Anti-Israel groups have turned Christmas into an annual opportunity to attack the Jewish state in particularly surreal terms, with some going so far as to roll out invective-filled Christmas carols and call for economic warfare against Israeli Jews, according to a detailed report issued yesterday by the Jerusalem based research institute NGO Monitor.
The report is part of NGO Monitor’s “BDS in the Pews” program, which tracks European, U.S., and Canadian government funding as it flows through anti-Israel Christian groups. It documents a range of groups – including Christian Aid (UK), Kairos Palestine, Sabeel, War on Want (UK), Amos Trust, and Adalah-NY – exploiting holiday and religious symbols to urge that Israel be economically and politically isolated.
Christmas carols, holiday cards, and even nativity scenes were all mobilized to among other things promote boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaigns. The campaigns – which call for Israeli Jews to be economically and culturally punished until they make a variety of concessions satisfactory to the campaigners – have been blasted as anti-Semitic by top watchdog groups including the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
The groups identified by NGO Monitor claim that their annual Christmas-themed campaigns are a response to Israel’s treatment of Christians. The explanation has been taken, in some quarters, as a badly strained pretext. Pope Francis last month called attention to the systematic cleansing of Christians from the Middle East, but in Israel – critically – the population of Christians is growing.
Israel is the only stable democratic country in the region and the only country that guarantees freedom of worship for all faiths. There are movements within Israel to boost the identification of Arab-Israeli Christians with the country and its institutions, which are treated by the government as a point of pride.
The enlistment of Arabic-speaking Christians in Israel’s military has tripled over the last year. Last summer Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hosted Father Gabriel Nadaf – a Greek Orthodox priest who promotes Christian enlistment – and committed to launching a joint government-community initiative aimed at increasing enlistment and bolstering Christian integration into national life. Netanyahu specifically emphasized that one of the aims of the new initiative would be to protect Christians who enlist and their supporters, after leaders of integration efforts found themselves threatened.
Nadaf has been outspoken in emphasizing that Israeli-Arabis “feel secure in Israel… as citizens with equal rights as well as equal responsibilities and obligations” and insisting that “most of the young Christians here view Israel as their country… part of this society in every sense of the word.”
The image of Israel painted by some anti-Israel Christian groups might – most charitably – be said to leave out these dynamics. Instead, per NGO Monitor, foreign-funded groups are invested in reestablishing a very old kind of accusation against Jews:
Yitzhak Santis, Chief Programs Officer and head of the BDS in the Pews project notes, “The growing role of churches, Christian aid societies, and faith-based NGOs in political campaigns against Israel is tragically eroding the historic reconciliation between Jews and Christians following the Holocaust. Through some of these NGO frameworks, classical anti-Jewish theologies are re-emerging, and that is extremely disturbing.”
The full range of tropes and tactics is nothing if not creative:
• Holiday Messages: Sabeel’s 2013 annual Christmas message makes a grossly generalized statement raising an age old canard accusing Jews of stinginess: “The appalling irony is that what the Jewish people longed for over the centuries when they were weak, they are unwilling to give to others now that they have become strong” and negatively compares this to Christianity: “In Christ, the evil of discrimination and bigotry is obliterated.”
• Sermons: The Kairos Palestine pamphlet with contributions from radical NGOs exploits traditional Christian sources, using religious figures and biblical stories as part of politicized messages.
• Carols: Adalah-NY activists sang from the “The Boycott Leviev Holiday Songbook – Why SHOP when you can help STOP Apartheid,” which includes altered versions of traditional holiday songs.
• Holiday Cards: The UK Palestinian Solidarity Campaign (PSC) is selling a Christmas card with Palestinian symbols, synthesized with classic Christmas imagery.
• BDS Campaigns: Friends of Sabeel-North America is running a campaign to “Send a Christmas Appeal to the SodaStream14,” encouraging major companies to discontinue sales from this Israel-based company.
The expropriation of Christmas messages via the injection of political warfare against Israel into Christian communities reflects the ongoing international campaign to delegitimize the Jewish state.
[Photo: israeltourism / Wiki Commons]