By TRICIA MILLER, JPOST—
According to its website, Bethlehem Bible College (BBC) is a Christian college founded for the purpose of training leaders to serve local Arab churches and communities.
BBC affirms the National Association of Evangelicals’ Statement of Faith and believes the Bible to be the authoritative word of God.
But there is another side to BBC not evident on their website. The school has a deeply entrenched anti-Israel position, demonstrated through statements and publications of leaders associated with the school, and the biennial “Christ at the Checkpoint” conferences it sponsors. Most recently, its media center produced a video that employs numerous errors and false accusations in a blatant attempt to demonize Israel.
The video, Bethlehem Voices on Gaza , was made during Operation Protective Edge and was posted on YouTube on August 8, 2014. The production purports to “interview people on the streets of Bethlehem regarding the war in Gaza.”
All of the interviewees are unidentified, except for Rev. Alex Awad, dean of students and full-time instructor at BBC, charter member of the BBC board of directors, and senior pastor of the East Jerusalem Baptist Church.
Awad gives a brief introduction that begins with a greeting of Christian love and ends with a plea for prayers and love. This lead-in, which states that the Palestinian church is suffering and needs help, is directed at an American Christian audience. As evidenced by subsequent statements, the purpose behind the video is to encourage American churches to stand with the Palestinians.
In itself, an appeal for help from fellow Christians is perfectly understandable. However, this plea for support is ensconced in anti-Israel propaganda rooted in factual and historical errors presented through the statements of unidentified participants.
One of the false accusations made against Israel employs oft-repeated Hamas propaganda that says Israel targeted civilians in Gaza. Even if one does not want to believe what the IDF website says about the multiple steps it takes to warn civilians in advance of a strike on a military target, statistics concerning the identity of the fatalities should be convincing.
According to a July 14, 2014 article titled “Reporting of Casualties in Gaza” on the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America website, “fatalities are disproportionately among young males, which corresponds with the characteristics of combatants.” In addition, “only about 12 percent of the total fatalities are female, though females make up half the population.”
If the IDF intentionally targeted civilians, the number of women, children, and elderly killed would be far greater than the number of men who were the age of combatants. And if Hamas didn’t use civilians as human shields, as the Middle East Media Research Institute has documented, the number of civilian fatalities would be even less that it was.
The allegation that Israel targets civilians is closely related to another recurrent piece of Hamas propaganda – that Israel is committing “genocide” against the Palestinians in Gaza. The man who made this statement declared he was sure Israel was not “touching Hamas or the fighters over there.” Again, the errors contained in this assertion are easily refuted with facts.
The exact number of Palestinian casualties is still under debate, but the United Nations, the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorist Information Center (ITIC), and the IDF all place the number at approximately 2,000 total, including combatants and civilians.
Furthermore, a senior military source and the ITIC have both documented a ratio of approximately one combatant death for every civilian death, meaning that half of those killed were Hamas fighters.
Considering the fact that combatants were able to hide in reinforced concrete tunnels while civilians were used as human shields for military targets, a ratio of one to one in the number of deaths is rather striking. The death of 2,000 people is a tragedy, but when compared to the total population of Gaza – which is more than 1.8 million – this can hardly be called genocide.
And finally, one of the interviewees made an outrageous statement when he said, “As you know, we have been under occupation for 65 years.” In light of the fact that he was supposed to be talking about current events in Gaza, it is important to note that Gaza is not “under occupation.” There have not been any Jews in Gaza, much less any IDF forces, since Israel withdrew unilaterally in 2005.
Furthermore, the West Bank is not “under occupation” either, and certainly has not been for “65 years.” Prior to Israel gaining this territory after the 1967 war, Jordan occupied it illegally. Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan after it won a defensive war against Egypt, Syria, and Jordan, all of whom attacked with the goal of destroying the Jewish state.
Following the 1967 war, the UN passed Resolution 242, which identifies the West Bank as administered territory, whose ownership is disputed. The final status of this territory is supposed to be determined in some future peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. But until then, the West Bank is disputed, not occupied territory.
Why do Awad and Bethlehem Bible College have to perpetuate anti-Israel propaganda based on such factual and historical errors as they ask for help from American Christians? Shouldn’t it be possible to request prayer and raise support from co-religionists in the US without being a purveyor of such egregious disinformation?