As he does every year, the mayor of Bethlehem, Victor Batarseh, invited the international press and any Christian pilgrims in the Holy Land to attend the lighting of the massive Christmas tree in Manger Square, the traditional location of Jesus’ birth.
And, as he does every year, Batarseh delivered a speech purportedly calling for that most sought after Christmas gift of “peace on earth, good will toward men.” Except his Christmas wish did not extend to all men.
Ignoring the tremendous rise in tourism Bethlehem has experienced of late (1.4 million pilgrims visited the town this year), Batarseh complained that Israel’s security fence “has cut the 2,000-year-old relation between Bethlehem and its twin city Jerusalem.”
The mayor sidestepped the fact that 10 years ago, that security barrier did not exist, and people flowed freely across the line dividing Israeli-controlled Jerusalem and Palestinian-controlled Bethlehem. The barrier was only built because terrorist attacks emanating from Bethlehem and other Palestinian towns reached such critical levels.
But Batarseh did not let the facts get in the way of his concluding the Christmas “peace” message by calling for an international boycott of Israel.