Israeli Soldiers Spray Santa With Tear Gas: This Is What Christmas Was Like In Bethlehem (VIDEOS)

On the streets of Bethlehem this Christmas season, Israeli soldiers sprayed peaceful protesters, dressed as Santa Claus, with tear gas and pelted them with rubber bullets.

As you can see in the video below, some protesters carried signs which read:

“Christmas is a call to the world: The message of Bethlehem is under siege.”

Others simply called for “Christmas without occupation.”

Although parts of the scene were caught on camera, the western world heard little about the events that took place over the week of Christmas, in what many consider to be the ‘holy land’.

The United States spends billions of dollars per year arming Israeli soldiers, yet most American citizens are kept in the dark as to how the Israeli army often uses that military aid against innocent civilians.

This video from Press TV news, uploaded to youtube on December 23, shows Israeli soldiers using violence and aggression to suppress the voices of peaceful protesters in the days leading up to Christmas.

In the United States, many on the Christian right seem to believe that ‘standing with Israel,’ regardless of the actions taken by the nation’s leaders, is what ‘good Christians’ are called to do.

Yet, Israeli soldiers oppress Palestinian Christians just as ruthlessly and barbarically as they suppress all Palestinian people.

It’s sad to realize that if Mary and Joseph were to attempt to make the journey to Bethlehem today, they would be stopped by Israeli soldiers, prevented from reaching the now walled off the city. As the San Francisco Bay reported last week, had Jesus been born in our times, Mary may well have brought him forth, not in a manger, but at an Israeli checkpoint. Giving birth at a checkpoint is a reality that one in every ten Palestinian women find themselves forced to endure.

The city of Bethlehem, which once had a population that was 95 percent Christian, is now only about 30 percent Christian. In Palestine, Christians once made up 18 percent of the population, but now less than two percent of Palestinians in the West Bank are Christians.

Western Christians blame Muslim violence for the sharp drop in the Christian population in this part of the world. But Christians who fled the country have cited Israeli violence as their reason for leaving the area.

A poll conducted by Open Bethlehem in 2006 found that 78 percent of Christian residents of the city blamed “Israeli aggression and occupation” as “the main cause of emigration.” Only 3 percent of Christians living in Bethlehem blamed the “rise of Islamic movements,” as the reason for the Christian exodus.

It’s hard to understand why American Christians have such a blind allegiance to Israel. Israel has no such blind loyalty to Christians, American or otherwise. Christians who attempt to peacefully assemble in Israel are often attacked and maligned by the country’s leaders.

In March, a conference of 700 Christian leaders from around the world gathered at Bethlehem Bible College. Far from being welcomed by their ‘Israeli friends,’ these global evangelical leaders were verbally attacked, and the meeting was labelled ‘unacceptable’ and ‘shameful’, by the Israeli foreign affairs minister.

According to Christianity Today, Gary M. Burge, Professor of the New Testament at the US based Wheaton College, himself a speaker at the conference, said in response to the attacks:

 “This is simply the only gathering of Palestinian Christians in the world who are trying to have their voices heard by their brothers and sisters in Christ. I’m at the event. It is packed. And it is a moving testimony to these Christians’ faithfulness to Christ amidst dreadful circumstances. Israeli bureaucrats simply want those voices silenced.”

Burge went on to say, in an email response to Christianity Today:

“I think that the Israeli government is worried about this gathering because every year evangelicals are growing in their understanding of this conflict and questioning the standard Israeli narrative of things.”

While the Israeli government accused these Christian leaders of using religion to advance a political narrative, using religion to create nationalistic fervor is exactly what Israeli leaders are doing.

Just a few days ago, Addicting Info reported on a speech made by Moshe Feignlin, and Israeli politician and Deputy Speakers of the Knesset. In his speech, during which he calls for nothing short of genocide in Gaza, Feiglin repeatedly states that ‘Israel is ours’ because ‘God gave it to us’.

Right wing leaders in the west are no different. They claim that defending Israel, no matter what, is ‘God’s will.’ The idea that ‘God loves Israel,’ and therefore the United States must ‘stand with Israel’ is constantly drummed into the heads of the religious extremists in
America.

For Christians, there’s no doubt that God loves Israel. Yet, the Bible clearly shows that God did not love Israel blindly, nor did God ever refuse to hold its leaders accountable for their actions. Jesus did not condone violence or oppression, the shedding of innocent blood or genocide. He also did not command Christians to send military aid or to help fund Israel’s violence against the people of the Gaza. The one thing Jesus did command in regards to Israel was that Christians ‘pray for the peace of Jerusalem’.

Praying for peace in Jerusalem, while at the same time promoting, supporting and even providing money and military equipment to be used for violence is beyond hypocritical.

Christians have been led to think that they are helping to protect the ‘Holy land’ and to keep it from falling into the ‘wrong hands’. But they really need to take a long, hard look at the hands it has fallen into already.

Rather than keeping the region in the hands of ‘Christians,’ the ongoing violence has caused Christians to all but disappear entirely from this part of the world.

Inside Story talks about the ongoing plight of Christians in the ‘Holy Lands’, under the current Israeli occupation, in the video below.

*Featured image credit: video screen capture, Press TV News, via youtube