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Bethlehem cancels Christmas

Published on 24 December 2023

For 80 days, Israel has been conducting an unprecedented offensive in the Gaza Strip. Almost the entire population of the strip has been displaced, more than 20,000 Palestinians have been killed, and the humanitarian situation throughout the strip is more dire than ever. According to the World Food Program’s chief economist, the danger of acute famine is greater than ever. This danger stems directly from the siege imposed by Israel on Gaza, a form of collective punishment that goes against international law.




Under this same international law of armed asymmetrical struggle, there is overwhelming evidence that Hamas and the IDF have committed war crimes since Oct. 7, and strong indications that the IDF is currently carrying out a genocide in Gaza. The IDF has abandoned all restraint. On Oct. 10, their spokesman Daniel Hagari let it be known that the emphasis is on damage, not precision. This is reflected in an analysis by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz on Dec. 9, showing that the civilian casualty rate is 61 percent, about 20 percent higher than in previous operations. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, the rate is even higher: 70 percent. That is not to mention the Palestinians who are missing and likely lying under the rubble, or those who are now starving and vulnerable to the infectious diseases that are breaking out. Hospitals and cultural sites such as libraries, universities and mosques are also being destroyed by Israeli missiles. Nowhere is currently safe for Palestinians in Gaza, and also in the West Bank many Palestinians are being killed by settlers and the IDF, or arrested for no reason.

A dark winter, in other words. Christian leaders from Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, therefore decided not to have Christmas this year. No lights, no decorations. They are calling on everyone to cancel Christmas and demand an end to the war and genocide.

We at Het Actiefonds are deeply moved by the latest developments in this long history of Palestinian cleansing. We continue to support activists working for a true decolonization of Palestine, in which every person between the river and the sea can enjoy equal rights. Now is the time to reflect on European nationalism and colonialism, which hoped to solve the “Jewish question” through ethnic cleansing, genocide and relocation to the Middle East. Now is the time to exert ourselves so that the Palestinian question is not answered in similar ways. And now is the time to speak out against Europe’s continuing export of its own problems to its periphery, including migration deals with Turkey and North African countries, and the supplying of arms to the IDF in times of mass murder.

In 2024, we will be there again. Hopeful. Determined. Combative. You too?

Image: Hanneke Vollbehr