Sharon Klaff

St. James unwrapped

The Christmas season celebrated in December at the St James Church in London Piccadilly was remarkable for its unique approach to the Christian season of Goodwill this last Christmas. Instead of the usual nativity scene most churches in the UK might choose to celebrate the birth of their Savior Jesus, the Vicar of St James, Lucy Winkett, decided this was a good opportunity to stand out. After eight months of planning, a faux wall was erected cross the court yard at the front of the church depicting they say how the security barrier in Israel surrounds Bethlehem. Alongside this construction events were organized by way of celebrating what Lucy Winkett termed “the beautiful resistance” that included a night of unfunny Israel bashing comedians, a dinner prepared by the Israeli chef Yotam Ottelenghi and his Arab Palestinian partner, a debate Both sides of the barrier and a concert.

Before we could get into the place, even with a pre-purchased ticket, is another story of check points and barriers. Not only were there three, yes the number grew by the day, professional security guards, plus monitors at the gate, but this time the entire wall was taped off and the attendees routed around the periphery, far from the wall, lest anyone dared to produce a pot of red paint and replace the now erased message THIS WALL SAVES LIVES!

St James Church Piccadilly London – Faux Wall photo by Sharon Klaff

Standing in line and chatting to a young monitor I heard the usual claptrap of what about the green line, occupation, the wall dividing the people of Bethlehem etc etc.First, the scene is set by Leila Sansour, born Moscow 1966 of Catholic parents, arrived in Bethlehem 1972. Describing Bethlehem “as the oldest continuously populated city in the world” (Jericho probably predates that, but never mind) that has “remained there for thousands and thousands of years” with a largely Christian population and “always a Muslim community from the time that Islam appeared in the region,” she was strangely silent about exactly how those Muslims arrived there. She was schtum too about the existence of the 12 Jewish tribes in the region all those thousands of years ago and in particular, the Israelite and Judean period, confirmed archeologically as recently as 2012, at the City of David, when a bulla (seal impression in dried clay) was found with ancient Hebrew script that reads “From the town of Bethlehem to the King,”; of Bethlehem mentioned in the Bible as Bet Lahem Judah. Not an utterance that it is the site where Samuel anointed King David. Total silence about the abundance of texts rich with evidence of a full Jewish community and life in that region now known as Bethlehem; of Rachel and Ruth and Naomi; of why after 1948 Bethlehem was largely void of Jews, despite the siting of Rachel’s Tomb at its entrance.

And as she doesn’t mention that, then she doesn’t have to mention why Rachel’s tomb is walled in by a bunker type structure, the original wall of Bethlehem having been built well before Christianity took hold of the region, and rebuilt in 529CE with Bethlehem further fortressed in 1099 by the Crusaders. It seems beyond belief that the Christians of St James somehow have overlooked who exactly fortressed Bethlehem as occupiers of the ancient City of David, King of the Jews. Buying instead into this replacement theory expounded by Sansour and the rest of the team involved in this racist endeavour, they install this faux wall, as though walled cities throughout history in the precise location of Bethlehem are a figment of the imagination, as though the occupation of the City of David with the “..idea of wanting to gain control over a territory is often achieved easier by moving your own citizens into that area and making them work for you as a way of expanding yourself, as a way of also undermining the presence of the people who live in the area that you are settling”, doesn’t also apply to the other, the history of the Jews in the region, who were dispossessed by invading Christians and Muslims over the thousands of years Sansour refers to.

Short on facts and large on sound bites – occupation, land grab, green line, settlements, international law, military force and of course the most recent, closure – this was an airbrushing of reality conveyed with a soupcon of emotion, just enough to evoke knowing pious consensual grunts from a pliable, kaffiyeh clad, indoctrinated audience, professed Christians who have seemingly lost their way from their Savior, Jesus the Jew.

The few slides shown were familiar to those who follow the anti-Israel BDS/PSC diatribe pedaled outside Jewish owned and other stores that stock Israeli goods, some not far from St James in London, in an attempt to achieve real closure, the shutting down of Jewish businesses reminiscent of Juden frei slogans in Hitler’s Germany, and in its completeness, the closure of the Jewish state and the riddance of the Jewish people. So on to Jeff Halper, an American Jew now living in Israel, the Erev Rav of our generation, who didn’t disappoint in elucidating where the pious and the gullible learn these sound bites! How disgraceful that it is a Jew teaching that Jews have no place in Israel, using Bethlehem, the City of David, as an example of his invective.

Surely this Jew, this anthropologist, is aware that a wall in the Bethlehem environs is not news, neither are Jews, except that the only Jews there now are truly walled into a bunker around the Tomb of Rachel, the second most holy site in Judaism, or walled out, so as not to be sniped at and killed by pot-shots from the local Arab hilltops. Halper is certain the security barrier has nothing to do with security and even less to do with saving lives. He was clearly put out by Alan Johnson’s well prepared evidence-based talk based in the three barriers: “I want to talk about three security barriers tonight. First, the pretend barrier outside the Church here in London. Second, the real barrier in Israel and the West Bank. Third, what I will call the intellectual separation barrier, on one side of which is a ludicrously simplistic, and frankly counter-productive, ‘activism’ on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and on the other side of which is, well, the actual Israeli-Palestinian conflict in all of its historical depth and political complexity.”

Halper described Johnson’s talk as the most “humbug complexity, the most simplistic and absolutely wrong presentation.” It must have been that complex simplicity that caused him to show clear signs of outrage that Johnson didn’t speak about the occupation, but instead spoke about terrorism, and to query that if he was to speak about terrorism, why didn’t he mention state terrorism – “that’s what the wall outside represents” he told an adoring audience, “The wall – and if you want, you want to talk about terrorism – you talk about cluster bombs used by Israel – you talk about anti-personnel weapons, you talk about tungsten based weapons that melt your insides, if you want to talk about Palestinian children with wounds that even doctors can’t figure out, talk about Flechette –  they’re like little razors, like swords, thousands of them going through the air and chopping limbs off.  You wanna talk about terrorism well let’s talk about state terrorism,” he ranted.

The rest of his talk was about how PM Sharon also disapproved of building the security barrier, rather preferring he said, to enable the Israeli army the freedom to land grab. He mentioned Camp David with Barak telling Arafat: “If you’re not forthcoming, unilaterally we’re gonna build a wall and we’re gonna create the border on the ground” with the assured certainty of casual language giving the impression that he was present with his “buddies” Arafat and Barak at that round table meeting! And of course he described how the wall incorporated all the “settlement blocks”. He threw in something about how the wall was a Labour invention, nothing to do with Likud or the right wing. A real rant that revealed how the good people of St James learned their sound bites like occupation, green line and of course the worst one of all, comparing the Israelis to the Nazis.

He didn’t disappoint on that score either as he explained that Sharon’s objection to building a separation barrier was because “the army feels constrained when it’s trying to move, it’s trying to chase, it’s trying to do this and that, everywhere you go there’s a damn wall to manoeuver” when the plan is purportedly to enter Arab Palestinian areas, to “demolish houses” and to create “Bantustans”. Of course you can’t have a decent debate about Israel without throwing in the inevitable buzz word of the moment, Apartheid, that word, a useful tool for useful idiots to achieve an increased emotional outreach! But who would have guessed what Israel has in mind for this occupation? So as not to leave anyone guessing he tells us: “What the fact is, is that the occupation is proactive, this is the part of the Israeli attempt to take the entire country and my last sentence is, there’s something worse than Apartheid, and that’s a warehouse. Israel is going… this is an attempt to personally imprison the Palestinians in areas A & B and in Gaza and that’s the point of the wall, the wall is literally and this isn’t pretense, go live for a week in Bethlehem, you’ll feel the pretense of it, the wall is literally the walls of a prison.” And so now you have it – from the Erev Rav’s mouth – for warehouse read concentration camp and then follow the line to the biggest sound bite of all – comparing the Jews, as represented by Israel, of being the Nazis of today – replacement theory at its most extreme!

About the Author
Sharon Klaff lives in London with her family where she is active in combating replacement ideology and antisemitism. She is a founder member of Campaign4Truth, the grassroots group established in 2009 and affiliated with Eye on Antisemitism monitoring anti-Semitism on social media.
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