Christmas in Occupied Bethlehem: Free Palestine in 2008
"Kim B", Window Into Palestine
Please feel free to distribute.. ..
21 December, 2007
Dear comrades, friends and supporters,
The festive season is once again upon us and many of us will be spending time with our loved ones and friends. For many of us, this is a time of reflection and celebration. For those of us who are religious, Christmas is a time to remember the birth of Christ and to celebrate; for those who are not so religious but come from a Christian background, we have been taught that this time of year is a time of joy, celebration of family and renewed hope for our loved ones and people around the world.
During this time, many of us in Australia (whether we are religious or not so religious) will sing songs of joy remembering a little town called Bethlehem on the other side of the world. For many of us, our image of Bethlehem is a peaceful little rural/pastoral village, awash with Shepard's and sheep. The Bethlehem that we know and imagine is the one we see on the front of Christmas cards or the one we read about in the bible or heard about at church services. Today, however, the real Bethlehem is very different. While it is a town of incredible beauty, it is also a city under siege and occupation.
Bethlehem, the traditional birthplace of Christ, is also part of Occupied Palestine.
As part of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the residents of Bethlehem – both Christian and Muslim – suffer each day under the brutal and illegal Israeli occupation. In Bethlehem, the town of the Christ's birth, there is no freedom of movement, there are checkpoints and curfews and there are constant invasions by the Israeli military.
Gilo Checkpoint – Bethlehem
In this beautiful city, the Palestinian residents, like their brothers and sisters in the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories suffer home invasions and home demolitions, leaving families without shelter or comfort. The residents of Bethlehem –whether Christian or Muslim – like their brothers and sisters in the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territories in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza – are subject to arbitrary arrest and detention without charge or trail. Their brothers, sisters, son and daughters, teenagers and young men and women, their fathers and mothers are taken in the dead of night (and often in broad daylight) to Israeli prisons, where they are interrogated and are often tortured.
Throughout this beautiful city, there is razor wire, steel cages, Israeli occupation soldiers and an ugly concrete apartheid wall, 8 metres high (28 feet) – three times the height of the Berlin Wall, topped with watchtowers and snipers nests - dividing families and communities, stealing land and water resources. The illegal wall, now three quarters build, cuts Bethlehem residents off from 70% of their land.
In Beit Sahour, where Shepard's Field is located (the place traditionally attributed with where the angel's announced to the Shepard's the birth of the Christ) thousands of dunams of Palestinian agricultural land has been confiscated and stolen. On some of this land, the Apartheid Wall has been built, the rest of it has been annexed to become part of the illegal Israeli settlements that surround Bethlehem. In the last few weeks, despite all the pomp and ceremony of the Annapolis conference, Israel announced that it would expand the illegal settlement around Bethlehem, such as Har Homa, further.
In the rest of the West Bank and Occupied East Jerusalem, Israel continues to also demolish homes, steal and annex land, carry out mass arrests, restrict freedom of movement, impose curfews and carryout home invasions. In the first two weeks of December alone, more than 30 Palestinian were killed by Israeli occupation forces, while another 34 were injured. Israeli occupation forces also arrested 84 Palestinian civilians, including 5 children, razed 155 dunams of Palestinian agricultural land, invaded and terrorized 41 Palestinian communities in the West Bank and carried out several invasions in the Gaza.
In Gaza, Israel has imposed a total siege, illegally carrying out collective punishment against 1.4 million Palestinian civilians, cutting of their electricity, gas and water supplies.
As a result of the Israel blockade, which has been sanctioned by the US and Europe, Palestinian hospitals are reporting zero stock availability for 90 drugs, including pediatric drugs and anti-biotics, as well as shortages of chronic disease drugs, cancer treatment drugs and kidney dialysis drugs and IV glucose solution. More than 15 patients have died at the Gaza borders due the refusal of Israeli security forces to allow them to access medical treatment in the West Bank, Egypt, Jordan or Israel. Doctors have warned of a looming epidemics of typhoid and hepatitis.
Fuel, which is needed for just about everything, including cooking, running hospitals, schools, purifying, sterilizing and pumping water, running garbage collection trucks, ambulances and ordinary vehicles is increasingly expensive and scarce. 80,00 workers are now jobless, their families going hungry, due to the Israeli blockade which has forced the closure of hundreds of factories in the wood, clothing, food, construction and agricultural industries.
In this season of joy and goodwill to our fellow human beings, please remember the struggle of Palestinian people for human rights, freedom and justice in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
In 2008, please consider how you can join the campaign for a free Palestine:
It can be as simple as writing letters to your local paper or your local poltical representative in support of the Palestinian people's right to justice and freedom and/or joining a Palestine solidarity group in your town/city and/or making a donation to aid the Palestinian people under siege in Gaza.
It could also include considering joining the international struggle by coming to Palestine as part of one of the solidarity organisations based or working in solidarity with the Palestinian people in the Occupied Territories (or make a donation to assist their work).
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