Palestinian Authority responses to President Trump’s official recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel have included fiery denunciations, canceling school, calling for demonstrations, telling the students who are not in school to participate in those demonstrations, and turning off the lights on Christmas trees.
“As a sign of condemnation of the American decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and transfer its embassy to Jerusalem, the Ramallah and Bethlehem municipalities ‘turned off [the lights on] the Christmas trees at Martyr Yasser Arafat Square and at the Church of the Nativity plaza,’” reports Palestinian Media Watch, citing the official paper of the Palestinian Authority.
Reuters notes that one of the Christmas trees in question is located outside the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, held to be the birthplace of Jesus.
The tree-lighting ceremony for the Bethlehem tree last Saturday was attended by thousands of people, including Palestinian Prime Minister Rami al-Hamdallah and other officials. Hamdallah used the occasion to deliver a political statement about Jerusalem:
The peoples and countries of the world must be aware of the terrible consequences that would come if Jerusalem is jeopardized. The Palestinian right to self-determination, with Jerusalem as the capital of our state and based on the realization of our just rights, foremost of which is the right of return and self-determination.
“The Christmas tree was switched off on the order of the mayor today in protest at Trump’s decision,” confirmed Bethlehem municipal media officer Fady Ghattas, who said he was uncertain when the lights might be turned back on.
The Palestinian delegation to Washington, DC, canceled the Christmas event scheduled for Wednesday, “A Bethlehem Christmas on the Hill,” to protest Trump’s declaration on Jerusalem. In fact, they canceled the event even before Tump actually made the announcement.
In their email, the PLO delegation explained that the event was supposed to include a video of “Christian leaders and the children of Bethlehem with a Christmas message of peace,” and that after it became clear Trump would announce recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the delegation decided it would be “unsuitable for them to speak and sing shortly after an announcement that runs counter to the message of peace.”
Al-Monitor describes the canceled Christmas event as “an unconcealed effort to highlight the birthplace of Jesus to garner greater sympathy for the Palestinian cause among American Christians,” noting that it was planned for the day after the U.S. House of Representatives “unanimously passed legislation slashing US aid to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip until the Palestinians cease paying stipends to convicted terrorists and their families.”
“Our motto is that Jesus is a gift from Palestine, and Bethlehem is our gift and it’s the city of peace. It’s the best way to really tell the story of Palestine and the Palestinians,” al-Monitor quotes PLO envoy Husam Zomlot explaining.