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October 05, 2015

Misinformation and Selective Outrage from a Land Called Holy

Nadia Bolz-Weber Wall for Blog.jpg

In 2012, Lutheran Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber visited the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and misinformed her followers on Facebook, telling them that a wall completely surrounds the city.

Phrases like “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and “the Holy Land” are used to increase the drama and tension when talking about the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. The fact that the conflict takes place in locations mentioned in the Bible makes the violence seem so much worse than it does if the conflict was taking place somewhere else in the Middle East or in the rest of the world. The Holy Land has a multiplier effect on the amount of attention directed toward the Arab-Israeli conflict.

It also has a multiplier effect on the contempt directed toward the Jewish state and its inhabitants. The rubric of the Holy Land is used to judge and condemn Israel much more often than the Palestinians. Peace activists portray Israel’s security barrier as a blot on the Holy Land. Cartoonists regularly draw pictures of Mary and Joseph being unable to getting into the city of Bethlehem to give birth to baby Jesus because of the security barrier. Very rarely however, is the Holy Land or the phrase “O Little Town of Bethlehem” used to highlight the violence perpetrated by Palestinians or the corruption of the Palestinian Authority.

CAMERA researcher Dexter Van Zile highlights how Palestinian Christians have made effective use of this strategy in a piece published at The Commentator on October 3, 2015. The article, titled “The unholy abuse of the Holy Land,” begins as follows:


You would think that an act of arson against a church in Bethlehem would provoke a huge amount of media coverage and outrage in the Western world. Bethlehem is after all, the city of Christ’s birth.

Anytime Israel does something in or near Bethlehem that Western media outlets find offensive, it gets a lot of coverage.

When Israel built a security barrier near the city to stop suicide bombers from coming into Israel from the West Bank, numerous commentators repeated as fact false assertions that Israel had “completely surrounded” the city with a wall.

In 2012, Bob Simon, a reporter from 60 Minutes, an influential news show in the United States, falsely reported, “The wall completely surrounds Bethlehem, turning the little town where Christ was born into what its residents call an open air prison.”

The news show never corrected, and its executive producer, Jeff Fager, repeated this falsehood at his church in New Canaan, Connecticut a year later -- even after he was given definitive proof that the barrier did not completely surround the city.

The story of the Jewish state turning Bethlehem into a prison was too good to correct, even when it was a lie. The symbolism is just too powerful for people to say no to.

For example, when, Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber, a prominent Lutheran pastor and author in the United States, posted a picture of the interior of the Church of the Nativity on her Facebook page in late 2012, she added the following caption: “Just to be clear -- O Little Town of Bethlehem has a wall around it.”

She was on a trip to the Holy Land, actually went into the West Bank, into the city of Bethlehem itself and told her friends on Facebook something that was simply not true. People believed her because she was there.

Read the whole thing here.

Posted by dvz at October 5, 2015 11:52 AM

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