They Build Walls, We Build Hope: Palestinians Mark Christmas With Santas and Tree Of Resistance

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Palestinian Santas offer candy to Israeli soldiers. Photo by AP. Front photo by IBTimes UK

As war hovers in the Middle East, see how both sides celebrate the season of peace and joy. Ron Dermer, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., trolled the White House with a defiant gift package of "war crimes trinkets," or olive oil and other items from illegal settlements, specifically  to rebuke the "fanatics and fools" of a BDS movement he views as "the latest effort by Israel's enemies to destroy the one and only Jewish state." Dermer, a GOP hack and relative newcomer to Israel with a history of arrogance and chutzpah, blasted the boycott movement and EU decision to label products from the Occupied Territories as "shameful" acts against "the most threatened democracy on earth....a beacon of freedom, tolerance and decency" - claims that raised more than a few skeptical eyebrows in light of his bellicose choice of holiday gifts. Asked one critic, "What kind of country taunts the world with the fruit of its crimes?"

Meanwhile, with most Christmas events cancelled or poorly attended in Bethlehem due to ongoing tensions in the region, Palestinian Christians and Muslims took to the streets in Santa costumes - and, sometimes, gas masks - to call for an end to occupation and its abuses, and declare the beleaguered site of Jesus' birth "the city of peace." They were eventually confronted by Israeli soldiers, who teargassed many of them. Nearby, in the main square in front of the Nativity Church, others erected a Tree of Resistance from an olive tree recently uprooted by IDF forces for the Apartheid Wall. It was strung with tear gas canisters, bullet casings, slingshots and other weapons of both oppression and resistance, along with photos of Palestinians killed or detained fighting the Occupation. “This tree is our message,” said Bethlehem Mayor Vera Baboun at a lighting ceremony. "We plant our roots, and we are rooted to this land....Even with the Israelis speaking a language of death, we speak a language of life.”

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Photo by Mussa Qawasma/Reuters

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