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December 26, 2022 11:31 am
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The Hijacking of Christmas in the Holy Land: Inside the Infamous Palestinian Santa Stunts

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avatar by Rachel O'Donoghue

Opinion

Palestinian women wearing face veil, niqab, make Santa-themed Christmas toys in the northern Gaza Strip December 29, 2019. Picture taken December 29, 2019. Photo: REUTERS/Mohammed Salem.

His image is based on Saint Nicholas, the 4th century Christian who devoted his life to giving generously to the poor. Therefore, Santa Claus — or Father Christmas — is perhaps one of the most recognizable symbols of Christianity and Christmas.

In the West Bank, however — where the number of Christians has precipitously declined in recent years following a campaign waged against them by Palestinian Muslims — the iconic representation of Santa Claus with his white beard and red suit has been expropriated for another purpose.

While most people dress as Santa to delight children who believe he sneaks into their homes and delivers presents on Christmas Eve, Palestinians have been known to imitate the iconic figure to wage a propaganda battle against Israel.

Nearly every December, Palestinians dressed as Santa Claus join clashes with the Israeli military, as part of violent organized demonstrations that are virtually guaranteed to garner international media coverage.

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In 2015, for example, the Santas were present when border officers were attacked near the West Bank town of Bethlehem, which is believed to be the birthplace of Jesus, as rocks and other projectiles were thrown before the riot was dispersed using tear gas.

The following year, there were similar scenes as more than 100 Palestinians fought with Israeli riot police.

While the media has invariably characterized the Santa protests as against the “Israeli occupation,” and spearheaded by Palestinian Christians, this could not be further from the truth.

Less circulated images tell a different story.

In these pictures, Palestinian Santas can be seen crouched alongside young men wearing red keffiyehs to hide their identities, and helping load bags of rocks onto slingshots to fire at security forces.

Such photographs reveal the demonstrations for what they are actually doing: hijacking a Christian symbol to garner headlines that baselessly suggest the Jewish state is targeting Christians.

As most of our readers will know, Israel guarantees religious freedom to all inhabitants, and the number of Christians living in Israel proper — that is, under an Israeli government — has actually grown over the years, compared to the dwindling numbers in the West Bank and in Gaza under Hamas.

The Palestinian Authority (PA), which is behind the vicious persecution of Christians, has even published crass cartoons of Santa to take aim at Israel, including one in which Israeli soldiers are seen after shooting Santa. Published in 2017 in the official daily newspaper of the PA, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, the caption alongside the illustration read: “He tried to carry out a stabbing operation.”

In addition to being offensive to Christians, the cartoon also appeared to be a way for the PA to mock Israel over terror attacks, which it encourages Palestinians to perpetrate.

Under the PA’s so-called “pay-for-slay” policy, monetary rewards are given for successful terror attacks, with the amount increasing according to the bloody carnage caused.

In another cartoon, which was published just two days before a Palestinian woman attempted to stab a soldier, Israeli guards with Stars of David on their helmets are shown frisking a Santa and planting a knife on him.

The co-opting of Christian imagery by Palestinians to attack Israel is worrying. More disturbing though is an international media that allows itself to be manipulated by eye-catching images of dozens of Palestinians dressed as Santa, uncritically publishing these photographs to spread a false narrative.

The author is a contributor to HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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