Just off London's famous Piccadilly Circus stands St. James Church, a historic building designed by Christopher Wren and consecrated in 1684. Last week, upon this hallowed ground, St. James Church built an enormous 26-foot replica of Israel's security barrier, at a reputed cost of £30,000 ($50,000).
Visitors to the festival inscribe their messages on the replica wall.
The replica barrier is the main feature of a twelve-day festival organized by a coalition group called "Bethlehem Unwrapped." The festival is apparently "inspired by the cultural movement in Bethlehem known as 'Beautiful Resistance' in which Palestinians express their determination peacefully and creatively to resist injustice."
The organizers make no mention, however, of why the barrier was built: to save lives. As Hamas spokesperson Musa Abu Marzuq put it, when asked in 2007 by Egyptian politicians why suicide bombings had decreased since the Hamas government came to power: "carrying out such attacks is made difficult by the security fence and the gates surrounding the West Bank residents."
In a leaflet handed out to all visitors to the festival, Bethlehem Unwrapped "affirms its opposition to all forms of racism including anti-Semitism and supports the universal call for a just and sustainable solution for Palestinians and Israelis."
Further apologetics published on the Bethlehem Unwrapped website sermonize on the harmful symbolism of walls, along with platitudes about peace and love. A quote from one of the organizers of the festival tells us: "We have to not only understand those people who are oppressing us, but try to walk in their shoes, and ultimately to really engage with what it means to love our enemies."
The author of that entreaty is Sami Awad, director of the Holy Land Trust. It is in fact this charity to which "proceeds of the Bethlehem Unwrapped festival will be donated."
Awad claims to support "nonviolent resistance." He does not believe, however, that "nonviolent resistance" is an exclusive tool; support for such methods does not prelude the possibility of killing: "This is not a substitute for the armed struggle. This is not a method for normalization with the occupation. Our goal is to revive the popular resistance until every person is involved in dismantling the occupation."
In January 2011, Awad and his Holy Land Trust hosted Atallah Hanna, a Greek Orthodox Archbishop. Awad described Hanna as "inspiring." According to Christianity Today, Atallah Hanna has expressed support for suicide bombings:
"As you know, political parties in Palestine agree to the continuation of the intifada, which includes different approaches of struggle. Some freedom fighters adopt martyrdom or suicide bombing, while others opt for other measures. But all these struggles serve the continued intifada for freedom. Therefore, we support all these causes.
We are part of the intifada, so you don't expect us to keep distance and watch. We are in the struggle, whether it's martyrdom or any other means, we are part of it."
Furthermore, both Sami Awad and Atallah Hanna have voiced their support for Raed Saleh, an Islamist preacher who has claimed that 4,000 Jews skipped work at the World Trade Centre on 9/11, that those who killed the "Martyr, Sheikh Osama Bin Laden" had "sold their consciences to Satan," and that the honor killings of girls is acceptable.
Bethlehem Unwrapped is also supported by War on Want, a leading British charity which claims to fight poverty and injustice. War on Want however, helped to organize a series of speaking events in British Universities featuring Bongani Masuku -- whom the South African Human Rights Commission found to have wilfully incited violence between different student groups on campus.
War on Want's Director, John Hilary, has blamed Jews for criticizing War on Want by claiming that investigations into War on Want's activities were "part of an ongoing strategy by an organised pro-Israeli lobby and the Jewish press." In the past, Hilary has been happy to work with the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, an extremist Islamist group condemned by both the National Union of Students and a parliamentary committee for publishing anti-Semitic materials.
Bethlehem Unwrapped has been partly funded by Interpal, a British charity linked to the Palestinian terror group, Hamas. Bethlehem Unwrapped lists Interpal as a key supporter of the St. James Church festival.
Interpal was an inaugural member of the Union of Good, a coalition of charities that manages the financial support required by Hamas for its terrorist activities.
These links, which have been comprehensively detailed before, include recent Palestinian news footage showing Interpal's primary trustee, Essam Mustafa, attending a press conference hosted by Hamas to honor Interpal's work.
Interpal's other trustee, Ibrahim Hewitt, has referred to the "so-called Holocaust." In a pamphlet written by Hewitt, 'What Does Islam Say,' he advocates the killing of apostates and adulterers, and demanded that homosexuals suffer "severe punishments" for their "great sin."
Hewitt has boasted that the replica wall "cost quite a few thousand to put it together. Pleased to say that Interpal is one of the sponsors to raise awareness of the difficulties facing Palestinians under Israel's brutal military occupation."
Why has St. James Church chosen to consort with these supporters of terrorism? The Church claims the purpose of the replica wall, and of the Bethlehem Unwrapped festival, was to illustrate that, "bridges not walls are the only lasting foundation for peace" and that Bethlehem Unwrapped will "transform" the replica wall "into a symbol of peace and hope."
Instead, however, St. James Church supports the lie that the wall exists not to save Israeli lives but to subjugate Palestinian ones. Its replica of the wall has not managed to bring people together, it has only legitimized the extremism of the Holy Land Trust and the terror links of Interpal as voices of the Palestinian people.
The rector of St James, Lucy Winkett, has described the Bethlehem Unwrapped festival as part of "a peaceful Palestinian principle known as 'beautiful resistance'; expressed in theatres, music projects and festivals that exist to counter military dominance with a commitment to non-violent artistic expression."
In reality, it is Israel's security barrier that is an example of truly non-violent resistance. In 2007, it was credited with reducing terror attacks by 90% and the number of casualties from cross-border murders by 70%. Can the officials of St. James Church and all those other groups involved with Bethlehem Unwrapped even come close to a record like that?