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Stop Lying About Israel and Bethlehem

By Dexter Van Zile


Last week, approximately 600 Christians descended on Bethlehem to attend the 2014 Christ at the Checkpoint Conference organized by Bethlehem Bible College. The organizers and presenters of this conference say that they want to promote peace between Israel and the Palestinians, but they just cannot stop themselves from engaging in an ugly propaganda war against the Jewish state.

In other words, they cannot refrain from lying about Israel, repeatedly and shamelessly.

Three times during the conference, attendees were told that Israel has constructed a security barrier that completely surrounds the city of Bethlehem. Two people called it a wall and a third described it as a wall and fences.

No matter how they describe it, the security barrier, which was constructed to stop terrorists from crossing from the West Bank into Israel, does not surround the city. Even the map of the West Bank provided in the program for Christ at the Checkpoint shows this. The eastern and southern sections of the city are not confined by a wall.

Nevertheless, on the first night of the conference, Bethlehem Mayor Vera Baboun said the city is “surrounded with a wall.” I was in the audience when she said this and there were Palestinian Christians sitting next to me who didn’t bat an eye after hearing this lie.

This was not an honest mistake. Baboun is the mayor of the city, for heaven’s sake. We all know politicians lie, but this is a bit much.

Mayor, will you please stop lying?

Then, in a short film shown to the audience on the first full day of the conference, March 11, Qustandi Shomali, a professor at Bethlehem University, said “Bethlehem is surrounded by a wall and the Bethlehem population cannot reach very easily other areas in the West Bank.”

Again, I was in the audience when this film was shown and no one in the audience voiced a word of objection. Not one word. And again, this was not an honest mistake, for Shomali lives in nearby Beit Sahour. He knows that Bethlehem is not surrounded by a wall.

Professor, will you please stop lying?

And then on Friday, March 14, the last day of the conference, Sami Awad, executive director of Holy Land Trust, a Palestinian non-profit, appeared in a short film in which he claimed that “Today, Bethlehem is a city that is completely surrounded by walls and fences. The wall completely engulfs the city.”

I was not in the room when the film was shown, but it is on Youtube, right here. It goes without saying, (but has to be said), this was not an honest mistake. Holy Land Trust is headquartered in Bethlehem. Awad works in the city. He knows the route of the barrier.

Sami, will you please stop lying?

Probably not. This is not the first time Awad has uttered this falsehood. He said it to an audience of Christians in Galveston, Texas, in 2009. He was called out on it in a piece published on CAMERA’s website in 2012. And yet he said it again two years later. Did he expect not to get caught?

The upshot is this: Three different people offered the same lie to an audience comprised mostly of Evangelical Protestants from the United States and Europe. They told people that the city in which they were currently staying was surrounded by a security barrier, when in fact it isn’t.

This lie has been repeated so many times it is astounding.

Sami Awad’s father, Bishara, offered repeated this lie in a fundraising video produced in 2007 or 2008.

It was repeated by 60 Minutes reporter Bob Simon in a notoriously dishonest segment that aired in 2012. The show hasn’t corrected.

It was repeated by Simon’s boss, CBS News Chairman Jeff Fager at a talk he gave at St. Mark’s Church in New Canaan, Connecticut, one year later. Fager said he would “look into” the issue, but like I said, the show hasn’t corrected.

This lie was offered by former Lutheran Bishop Margaret Payne on a radio show in 2009. She refused to retract.

And in 2013, after the lie was debunked numerous times, Gary Burge offered his own version of this lie in the “new and revised” edition of his error-laden book, Whose Land? Whose Promise?

This lie, as easily exposed as it is, is unbelievably resilient. It has been repeatedly debunked. And yet people keep repeating it or refuse to retract it even after they’ve been given overwhelming evidence that what they’ve said is not true.

And people have seen others called out on the lie, and yet they repeat it themselves.

Why? Why not invoke Qalqilya – a place in the West Bank where numerous suicide attacks were launched from? For people indifferent to Qalqilya’s history as a source of terror attacks during the Second Intifada (like many of the folks at Christ at the Checkpoint), images of this city would be very compelling. Why lie about Bethlehem?

Simple. The lie that the Israelis have built a wall that completely surrounds Bethlehem confirms people’s theological understanding of Jew as enemies of God and of humanity itself. People want proof for this belief and this lie gives it to them, the facts be damned.

Bethlehem, you see, is the city of Jesus’ birth. And in the Christian world view, when Israel strangles the city of Bethlehem with a wall, it is akin to constricting God Himself.

This was the message offered by Bob Simon in the 60 Minutes segment that aired in 2012. Simon said “The wall completely surrounds Bethlehem, turning the little town where Christ was born into what its residents call an open air prison.”

It’s no mistake that speakers at the Christ at the Checkpoint Conference kept reminding attendees that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, just a few minutes from the hotel where the confab was being held.

And it’s no mistake that other speakers kept telling the Christians in the audience that Israel had built a wall around this city.

It’s a simple lie, but not an innocuous one. It’s part of a hateful message. When coupled with scripture and theology, this lie offers a very evil message about the Jewish people and their homeland. People who repeat this lie, as so many people have, are not merely purveyors of misinformation.

They are broadcasters of hate.

They should be ashamed of themselves.

Dexter Van Zile (@dextervanzile) is Christian Media Analyst for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (@cameraorg). He attended the Christ at the Checkpoint Conference that took place in Bethlehem on March 10-14, 2014.


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ARABS ARE NOT SEMITES! by Sha’i Bentekoa

IntroductionI’m tired of people referring to Arabs as Semites. I constantly hear the excuse from Jew-haters that Arabs can not possibly be anti-Semitic because they, themselves, are Semites. On top of the fact that there are a goodly number of Jews (Semites) who are anti-Semitic[1], it is a falsehood to claim that Arabs are Semites, when they are actually Hamites. The following discusses the difference between Semites and Hamites.

Semites and Hamites

Here’s the derivation of the word Hamitic.

To begin with, the words Semite and Semitic in English, two centuries ago, used to be written with an “h” viz. Shemite and Shemitic. (I do not know why the “h” fell away over time; linguists specializing in phonetics probably have an answer.)

Two centuries ago, Shemitic referred to Hebrew and related languages: Arabic, Aramaic, Ugaritic, Akkadian, Amharic, etc., and was used by linguists to refer to this language group. It was an exclusively a scholarly/academic term.

But in the late 19th century, the word was borrowed by Jew-haters to give a name to all the ideas floating around which tried to explain why Europeans still hated Jews even after they stopped being Jews, i.e stopped living, dressing and believing as Jews. In 19th century Germany, tens of thousands, maybe scores of thousands of them, converted to Christianity — yet people still hated them and rejected them, and the Jew-haters eventually came up with all kinds of pseudo-intellectual, pseudo-academic, pseudo-historical, pseudo-science/ anthropological theories to explain why.

That is what anti-Semitism was at birth. Not for decades did it come to be associated with the physical extermination of Jews. That was an extremely late development.

Anti-Semitism arose because during the 18th century Enlightenment, European intellectuals lost their belief in Christianity. It therefore no longer made sense to hate Jews for having killed Jesus — not when they themselves no longer believed he was divine. Ergo, the end of the religious deicide charge as a reason for hating Jews.

Anti-Semitism arose saying that the reason people hate Jews is because they are Semites, meaning Asiatics, and therefore they are impossible to assimilate into European culture; people feel racially/biologically uncomfortable in their presence, and so on and so forth. The religious excuse for Jew-hatred having died, a new, pseudo-intellectual one was invented.

Now: Shem was one of the three sons of Noah and he had two brothers, Japhet and Ham, and Hamitic was the term linguists chose to categorize the pre-Arabic languages of North Africa, which are different from the Semitic language group.

And I use Hamitic as I do because I am a believing Jew who says not only that the Arabs stole Zionism and called it Palestinian Nationalism – they stole our claim that we are an ancient people and that this is our ancient homeland and that we are emotionally attached to it. They say they are an ancient people too and that this is their ancient homeland too. (This is, by the way, the identical technique the first Muslims used when they stole Judaism and called it Islam — a religion even more than Christianity that is a complete rip-off of Judaism.)

I say they stole the terms Semite and Semitic no less.

Arabs say they can’t be anti-Semitic because they too are Semites because they also are the children of Abraham, who the Bible tells us was the 10th generation descendant of Shem.

But this could not be more wrong. True, Ishmael was a son of Abraham, indeed his first-born. But we Jews do not — like Arabs, Russians and loads of other nationalities — hold by patrilineal descendant. To be a Jew you have to have a Jewish mother.

And Ishmael did not. His mother (this is all in the Book of Genesis) was Hagar, an Egyptian (Egypt=Mitzrayim), and Mitzrayim was one of the four sons of Ham (along with Canaan, Put and Cush.)

The Torah also tells us that Hagar found a wife for her son who was also an Egyptian.

Therefore: since Ishmael had a Hamitic (not a Semitic) mother and married a Hamitic woman, his offspring are Hamites, not Semites.

And this is a crucial fact because of the character and personality differences between Shem and his descendants on the one hand, and Ham and his descendants on the other — which I have no time to go into now. Suffice it to say that the Arabs today fit to a tee both Ishmael and his forebear Ham in their unbridled, shameless violence.

So the next time someone says the Arabs are Semites too, tell them no, and the above is the reason why.

And that if they have problems with that, tell them to listen to Sha’i Bentekoa at


1. “Self-Hating and Israel-Threatening List,”

For further reading: “Arabs are Hamites”

Sha’i ben-Tekoa writes on the Middle East, Arab terrorism, Islamic fundamentalism and the Arab-Israeli conflict. His articles have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, National Review, on PBS’s “The Newshour with Jim Lehrer,” in Midstream, Congress Monthly and other publications. Contact him at his website — — or by email at

This appeared on the website May 6, 2006 and is archived at

Arab Nazis