), a bi-annual event held in Bethlehem.
    • CATC seeks to advance the Palestinian nationalist agenda within Evangelical Christian churches.

Demonization of Israel

  • Accuses Israel of “ethnic cleansing” and signed an “Urgent call to action” during the 2014 Gaza conflict accusing Egypt of “complicity in Israel’s genocide of the people of Gaza.”
  • In 2014, Sami Awad joined the “Ads Against Apartheid” campaign, which created billboards displaying to “Americans the devastating human rights abuses by the Israeli military and government against the Palestinian people. When these ads go national in the United States, Americans will start to understand the depth of the suffering Palestinians have endured under the Israeli military occupation.”
  • In 2013, HLT sponsored a festival in London called “Bethlehem Unwrapped,” featuring “a comedy show called “Stand Up Against the Wall,” a “Bethlehem Christmas dinner,” and a debate titled “Both sides of the Barrier – Separation or Security?” that featured Jeff Halper, founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.”
  • In 2013, Sami Awad published demonizing rhetoric in Amos Trust’s Bethlehem Packet stating “No matter where you stand in Bethlehem, you can see the effects of the cold grip of this brutal and humiliating occupation.”
  • Awad has also minimized Israel’s legitimate security needs as a “manipulation” of the fear of another Holocaust. In a speech given at the “Christ at the Checkpoint” Conference in 2010, Awad stated that “the [Israeli] soldier now, who’s gone through that trauma experience [of visiting Auschwitz] now is trained in this weaponry all of a sudden is also put at a checkpoint inside the West Bank, between Palestinian areas.”
  • In 2011, HLT produced a film called “Little Town of Bethlehem,” a 77-minute documentary that tells the story “of three men of three different faiths and their lives in Israel and Palestine. The story explores each man’s choice of nonviolent action amidst a culture of overwhelming violence.” Using a façade of multiple viewpoints, however, the film actually presents a single narrative of Palestinian victimization and Israeli violence.
  • Speaking at the National Leadership Conference for the Vineyard Church in 2009, Awad told the audience: “We’ve actually done training in non-violence for Hamas leaders and other militant groups as well” (at 01:20:27 in the audio). Hamas is listed as a terrorist organization by the US State Department and the EU. Further, the US Supreme Court upheld a law criminalizing material support for terror organizations. (Holder, Attorney General, et al. v. Humanitarian Law Project et al. 2010.) The law defines “material support” as including “any property, tangible or intangible, or service, including… training, expert advice or assistance…” (See above for details of US government funding of HLT.)

BDS

  • Supports anti-Israel BDS (boycotts, divestment, and sanctions), including signing a petition in May 2005 calling for the academic boycott of Israel.
  • Signatory to the 2005 “Palestinian Civil Society Call for BDS,” which calls for an end to Israel’s “occupation and colonization of all Arab lands” and promotes a right of “Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties.”
  • HLT also supports the Kairos Palestine document.
    • The Kairos Palestine document calls for BDS against Israel, denies the Jewish historical connection to Israel in theological terms, and blames Israel solely for the continuation of the conflict. It also characterizes terrorist acts of “armed resistance” as “Palestinian legal resistance.”
    • Its purpose is to rally churches globally to support BDS, delegitimization, and demonization directed at the State of Israel.

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