Church Groups Manipulate Christmas Spirit to Promote BDS

JERUSALEM – The Christmas season is being exploited by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to promote the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaigns against Israel, says NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based think tank that tracks NGOs in the region.  By manipulating traditional Christmas songs, images, and messages, NGOs such as Sabeel, War on Want, and Pax Christi are politicizing the holiday to pursue their anti-Israel agendas.

“These specific NGOs have hijacked Christmas to promote their extremely divisive BDS and demonization campaigns,” says Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor.  “Manipulating religious symbols and images for these purposes is deeply offensive, and clearly does not foster an environment of co-existence among Israelis and Palestinians. It does demonstrate the hatred that is inherent in the BDS movement – a movement based on Hypocrisy and Double Standards (HDS).”

Friends of Sabeel–North America circulated a list targeting ten companies to boycott entitled “All I want for Christmas is an End to Apartheid,” stating that “there are many Israeli and multinational companies that benefit from apartheid, we put together this list to highlight ten specific companies to target.” The vast majority of the list comprises companies located within the Green Line of Israel or are managed by Jews.

Teva Pharmaceuticals is included because it is “one of the largest generic drug manufacturers in the world” and part of a “well established industry in Israel.” The Delta Galil textile company is featured because its founder and president is “a close associate of former Israeli President [sic] Ehud Barak.” Estee Lauder is boycotted because chairman Ronald Lauder is also the chairman of the Jewish National Fund.

“The Sabeel list further demonstrates that the BDS movement is not seeking a peaceful, two-state solution to the conflict,” Steinberg adds. “Rather, BDS targets companies simply because they are Israeli or headed by individuals with certain Jewish affiliations.  This is clear antisemitism, and this association with Christmas is particularly troubling.

NGO Monitor notes other examples of the hijacking of Christmas symbols:

  • War on Want is selling Christmas cards depicting the security barrier and traditional Christmas images.
  • The Ireland Palestinian Solidarity Campaign is selling a card with a Madonna and child image in the colors of the Palestinian flag.
  • The Amos Trust Large Wall Nativity comes “complete with separation wall” depicting the “current situation in Bethlehem.  It includes… a palm tree to replace the wall for a more traditional nativity scene – ideal for churches and campaigners.”
  • A Beirut-based group named the “Never Before Campaign for Justice in Palestine” has a video for Christmas asking, “If he [Jesus] were here today, what would he say?” It depicts Jesus and Mary superimposed on the separation barrier with text stating, “Bethlehem is surrounded by a racist wall of biblical proportions, by regime which is racist to biblical proportions.”

“Linking the suffering of Palestinians to that of Jesus is reminiscent of traditional and deep seated antisemitic imagery,” Steinberg adds.  “By demonizing Israel in this manner, and grossly misrepresenting a complicated conflict, these NGOs and their HDS agendas are creating another obstacle for mutual understanding.”

Read NGO Monitor’s full report on NGO Hijacking of Christmas: