PRESS RELEASE: BDS South Africa sends Merry Christmas wishes and stands in solidarity with Palestinian Christians barred by Israel from Bethlehem. 
25 December 2014

Human rights and Palestine solidarity organisation Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) South Africa wishes Christians everywhere a joyous and merry Christmas. Today, Christians around the world are remembering the Holy towns of Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Would Joseph and Mary have been able to reach the Holy town of Bethlehem if they were making that same journey today? How would that carpenter (Joseph) and his pregnant wife (Mary) have circumvented the Kafka­esque network of illegal Israeli settlements, roadblocks, checkpoints, the 8 meter high Apartheid Wall and closed military zones in the occupied Palestinian West Bank where the holy town of Bethlehem is located? Would Mary have had to experience labour or childbirth at an Israeli checkpoint, as one in ten pregnant Palestinian women did between 2000 and 2007 (resulting in the death of at least 35 new-born babies, according to the world’s oldest and best known medical journal, the Lancet Journal)?

Around 50 000 Palestinian Christians live in the Occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Severe restrictions have been placed on their movements during this period with just 500 Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip granted permits to visit Bethlehem which falls within the Illegally Occupied Palestinian Territories.
On Tuesday this week, Israeli soldiers attacked a peaceful demonstration by protesters in Bethlehem, festively dressed as Santa Claus. Soldiers fired tear gas at the “Santa Claus” demonstration, breaking up festivities with brute force.

As we pray and celebrate the birth of Christ we pray for the Palestinian Christians who cannot visit the Holy town of Bethlehem this year because Israeli soldiers are blocking their route through a series of checkpoint and other obstacles.

As we pray and celebrate the birth of Christ, we pray and remember the children who have been killed in schools by Israeli soldiers - like those Palestinian children killed by Israel while seeking shelter in a UN school  in Gaza earlier this year. Let us remember the Palestinian children detained by Israeli soldiers. Let us remember the Palestinian farmer whose land has been split in two by the building of Israel's Apartheid wall.

As we pray and celebrate the birth of Christ, we also continue to pray that all the Israeli supporters who are currently turning a blind eye to the oppression of the Palestinian people return to their senses.

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