Conservative Christians remain silent about suffering Bethlehem

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Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Pierbattista Pizzaballa greets young Palestinians as he arrives in the Israeli-occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem, on December 24, 2018. The banner reads in Arabic reads: Occupation does not differentiate between Christians and Muslims. (photo: Hazem Bader / AFP / Getty Images)
Powerful conservative Christian groups overlook the plight of Palestinian Christians to avoid criticizing Israel.

By James Zogby |  Common Dreams |  Dec 21, 2020

To most in the West, Palestinian Christians are simply invisible. To conservative Christians, they are at best a nuisance who stand in the way of their unquestioning ideological attachment to Israel.

As we enter the final week before Christmas, my thoughts turn to Bethlehem, its struggling people, and the shocking disregard for them displayed by many Christians in the West. This is not to say that that these same Christians don’t love Bethlehem. But the city they love is the one of the story that’s 2,000 years old.

In that story, we are told of how Mary and Joseph, living under Roman occupation, were required to travel to Bethlehem to enroll in a mandatory census. Because the town had become overcrowded, Mary and Joseph could not find housing and were forced to stay in a cave where Mary gave birth to Jesus.

The story has been romanticized in song and poetry that have come to define our understanding of that “quiet little town,” the manger where Jesus was placed, the angels, shepherds, and “wise men from the East” who came to praise the birth and bring gifts to the newborn.

In all of this, the reality of contemporary Bethlehem is ignored, as is suffering of its people. Today, Bethlehem is surrounded by dozens of Israeli settlements, many built on land confiscated from Bethlehemites. It is cut off from much of the West Bank by two Israeli bypass roads and a massive concrete wall. And just this month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced plans to advance a new settlement that, when built, will completely sever Bethlehem from nearby Jerusalem.

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