Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Christmas Eve in Bethlehem


Jerusalem. At around 9:00 am, the first fifty Israelis passed the military checkpoint and climbed over the dirt barricade. They were entering Bethlehem, which is considered “Area A” of the Palestinian territories and therefore out of bounds for Israeli citizens.

Determined to meet their Palestinian partners, these Israelis, members of Ta’ayush, Arab-Jewish Partnership, had decided to defy the law. Christmas Eve, they thought, was a suitable day for an act of civil disobedience.

In August, Ta’ayush members had attempted to walk from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, but, when they reached the checkpoint, they were brutally beaten by the Israeli police who used water cannons and clubs to disperse the crowd. On December 24, the activists entered in a roundabout way in order to ensure that this time around a solidarity meeting would indeed take place.

Bethlehem’s month-long curfew had been lifted the day before, but the city was in no mood to celebrate. Children had been locked up in their homes for weeks, parents had not gone to work, and access to medical facilities had been obstructed. Scores of residents had been imprisoned, houses had been demolished, and many streets and sidewalks had been turned to rubble due to tanks, armored vehicles and bulldozers.

As they made their way from the barricade to the Church of Nativity Square, the activists were shocked to see that Bethlehem, which had had a complete makeover just three years earlier, was in ruins.

The Square boasted no Christmas tree; there were no lights and no banners marking the sacred day. It was clear that this was not to be a joyous holiday.

At around noon, a second group of approximately 200 Israelis and fifty French citizens met at checkpoint 300, the major entrance to Bethlehem from Jerusalem.

Immediately after the Latin patriarch’s convoy passed through the checkpoint, at around 12:30 p.m., the Israelis marched forward and demanded that the Israeli military make way so that they could enter Bethlehem. They brought toys for the Palestinian children with them, a symbolic gesture meant to brighten just a tiny little bit the days of those who have lost their childhood. They also had a truckload of basic foodstuffs for the needy, knowing that over 60 percent of Palestinian families live on $2 a day.

Probably because the eyes of world were watching (scores of TV crews were covering the patriarch’s convoy), the police decided not to interfere and allowed the Ta’ayush members to cross the checkpoint. The protesters took out signs — “Happy Christmas? Without Oppression!”; “Peace, Security and Liberty For the two Peoples”; “Dismantle the Settlements and Make Peace” — and began marching the two kilometers to the Church of Nativity Square, chanting: “Down with the Occupation! Down with the Occupation!” in Arabic and Hebrew.

Residents of Bethlehem joined the marching crowd, and together they entered the square where they were met by hundreds of Palestinians as well as by the activists who had arrived earlier.

It was an electrifying moment.

In the midst of the bloody conflict and merely a day after the harsh curfew had been lifted, hundreds of Moslems, Jews, and Christians, Israelis, Palestinians and Internationals stood side-by-side demanding an end to the occupation.

The very existence of such a protest undermines the Israeli government’s claim that there is no partner with whom to negotiate, and demonstrated once again that the two peoples have a common cause.

All of the TV crews witnessed the event, and many of them even filmed it. Yet, while the Arab Al-Jazeera and Abu-Dabi stations broadcasted the demonstration throughout the day, CNN, BBC, Skynews and the like decided not to report about this precious moment of Jewish-Arab solidarity.

Most astonishing was the Israeli press, which made nothing of the protest, begging the question of why two hundred and fifty Israelis standing together with hundreds of Palestinians in the middle of Bethlehem — in an act of civil disobedience — was not considered newsworthy.

The answer is straightforward: the demonstration disrupts the picture the Israeli government and media have been attempting to paint over the past two years. If the protest had been covered, the Israeli viewer would have had to confront the fact that the occupied Palestinians are not the bloodthirsty terrorists they are frequently portrayed to be, that all they are demanding is an end to the occupation, and that Palestinians and Israelis can work together towards achieving this goal.

To be sure, such a picture would have probably created a dissonance among many Israelis who have been subjected to incessant propaganda and incitement against Palestinians. Nonetheless, it is precisely this type of dissonance that is most needed in Israel if we are to break the current bloody impasse: to show the public that a different, more humane and peaceful route is possible.

When the religious ceremonies ended, the Israeli government re-implemented the curfew, knowing that the TV crews had left the city and no one would document the return of the oppressive regime. In this cynical world, two days of freedom are apparently enough.

NEVE GORDON teaches politics at Ben-Gurion University, Israel, and is a contributor to The Other Israel: Voices of Refusal and Dissent. (New Press 2002). He can be reached at


Neve Gordon is the co-author (with Nicola Perugini) of the newly released The Human Right to Dominate.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Rob Urie
Name the Dangerous Candidate
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Neve Gordon
Israel’s Boycott Hypocrisy
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Victor Wallis
On the Stealing of U.S. Elections
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Stanley L. Cohen
Equality and Justice for All, It Seems, But Palestinians
Steve Early
In Bay Area Refinery Town: Berniecrats & Clintonites Clash Over Rent Control
Kristine Mattis
All Solutions are Inadequate: Why It Doesn’t Matter If Politicians Mention Climate Change
Peter Linebaugh
Ron Suny and the Marxist Commune: a Note
Andre Vltchek
Sudan, Africa and the Mosaic of Horrors
Keith Binkly
The Russians Have Been Hacking Us For Years, Why Is It a Crisis Now?
Jonathan Cook
Adam Curtis: Another Manager of Perceptions
Ted Dace
The Fall
Sheldon Richman
Come and See the Anarchy Inherent in the System
Susana Hurlich
Hurricane Matthew: an Overview of the Damages in Cuba
Dave Lindorff
Screwing With and Screwing the Elderly and Disabled
Chandra Muzaffar
Cuba: Rejecting Sanctions, Sending a Message
Dennis Kucinich
War or Peace?
Joseph Natoli
Seething Anger in the Post-2016 Election Season
Jack Rasmus
Behind The 3rd US Presidential Debate—What’s Coming in 2017
Ron Jacobs
A Theory of Despair?
Gilbert Mercier
Globalist Clinton: Clear and Present Danger to World Peace
James A Haught
Many Struggles Won Religious Freedom
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Dear Fellow Gen Xers: Let’s Step Aside for the Millennials
Uri Avnery
The Peres Funeral Ruckus
Tom Clifford
Duterte’s Gambit: the Philippines’s Pivot to China
Reyes Mata III
Scaling Camelot’s Walls: an Essay Regarding Donald Trump
Raouf Halaby
Away from the Fray: From Election Frenzy to an Interlude in Paradise
James McEnteer
Art of the Feel
David Yearsley
Trump and Hitchcock in the Age of Conspiracies
Charles R. Larson
Review: Sjón’s “Moonstone: the Boy Who Never Was”