Sunday, December 10, 2023

Jesus Buried Under Rubble in Bethlehem - By Finian Cunningham

 All the Christian Churches in Bethlehem will not be celebrating Christmas in the usual way this year. There will be religious services and prayers but there will be no festivities and lights.

Amen to that!

The prevailing atmosphere is one of mourning and solidarity with the people of Gaza and the West Bank who are suffering genocidal violence from the Western-backed Israeli state.

Bethlehem is the historic birthplace of Jesus whom Christians believe is the Son of God. Nearly 2,000 years ago, Christians believe the “savior of the world” was born in poverty and in a humble stable in Bethlehem, a town in what is now the Occupied Palestinian West Bank territory.

Instead of the Roman Empire, we now have the U.S. and its American-armed Israeli garrison.

Every year there are usually magnificent celebrations to commemorate Christmas in Bethlehem, with a splendid lit-up giant Christmas tree aloft in the town square, along with fireworks and droves of pilgrims from all over the world.

This year, however, there will be no visitors from overseas as the West Bank and Gaza, the other Palestinian territory, are submerged in shockingly brutal military violence meted out with impunity by the Israeli state, armed to the teeth by an indulgent Washington.

The Israeli onslaught against defenseless civilians is declared by the scowl-faced Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and endorsed by Western governments, to be retaliation for a deadly attack by the militant group Hamas on October 7.

In reality, for many other observers, it is a heinous opportunistic ramping up of genocide to wipe Palestine and Palestinians off the map. The Israelis have admitted that objective. The slow-motion genocide of Palestinians that has going on for decades with American and European acquiescence (under the guise of a peace process and delivering humanitarian aid) is now hideously sped up. There is no pretence now. And it is shocking how blatant and brazen it is with no objection from the Western governments. Every day the slaughter is televised as if it were normal or excusable.

For more than 60 days, the Israeli forces have been bombarding Gaza and systematically killing Palestinians in the West Bank. The death toll has surpassed 16,000 with over 40,000 casualties. Most of the victims are children and women, with many thousands missing, buried under rubble from indiscriminate Israeli air strikes.

Over 80 per cent of the 2.2 million population in Gaza has been displaced by Israeli bombardment. Nowhere is safe in the tiny coastal enclave. Hospitals, schools, mosques, churches and United Nations-run refugee camps have been attacked.

The Biden administration’s valorizing of Israel for creating so-called safe zones is a cynical and nauseating cover for mass murder. The U.S., the European Union and Western media are all complicit in this evil charade. The daily genocide by Israel without any genuine, meaningful practical objection from the Western powers and their lapdog media is an abomination. Far from objecting, the U.S. is arming Israel with bunker-buster heavy bombs to destroy Gaza and all who live there. Washington politicians are cheering on the bloodbath.

Given the appalling war crimes and barbarous inhumanity shown by the Israeli regime, it is only right – absolutely right – that Christmas events in Bethlehem are not displaying the normal celebrations. This year, more than ever, to be a Christian means bearing witness to the slaughter of innocents and taking a stand in solidarity.

Will that give American and European so-called Christians pause for thought? The birthplace of Christ for Christ’s sake! Can it be any more contradictory?

All the Churches in Bethlehem have joined hands in solidarity with the suffering people in the Holy Land, including the Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian Church.

Greek Patriarch in Bethlehem Father Issa Musleh explained: “This year is going to be totally different. There won’t be any lights, we will not have the Christmas tree, we will be mourning those who have been slaughtered in Gaza. There is a deep atmosphere of grief here. All the Churches have decided to only have religious services for Christmas”.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bethlehem led by Pastor Munther Ishaq is replacing its normal nativity scene of the infant Jesus in a stable with a child buried under concrete rubble. It is a powerful re-enactment of the first Christmas to reflect the vile circumstances of today in Palestine.

For Christians, this depiction of Jesus under rubble in today’s Palestinian Holy Land should be perfectly consistent with the original event, not merely a modern trendy revisionism.

Pastor Ishaq said: “It is impossible to celebrate Christmas this year when our people in Gaza are going through a genocide… We wanted to send a message to the world. A message that while the whole world is celebrating Christmas in festive ways, this is what Christmas looks like to us.”

The pastor added: “Christmas is the solidarity of God with those who are oppressed, with those who are suffering. And if Jesus is to be born again this year, he will be born under the rubble in Gaza in solidarity with those who are suffering.”

This is a tremendous revelation of what it means to be a Christian today. Are we to be on the side of the oppressed or the oppressor?

The supposed great temporal powers of the United States and its Western allies are evidently siding with the oppressor Israeli state. They have always taken that side. The United States, Britain and the colonial powers set up the Zionist state in 1948 through chicanery and treachery in complete violation of the indigenous people of the Holy Land. They have sponsored 75 years of brutal oppression, state terrorism and relentless dispossession. These same powers continue to do so even while Israel is committing genocide in full view of the world.

U.S. President Joe Biden and his Western lackeys are enabling genocide while covering up their complicity with cynical words about Israel needing to exercise restraint in murdering civilians.

Arguably, anyone who does not understand Christmas in the way that the Palestinians do is not worthy to call themselves a Christian.

Those Americans and Europeans especially those who side with Zionist Israel’s so-called right to self-defence because of some twisted fundamentalist belief in God are particularly condemnable. They are a perversion of the Christian faith.

The whole world needs to commemorate Christmas with a radical difference this year. The birth of Jesus should always be a revolutionary event to commemorate. Every year, it should be centred on solidarity with people of the world who are oppressed and exploited, downtrodden and dispossessed. It’s not always clear, however, who are the righteous victims in this world and whose side God would be on. This year, it is absolutely clear and shockingly so.

Biden, Netanyahu and all Western enablers are the anti-Christ and Herod figures of today who 2,000 years ago massacred infants in an attempt to kill the Son of God.

They are the enemy of humankind in our present time of history. If there is any hope possibly coming out of the horror of Gaza and the rest of Palestine today it is the revelation to the world of just who and what (their imperialist system) are the enemies of humanity. That truth is truth to set humanity free.

The views of individual contributors do not necessarily represent those of the Strategic Culture Foundation.