There is something predictable about Christmas time – Fairy lights in the high street, seasonal music in the shops, and the arrival of a small envelope in your letter box, asking for a donation, often to Christian based charities such as War on Want and Christian Aid. Sadly, this appeal for festive generosity is intrinsically linked to a more recent Christmas trend – the blanket condemnation and demonization of Israel.
A similar theme every year describes how Bethlehem, the historical and theological epicentre of Christmas, is a ‘ghetto’ under siege by the brutal Israeli occupation and the ‘apartheid wall’. This one-sided narrative and highly charged rhetoric not only ignores the very real context of terror, internal Palestinian conflict and the persecution of Palestinian Christians, but it also reveals a cynical exploitation of Christian sensibilities for crude political gain. Worryingly, some of the worst offenders are the supposedly apolitical Christian based charities, who de-legitimise Israel, while at the same time raising funds for their ‘Christmas Campaign.’
This year, if you wish to donate to War on Want, you can simply visit their website, where you can purchase highly politicized Christmas cards (10 for £4). The card depicts Joseph and a heavily pregnant Mary, unable to reach Bethlehem, due to “Israel’s Separation Wall and a state-of-the-art military checkpoint.” The suggestion of deicide is only a small step away. Meanwhile, another Christian based charity, the Amos Trust is marketing ‘poignant, ironic’ nativity scenes, manufactured in Bethlehem, in which an unmistakable high wall means that “this year the wise men won’t get to the stable.” Churches are urged to spend £50 on a larger version of the model, to spread this distorted message to the masses.
Unfortunately, such Israel-bashing is not just for Christmas – it continues all year long. As NGO Monitor’s research has consistently revealed, Christian Aid works closely with replacement theologians such as Rev Naim Ateek, who compares Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians to the crucifixion of Jesus. Until recently, the entire ‘conflict’ section of the Christian Aid website was devoted to the plight of the Palestinians – as if there were no other conflicts in the world, and as if Israel has no right of defence against terror. Meanwhile, War on Want not only accuses Israel of a ‘campaign of apartheid,’ but enthusiastically supports the boycott campaign against the Jewish state.
The mandate of these NGOs is to fight poverty, hunger and disease – All noble aims, which are being seriously undermined by their obsessive condemnation of Israel. Only when the same standards are applied to all countries, in accordance with true universal human rights values, will the likes of Christian Aid and War on Want be considered credible vehicles for social change. Until then, the exploitation of Christmas continues and we should all think twice when that small envelope arrives in our letter box.
Dan Kosky is Communications Director of NGO Monitor.
This oped will be published in the Jewish News (London) this week