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

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 May 2018, during the violence on the Gaza border, Jonathan Kuttab, President of the Board of Holy Land Trust, accused Israel of putting “almost 2 million people live in a congested open-air prison.” Kuttab also justified terrorism and downplayed Hamas war crimes by writing that Hamas “occasionally dares to resist by shooting  largely ineffective rockets at Israel; it even dares to dig tunnels to break out of its suffocating isolation, while Israel routinely invades its territory and bombs Gazans, mostly civilians, at will.”
  • 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.”
  • In November 2019, Holy Land Trust signed a letter to Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau calling for the Canadian government to “implement an arms embargo, and press for a comprehensive arms embargo at the level of the UN Security Council” and “impose a ban on all goods originating from illegal Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory entering Canada as well as a ban on Canadian companies operating in illegal settlements or trading in settlement goods.”
  • In January 2019, Kuttab spoke at an event in Canada advocating for BDS campaigns, as the “solution must be economic, non-violent, and cultural, using diplomatic pressure, international law, and the global boycott, divest and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.”
  • In June 2017, was a signatory to an “Open Letter” from the National Coalition of Christian Organizations in Palestine to the World Council of Churches that accuses Israel of “Discrimination and inequality, military occupation and systematic oppression.” The letter calls upon the WCC to “recognize Israel as an apartheid state,” and “unequivocally condemn the Balfour declaration as unjust, and that you demand from the UK that it asks forgiveness from the Palestinian people and compensates for the losses.” The letter also defends “our right and duty to resist the occupation creatively and nonviolently,” through “economic measures that pressure Israel to stop the occupation…in response to Israel’s war on BDS. We ask that you intensity those measures.”
  • 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.

Staff

  • Jonathan Kuttab
    • Kuttab, President of the Board of Holy Land Trust, is also the co-founder of Al-Haq and Nonviolence international, and serves on the board of Sabeel.
    • Kuttab has advocated for a “one-state solution” to the Arab-Israeli conflict, which seeks to eliminate Jewish self-determination. According to Kuttab, “Zionism will ultimately need to redefine its goals and aspirations, this time without ignoring or seeking to dispossess the indigenous Palestinian population.”
    • In September 2015, Kuttab participated in a conference titled “Waging Peace: Doing Justice Through BDS,” speaking about “Why should BDS be considered a strategy for doing justice in the Holy Land?” He will share BDS history, principles, variety, effectiveness, its use in the occupied territories, and as a strategy being used by churches, and peace/justice organizations.”
    • In December 2014, following the EU no longer considering Hamas a terrorist group, Kuttab tweeted that it was “Time for US to do same.” He then tweeted “How can you even hope to bring about peace between #Israel and #Palestine if you criminalize contact with #Hamas?”

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Further Reading