Thursday, October 28, 2004

Israeli occupation smothers the little Town of Bethlehem Oct. 28, 2004

Israeli occupation smothers the Little Town of Bethlehem
Bonus Column Thursday Oct. 28, 2004
By Ray Hanania

BETHLEHEM, Occupied West Bank – To help the family survive, Anthony opened a small grocery store on Madbussa Street which is today the main street in this town best known as the birthplace of Jesus Christ.

"The fact that Christ is from this town," Anthony shrugs as he gives me a tour of the city, "has long been forgotten by the Christian World. These days, it is best known for suffering. The Israelis come and go as they please. They take our lands. And they do worse to our people."

A Christian only 24, Anthony said he had to close the store. His family survives on its dwindling savings and on charity from relatives abroad, he sighs. He guides me through the "Christian Triangle" of Bethlehem, Beit Sahour and Beit Jala.

The first stop is the old Main Street. Israeli settlers and soldiers barricade Rachel’s Tomb and the street in an ugly mass of concrete, barbed wire and machine gun turrets. It’s about 5 acres of land "cleansed" of Palestinians and their property.

"They want our land and want us out," he sighs. "This road used to go to Jerusalem. We’re not allowed to enter Jerusalem. They say its an ‘open’ city, but not for us."

The Israelis are building a 26 foot tall wall of concrete around Bethlehem, becoming a giant prison. It’s not a "fence."

The shops along Nativity Square are desolate. Homes crushed into rubble by repeated Israelis assaults remain as reminders.

To the north is "Har Homa," an Israeli settlement built in 1991 atop a Palestinian mountain. "That was Palestinian land they took. They built a beautiful city for the Jewish people."

To the Northwest is Gilo, another Israeli settlement built in 1971 on land Israel confiscated from Christians. My guide predicts Israel will confiscate Shepherd’s Field, nestled to the west near Beit Sahour.

"Israelis want to destroy our city. Do you read about that in American media?" he asks indignant about American Christians who he and other Christians say "are not Christian at all."
Archimandrite Attallah Hanna, the Jerusalem spokesman for the Orthodox Church, scolds the media and "Christians" of the West.

"A real Christian stands with the oppressed people," he says. "There is a huge contradiction between Christianity of America and what is taking place in the origins of Christianity."

Everyone here praises the Presbyterian and Anglican Churches for defending Palestinian rights. The two Christian groups adopted tough policies divesting from Israel to protest Israel’s brutal occupation.

Anthony wonders why other American Christians have "turned their backs" and why the media fails "to show the truth" about Israel’s destruction of Christian communities.

As I drive through the three cities, I can’t help to wonder that myself. Israelis argue the plight of Christians is the result of Muslim persecution. But when you speak with the Christians in Palestine, they point an accusing finger at Israel and its bank roller, the United States.

The Apache helicopters that fly overhead and terrorize the people of Bethlehem, like everything used by the Israeli military, is American made. Hundreds of innocent Palestinians have been killed. All those killed by Israel, including the children, have been brushed off as "terrorists" and "suicide bombers" when they are not.

I try to explain many American are blinded to the truth by pro-Israeli propaganda and lies. Americans are the ones who are really occupied.

I’d hate to think Americans don’t want to see the truth.

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