Thursday, December 25, 2008

Animus towards Jews on Christmas - 2: Juan Cole

There most definitely is antisemitism at the Guardian, and the previous post is an example of the way it is disseminated in unmarked back channels. Is Juan Cole also an antisemite? Sometimes I think so, and his Christmas column today is a case for the prosecution.

As often with Cole, it's hard to know where to begin, his statements are so outlandish. But here are some partial remarks:
Some 15 percent of the 10 million Palestinians is Christian, and they are after all the original Christians. Bethlehem has a special place in their hearts because it is the birthplace of Jesus in Christian belief.
Actually, the original Christians were Jews, who regarded themselves as such and never thought they were creating a new religion. That happened only a few generations later, in a context the original followers of Jesus probably couldn't have conceived of. I also wonder where Cole's statistics come from - the 15% one, and the 10 million. But don't expect him to enlighten us anytime soon.

You also might want to note that Bethlehem used to be almost 100% Christian, and the decline has been happening literally for generations; if even Bethlehem is now down to a Christian minority, might this have anything to do with the general dwindling of non-Muslim communites all over the Arab world? If it's truly only due to the evil machinations of the Israelis, why so? Do the Israelis have a preferrence for Muslim Palestinians over Christian ones? If so, why? And how do they manage to selectively get rid of the Christians? How did they manage to start the dynamic prior to 1967, when they didn't even control the place?
Almost no one in the US knows that the Israeli wall or separation barrier, which has ghettoized many Palestinians and expropriated from them property and farm land, is strangling Bethlehem. The barrier cuts Bethlehem off from Jerusalem and steals private property from its residents. It has created an economic crisis that has caused Palestinian Christians to emigrate from the city. The "Christians of Bethlehem overwhelmingly (78%) blame the exodus of Christians from the town on Israel's blockade . . ."
Is the wall strangling Bethlehem? How so? Further down in his post he notes that tourism in Bethlehem is up this year, even though the wall is the same wall as last year: perhaps some other dynamic is at play? And what methodology does the august professor suggest for resolving the question? The article behind Cole's link, by the way, is a hodgepodge of nonesense, lies, innuendo, hearsay and general malice.

Why did the Israelis build the wall? Since Cole never mentions this one might note it was built because many dozens of Israeli civilians were murdered by Palestinian murderers who entered Jerusalem from Bethlehem between 2001-2004; since the wall has been erected and the checkpoints manned: a miracle! No more murders from Bethlehem!

The whole thesis about the evil of seperating Bethlehemm from Jerusalem is a red herring. Someday there may be peace between Israel and Palestine. When that happens, Bethlehem will be in Palestine, and most of Jerusalem will be in Israel. There will be a border in between, with guarded border crossings. One can argue about the precise line on which the Israeli barrier has been constructed, but it's hard to see how one can argue against its very existence. Given the close proximity of Bethlehem to Jerusalem, the border will always run close to both of them.
The distance from Bethlehem to Jerusalem is some 10km, but Palestinians must take a 26km secondary dirt road passing through Israeli checkpoints which are often closed with no warning or explanation. Palestinians in the West Bank are not permitted to enter Jerusalem without a date- and time-limited pass from the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) - more often than not refused.
Actually, the distance from the northenmost houses of Bethlehem and the southernmost ones of Jerusalem isn't 10 km, it's about 100 meters, perhaps 200. Since the historic main road between the two goes through Jewish Talpiyot, (which is inside the Green Line), the Palestinians will have to use a winding secondary road to reach the Arab sections of Jerusalem - just like they did between 1948 and 1967, when Bethlehem and East Jerusalem were occupied by Jordan.

Cole's editorial choice to celebrate Christmas on his blog with one single post, entirely dedicated to misinformation and lies about Israel, needs to be recognized for what it is.


Morey Altman said...

Interestingly, 10 years ago, both Israelis and Palestinian Arabs advocated more separation. A poll conducted in 1998 showed that "63 percent of the Palestinians interviewed support a closed border." Article here:

If I recall correctly, some of the loudest dissenters were Israeli politicians, including Ariel Sharon.

Memory is a funny thing. Especially selective memory.

Lydia McGrew said...

My neighbors and friends across the street just got back from a pilgrimage to Bethlehem. They're Catholic. (I'm Protestant.) They called me up to thank me for watching their house. (It didn't do anything much while they were away.) She mentioned that their priest, who led their group on this trip, was "very supportive of the Arab Christians" (or she may have said the "Palestinian Christians"). I wasn't sure what this meant and decided not to inquire, given my to-the-right-of-Likud opinions on the Israel situation and given the anti-Israel bias prevalent in much Catholic culture here in the U.S. But they said everything was quiet in Bethlehem, the pilgrimage went great, etc. Which I suppose is good in its own way.