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The other Bethlehem story

The Palestinians of Bethlehem, which according to the Gospels is the birthplace of Jesus of Nazareth, have waited and struggled a long time for their freedom. Rulers down the ages have included the Romans, Persians, Crusaders, Ottomans, Egyptians, British, Jordanians and, to date, the Israelis who captured the town in 1967.

The Israelis have built a wall which runs along on the northern side of the town’s built-up area and getting to nearby Jerusalem means obtaining a permit and passing through Israeli checkpoints. Not surprisingly, the numbers of Christians who are able to visit the Church of the Nativity at Christmas have plummeted.

How many more Christmases will the Palestinians of Bethlehem – who include one of the oldest Christian communities in the Middle East – have to endure occupation? The recent negotiations in the US between Israel and the Palestinian Authority ended without progress. That was inevitable. A large section of the Palestinians, the Gazans, were not even represented at the talks as their elected Hamas leadership is deemed unacceptable to Washington, which props up the Israeli regime with guns and funds.

The territories captured by Israel in 1967 are now so riddled with settlements, roads, checkpoints and the infamous wall, that drawing the boundaries of an integrated Palestinian state is simply an impossible task. In other words, a two-state “solution” is now history. Increasing numbers of Palestinians and Israelis now see that a single, secular state, that would embrace all the people in the area, is the only practical way forward. A One State Declaration was issued recently following conferences in Madrid and London. Endorsed by both Palestinians and Israelis, as well as by people from around the world, it says:

The more support this statement of principles gathers, the greater are the prospects that the Palestinians of Bethlehem and other towns and villages under occupation will win their freedom.

Paul Feldman
AWTW communications editor
21 December 2007

Our next blog will be published on December 31. Seasonal greetings to all our readers.

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