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January 20, 2014 2:06 pm

Who is Abu Naji?

avatar by Dexter Van Zile

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Every year, starting in about November, Palestinian Christians and their allies in North America use the Christmas season as an opportunity to portray Israel as an oppressor nation that offends Christian sensibilities by mercilessly recreating the conditions that made life difficult for the Holy Family. Oftentimes they show pictures of Jesus, Mary and Joseph being denied entrance to the modern city of Bethlehem by Israel’s security barrier. I wrote about this propaganda technique in 2007, calling it the “Bethlehem Formula.”

NGO Monitor did a great job showing how anti-Israel Christian groups used the 2013 Christmas season to demonize Israel in a report titled “‘Tis the Seaon 2013: How Anti-Israel NGOs Manipulate Christmas.”

One of the documents NGO Monitor highlighted was a “Christmas Alert“ issued by Kairos Palestine, a Palestinian Christian organization that demonizes Israel.

One article in Kairos Palestine’s Christmas alert was written by Dr. Charlie Abou Saada an employee of World Vision. World Vision is a Christian organization that has used anti-Israel propaganda to raise money for its work in the Middle East.

Saada’s article, which appears on pages 26-28 of the Kairos Palestine’s alert, tells the story of a Palestinian from Beit Sahour by the name of Abu Naji who was arrested during the First Intifada. The article provides very little context  about Abu Naji’s arrest, stating merely that the “simple young man” was arrested by Israeli authorities even though his only crime “was standing up and speaking out against the Israeli occupation.” Saada reports that Naji ended up spending 10 years in Israeli jail and that during this time he was separated from a woman he loved. Her name was Lamees. Saada writes:

Lamees was a young lady from the same town who knew and loved Abu Naji for years. She was shocked by the news of Abu Naji’s arrest. “What should I do now, my Lord?” she prayed. Our amazing Lord gave her this answer: “Trust me, and keep Abu Naji in your heart.” And she was faithful to God and to Abu Naji.

Three months following Abu Naji’s arrest, Lamees, her mother and their priest went to visit Abu Naji. They were officially engaged in prison under the eyes of Abu Naji’s prison wardens and fellow prisoners. Lamees stood strong in her faith and continued to visit Abu Naji, modeling her life after the Bible verse, Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated. (Hebrews 13:3).

Lamees felt Satan was trying to weaken her faith and determination, and many times she was confused, but the Lord was always with her through His Holy Spirit and Lamees persevered with His love and the guidance and assistance of her parents and friends. The day that Abu Naji was released was the answer to all her prayers.

It is not easy these days to be faithful in our life, but our friends Lamees and Abu Naji are excellent examples to us and to our younger generation.

Saada then compares Abu Naji to St. Paul and states he is an example that everyone should follow.

It’s a sad story. How is it that the Israelis would put someone in jail for 10 years when their only crime was “standing up speaking out against the occupation”?

I wanted to learn more, so I reached out to World Vision and asked for more details about Abu Naji’s identity. I first contacted the organization on Jan. 3. The people at World Vision agreed to reach out to Dr. Saada, who works in World Vision’s Jerusalem office, to get more information. They got back to me on Jan. 17.

Unfortunately, they didn’t answer my question.

This is the response I got from Cynthia B. Colin a World Vision Spokesperson:

Charlie Abou Saada’s story seeks to share that God is love, and with those in difficult times. The article is meant to reflect on Abu Naji’s experience as a teenager, and reminds us that God is with all, be they Israeli, Palestinian, or anyone, who is suffering. The article seeks to remind us to remember those who are incarcerated, and to identify with their suffering, World Vision does not support violence of any kind and is committed to the security of Israeli and Palestinian people. As a Christian organization, our primary focus in this region is on the health, safety, and well-being of Palestinian and Israeli children.

What a cryptic response! The fact that World Vision does not support violence is all well and good. But we are still left with the same questions we had before: Who is Abu Naji? What did he really do to merit having to spend a decade in an Israeli jail? Is he as innocent as Dr. Saada portrays him as being, or is he offering another bit of propaganda that we’ve come to expect from Christian charities that work in the Holy Land?

Why can’t World Vision tell us the whole story?

Inquiring minds want to know!

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

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