‘Bethlehem Unwrapped’ Festival Supports Extremists and Terror Advocates
St James Church in Piccadilly has built an enormous 26-foot replica of Israel’s security barrier as part of a twelve day festival organized by a coalition of groups called “Bethlehem Unwrapped”. The festival is apparently “inspired by…Palestinian determination peacefully and creatively to resist justice.”
Further excuses published on the Bethlehem Unwrapped website sermonize on the harmful symbolism of walls along with platitudes about peace and love. One particularly Pecksniffian quote from one of the festival organizers tells us: “We have to not only understand those people who are oppressing us, but try to walk in their shoes, and ultimately to really engage with what it means to love our enemies.”
The author of that quote is Sami Awad, Director of the Holy Land Trust. It is in fact this charity to which “proceeds of the Bethlehem Unwrapped festival will be donated.”
Awad claims to support “nonviolent resistance”. He does not believe, however, that “nonviolent resistance” is an exclusive tool, and support for such methods does not prelude the possibility of killing:
“This is not a substitute for the armed struggle. This is not a method for normalization with the occupation. Our goal is to revive the popular resistance until every person is involved in dismantling the occupation.”
In January 2011, Awad and his Holy Land Trust hosted Atallah Hanna, a Greek Orthodox Archbishop. Awad described Hanna as “inspiring”. According to Christianity Today, Atallah Hanna has expressed support for suicide bombings:
“As you know, political parties in Palestine agree to the continuation of the intifada, which includes different approaches of struggle. Some freedom fighters adopt martyrdom or suicide bombing, while others opt for other measures. But all these struggles serve the continued intifada for freedom. Therefore, we support all these causes.[…]
We are part of the intifada, so you don’t expect us to keep distance and watch. We are in the struggle, whether it’s martyrdom or any other means, we are part of it.”
Furthermore, both Sami Awad and Atallah Hanna have voiced their support for Raed Saleh, an Islamist preacher who has claimed that 4000 Jews skipped work at the World Trade Centre on 9/11, those who killed the “Martyr, Sheikh Osama Bin Laden” had “sold their consciences to Satan”, and that the honour killings of girls is acceptable.
Bethlehem Unwrapped is supported by War on Want, a leading British charity which claims to fight poverty and injustice. War on Want helped to organize, however, a a series of events with extremist speaker Bongani Masuku to speak at a number of British Universities. The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) had found Masuku to have wilfully incited violence between different student groups on campus.
Moreover, War on Want’s Director, John Hilary, has blamed Jews for criticizing War on Want, claiming that investigations into War on Want’s activities were “part of an ongoing strategy by an organised pro-Israeli lobby and the Jewish press.” In the past, Hilary has been happy to work with the Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC), an extremist Islamist group that was condemned by both the National Union of Students and a Parliamentary committee for publishing anti-Semitic materials. The founder of MPAC, Asghar Bukhari, notoriously provided financial support to the Holocaust denier David Irving.
Bethlehem Unwrapped was partly funded by Interpal, a British charity linked to the Palestinian terror group, Hamas. Bethlehem Unwrapped lists Interpal as a key supporter of the festival.
Interpal was an inaugural member of the Union of Good, a coalition of charities that manages the financial support required by Hamas for its terrorist activities. These links have been comprehensively detailed before. Recent Palestinian news footage shows Interpal’s primary trustee, Essam Mustafa, arriving at a press conference in Hamas-controlled Gaza in the same vehicle as Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.
Interpal’s other trustee, Ibrahim Hewitt, has referred to the “so-called Holocaust”. In a pamphlet written by Hewitt, titled ‘What Does Islam Say’, he advocated the killing of apostates and adulterers, and demanded that homosexuals suffer “severe punishments” for their “great sin.”
The Bethlehem Unwrapped replica wall has not managed to bring people together, but rather has falsely legitimised the extremism of the Holy Land Trust and the terror links of Interpal as cheerleaders of progress and as harbingers of peace.