Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Imprisoned by a Web of Misinformation

July 4, 2012 12:22 pm 6 comments

Security barrier in Bethlehem. Photo: wiki commons.

The security barrier does not completely surround Bethlehem.

The security barrier does not completely surround Bethlehem.

The security barrier does not completely surround Bethlehem.

The security barrier does not completely surround Bethlehem.

The security barrier does not completely surround Bethlehem.

Forgive the repetition, but in the course of my work at the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), I have uncovered a rat’s nest of misinformation. A small group of Palestinian Christians and the institutions they lead have been repeating a falsehood about the security barrier so often that I’ve found it necessary to repeat the truth just to keep the lie at bay.

Here’s the background: Palestinian Christians have been a significant source of anti-Israel propaganda for many years. One of the messages they’ve offered is that Bethlehem, the town where Jesus was born, is an open-air prison.

In order to make this assessment sound credible, they regularly say the security barrier “completely surrounds” the city. Like I said before, the barrier does not “completely surround” the city. It passes by its northern and western sides and does not go anywhere near its southern and eastern sides. This is common knowledge to anyone who lives in the West Bank.

But if you ask prominent Palestinian Christian leaders who live in Bethlehem about the barrier, there is a good chance you will be told that the barrier “completely surrounds” the city.

In a fundraising video for the Bethlehem Bible College produced in 2007 and 2008, college president Bishara Awad said “The Israelis built a wall around us and this wall goes all around Bethlehem.”

Bishara’s son Sami Awad, founder and director of Holy Land Trust, a self-described “peacemaking” organization headquartered in Bethlehem, offered this same falsehood when he spoke to an audience of Evangelical pastors in Galveston, Texas in 2009: “Bethlehem now is completely surrounded actually by walls and fences.”

The same falsehood showed up in another fundraising video, this one produced by the Diyar Consortium, a Lutheran organization that provides social services to people living in the West Bank. In the video, released earlier this year, Diyar says Bethlehem is “encircled by an eight-meter high concrete wall. This apartheid wall as many have come to call it, has turned Bethlehem into a walled ghetto … imprisoning its population.”

And in a recent letter to his supporters in the U.S., Victor Makari, a former staffer with the Presbyterian Church (USA) who now works for Diyar, wrote of “a 25-ft-high concrete wall that has surrounded the West Bank and enclosed Bethlehem for 10 years now.”

Here, Makari has offered three falsehoods. First Makari fails to acknowledge that much of the barrier is not a “wall” but is, in fact, a security fence. And to make matters worse, he falsely reports that the barrier surrounds “both the West Bank and the city of Bethlehem.” Neither of these assertions is true.

Palestinian Christians are not the only people who traffic in this falsehood.

In 2009, Lutheran Bishop Margaret Payne told an interviewer on a radio show in Washington, D.C., that the security barrier “completely surrounds” Bethlehem. When CAMERA contacted her about the error, she refused to offer a retraction. More recently, the CBS news show “60 Minutes” reported the same falsehood and has refused to correct the error.

Why do Christians in Bethlehem keep telling the world falsehoods about the security barrier? It’s not as if they don’t know the truth about the barrier’s actual route. They live in the city!

Until the Christian “peacemakers” who repeat this falsehood come to grips with the barrier’s actual route and with the violence that prompted its construction, they will remain imprisoned in a web of misinformation of their own making.

So once more, this time with feeling.

The security barrier does not completely surround Bethlehem.

Dexter Van Zile is Christian Media Analyst for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.

6 Comments

  • Another reason why Palestinian Christians feel encircled by the separation barrier, even if the reality is that it does not cover the eastern and southern sides, is that it has a massive economic impact on the city, cutting it off from its agricultural lands, as this UN report out this week confirms.

  • God is he (John 8:24) *Matthew 2:2 Saying, Where is he that was born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. (Satan is him, reading Numbers 24:17). Esau hid himself as art thou, thou art, reading in Matthew 2:6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of three shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. (The tribe of Juda, is the Lord Hebrews 7:14) equals Esau an elder, even Cain’s lineage they cannot read the Bible (Revelation 5:5)

  • Jeremy:

    Thanks for the response. Now how do you explain HLT giving Hamas training in non-violence. Is that reasonable given your understanding of the organization? For more information, go here: http://www.newenglishreview.org/custpage.cfm/frm/117818/sec_id/117818

  • I agree with Dexter that statements about the separation barrier encircling Bethlehem are simply not true. I think the reason why the statement is constantly repeated is because the separation barrier has become synonymous in Palestinian minds with occupation and settlements, and what IS undeniably true, as evidenced by this recent map, is that illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank are gradually encircling Bethlehem. It would be a pity if Palestinian Christian hyperbole about the separation barrier were to distract us from the more insidious problem of settlements, which continue to be built and expanded in the West Bank in violation of international law.

  • Esther Sarah Evans

    b”H
    Those who do not retract their lies about the barrier, their lies about us and what we have done for protection only are quite openly at war with us.

    It was high time for the content of this article to be said, and it should be publicized in all honest media (if there are such things) all over the world.

  • Esther Sarah Evans

    b”H
    Those who do not retract their lies about the barrier, their lies about us and what we have done for protection only are quite openly at war with us.

    It was high time for the content of this article to be said, and it should be publicized in all honest media (if there are such things) all over the world.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Features Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    JNS.org – Aside from Israel itself, those with a vested interest in the Jewish state are accustomed to tracking developments related to Middle East players such as Iran, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. But much global attention has recently focused on the Caucasus region at the Europe-Asia border, specifically on the suddenly intensified violence between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh area of western Azerbaijan. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, while not taking place in Israel’s immediate neighborhood, does have what one scholar called […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    JNS.org – On Friday, April 22, 196 nations across the world mark Earth Day, the annual day dedicated to environmental protection that was enacted in 1970. Not to be forgotten on this day is Israel, which is known as the “start-up nation” for its disproportionate amount of technological innovation, including in the area of protecting the environment. For Earth Day 2016, JNS.org presents a sampling of the Jewish state’s internal achievements and global contributions in the environmental realm. Water conservation Israeli […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture World New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    Holocaust humor and the role that laughter played in the lives of Jews during World War II are the focus of a documentary that made its world premiere on Monday at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. In The Last Laugh, first- and second-generation survivors, as well as famous Jewish and non-Jewish comedians, discuss their thoughts on when joking about the death camps is appropriate or taboo. “Nazi humor, that’s OK. Holocaust humor, no,” Jewish comedic giant, actor and filmmaker Mel Brooks says in the film. “Anything I […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    JNS.org – Sherri Mandell’s life was devastated on May 8, 2001, when her 13-year-old son Koby was murdered by terrorists on the outskirts of the Israeli Jewish community of Tekoa. Yet Mandell not only shares the story of her loss, but also celebrates the lessons she has learned from tragedy. Indeed, “celebrate” is this Israeli-American author’s word choice. Her second book, The Road to Resilience: From Chaos to Celebration (Toby Press), came out earlier this year. The lesson: in every celebration, there is […]

    Read more →
  • Features Opinion For Alan Gross, Cuban Prison Didn’t Harden His Heart or Weaken His Ambition

    For Alan Gross, Cuban Prison Didn’t Harden His Heart or Weaken His Ambition

    JNS.org – Alan Gross used to be nothing more to me than a tragic headline. When I started my position at this news service in July 2011, Gross had been imprisoned in Cuba since December 2009 for what that country called “crimes against the state.” Gross, a subcontractor for the United States Agency for International Development, went to Cuba to help the Jewish community there access the Internet. After his arrest, he received a trial he describes as a “B movie,” […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Features New Movie Shows How Global Economic Instability Grew From Very Local Greed

    New Movie Shows How Global Economic Instability Grew From Very Local Greed

    JNS.org – When I saw the recent Academy Award-winning film “The Big Short,” I was struck by the sheer genius of the financiers who devised the schemes and packaged the loans for resale, but it left me with unanswered questions about how the properties these loans represented were moved. “The Big Short” was largely about paper transactions, big money, and wealthy investors, and it mildly touched on the way the actual end-users — the home buyers and brokers — played into this […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews Psychiatry and the Spirit

    Psychiatry and the Spirit

    Why do we think so negatively about psychiatrists that we still insult them by calling them shrinks? Some medics might be quacks, but we don’t generally refer to them as witches! Shrinks; The Untold Story of Psychiatry, by Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, is a sobering account of how psychiatry has swung from a marginal, unscientific mixture of weird theories into one of the most common and pervasive forms of treatment of what are commonly called “disorders of the mind.” Is it […]

    Read more →
  • Features Opinion At Forbes Summit in Israel, Entrepreneurship Is a ‘Common Language’

    At Forbes Summit in Israel, Entrepreneurship Is a ‘Common Language’

    JNS.org – Nine months ago, Seth Cohen, director of network initiatives for the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, and Randall Lane, editor of Forbes Magazine, were schmoozing about the “vibrancy of Tel Aviv and soul of Jerusalem,” as Lane put it. They dreamed about how they could bring young and innovative millennials to the so-called “start-up nation.” From April 3-7, Forbes turned that dream into a reality. Israel played host to the first-ever Forbes Under 30 EMEA (Europe, the Middle East, and Africa) […]

    Read more →