Christmas In Bethlehem

The New Statesman and the Baltimore Sun paint a very grim picture of the city of Bethlehem a few weeks before Christmas. According to the Sun:

A once-bustling neighborhood has become a ghost town. Shops are shuttered or empty, and the streets are deserted. A sign carries the name of an abandoned restaurant. “Memories,” it says. Another sign near an empty shell says, “Border Cafeteria.”

Typical of the The Statesman’s claims is the following:

The flicker of optimism has been dampened by the completion of the barrier around Bethlehem and the installation of the gate, which has given a sense of permanence to the isolation and the economy’s free fall. The crossing is daunting even for tourists who are searched on their coaches as they enter Bethlehem.

According to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, each one of these points is factually incorrect:

  • There is no barrier (completely encircling) Bethlehem. There is only a fence where the Bethlehem area interfaces with Jerusalem and close to the 1949 armistice line. Only a very small segment of the fence is a concrete wall preventing terrorists from shooting at motorists.
  • The economy has actually improved significantly. While 110,000 tourists visited the city during 2004, more than 218,000 have already visited Bethlehem during 2005 – an increase of around 100%. There have been corresponding increases in Bethlehem’s main industries: Textiles 50%, Stone and marble export 40%, commercial transportation 20%. These increases have brought millions of dollars into the local economy.
  • The IDF has decided to take a “calculated risk” to make access easier for tourists. According to IDF Lt. Col. Aviv Feigel in the Jerusalem Post, “The military will try to speed the process by not checking every tourist bus, but conducting spot checks of random buses instead.”

Israel is taking these steps despite the fact that “Half of the Israeli terror fatalities in 2004 came from attackers who entered Jerusalem from Bethlehem.”

The New Statesman also raps Israel for pushing Christians out of Bethlehem. But as FrontPage magazine points out, it is actually the Palestinians who have been forcing the city’s Christian residents to leave.

The Vatican, in a rare diplomatic move, called publicly on the Israelis to intervene in Bethlehem on behalf of its severely receding Christian population. Now totaling less than 12% of Bethlehem’s population, Christians, who have been the targets of continual PA violence, might leave entirely. The result will be that in the place where Jesus was born there will no longer be a Christian community.

And just this week, Palestinian gunmen disrupted Christmas preparations in Bethlehem  taking over the municipality building across from the Church of Nativity (See Associated Press). For a detailed report on Muslim violence against Christians that is largely ignored by the media, click here. Despite the Palestinian efforts to push out Christian residents, this holiday season will see thousands of pilgrims celebrating Christmas in Bethlehem. The New Statesmen and Baltimore Sun should cover the facts and not rely on Palestinian propaganda.

Comments to The New Statesman:

Letters to the Baltimore Sun:

Honest Reporting Mission Participants Meet the Media

Twenty-two Honest Reporting Mission participants recently spent a week in Israel where they engaged in high level meetings with leading figures from politics, the military, and the media. The goal of the mission was to teach some of our subscribers how to be the most effective advocates for Israel and to correct anti-Israel media bias. According to the participants, the goals were accomplished.

Before the mission, my blood would boil when I listened to people quote the BBC and NPR about the Arab/Israeli conflict.  Now I have the information I need to respond.” (Ronnie P., Philadelphia)

“I could not have envisioned a more informative and thoroughly organized educational mission to Israel. Instead of self-serving, generalized sound bites, we received detailed analysis of the issues, underlying causes and predictions of possible future directions from leading voices across a range of opinions.” (Randy F., New Jersey)

The mission traveled from the Golan in the North to Gush Etzion, south of Jerusalem. In Jerusalem, the mission was based in first class accommodations where the participants met with many journalists and analysts. Seminar topics included: The personal and political aftermath of disengagement, a review of the Palestinian media, how to respond to anti-Israel bias, Israel’s new security challenges, and the government’s efforts to improve Israel’s image in the media.

Honest Reporting hosts two missions a year. Our next mission is scheduled for May 16 through May 22, 2006. For more info, keep an eye on our homepage. We will be posting a detailed link with mission information within the next few weeks. A future communiqué will include more details as well as registration information. Since the missions always fill up quickly, be sure to register early. You can e-mail our mission coordinator at any time:Honest Reporting Missions


The DublinerFollowing HonestReporting’s critique of Justin Keating’s article, The Dubliner’s editor has issued his response, challenging us to publish it. So we have. Out of the some 2000 received, the magazine prints a paltry two letters in response to the original article and, instead of allowing a credible opinion writer to address Keating’s diatribe, the Dubliner’s editor gives Keating himself the chance to respond.

At least someone liked Keating’s article judging by its appearance on the white supremacist neo-Nazi website of the National Vanguard organization. Keating and The Dubliner should be proud.

Thank you for your ongoing involvement in the battle against media bias.