Christmas Eve: For the AP, It’s an Opportunity to Push an Agenda

The Associated Press is carrying on a daily war against the Trump administration. Would the AP declare a Christmas truce? Of course not. On Christmas Eve, the AP reported, as it does every year on that day, from Bethlehem. AP reporters Jalal Hassan and Imad Isseid write:

It was a subdued Christmas Eve in the traditional birthplace of Jesus on Sunday, with spirits dampened by cold, rainy weather and recent violence sparked by President Donald Trump’s recognition of nearby Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
***
Claire Degout, a tourist from France, said she would not allow Trump’s pronouncement, which has infuriated the Palestinians and drawn widespread international opposition, affect her decision to celebrate Christmas in the Holy Land.

“The decision of one man cannot affect all the Holy Land,” she said. “Jerusalem belongs to everybody, you know, and it will be always like that, whatever Trump says.”

Needless to say, no pro-Trump or pro-Israel voices are quoted.

Trump abandoned decades of American policy Dec. 6 by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and saying he would move the U.S. Embassy to the holy city.

As our readers know, this is just plain wrong. President Trump’s order is not only authorized but directed by the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 (“Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel; and…the United States Embassy in Israel should be established in Jerusalem no later than May 31, 1999”), which was unanimously reaffirmed by the Senate in June. But at the AP, accuracy is often sacrificed to Trump-bashing.

I dimly remembered seeing similar AP stories from Bethlehem on past Christmas Eves. As you might expect, the AP has always used the story to push its pro-Palestinian agenda. Thus, one year ago Isma’il Kushkush reported for the AP on a happier Christmas Eve:

Adding to the holiday spirit for the Palestinians, locals celebrated a key diplomatic victory at the United Nations the day before, where the Security Council passed a resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

So it was a merry Christmas. But trouble still lurked:

Despite the Christmas cheer, Mideast politics loom large in the background — the concrete barrier that surrounds parts of Bethlehem is just one hulking reminder. It was built by Israel last decade during the second Intifada, or uprising, when Palestinian suicide bombers attacked buses and cafes.

Israeli says the barrier is meant to keep out Palestinian attackers, but because it dips inside the West Bank, Palestinians see it as a land grab that also stunts their economy.

It turns out that the Israeli security fence is a consistent feature of the AP’s Christmas Eve reporting from Bethlehem. December 24, 2015:

Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal led a procession from his Jerusalem headquarters into Bethlehem, passing through a military checkpoint and past Israel’s concrete separation barrier, which surrounds much of the town.

Israel built the barrier a decade ago to stop a wave of suicide bombings. Palestinians say the structure has stifled Bethlehem’s economy.

December 24, 2014:

Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal, the top Roman Catholic cleric in the Holy Land, led a procession from his Jerusalem headquarters into Bethlehem, passing through Israel’s concrete separation barrier, which surrounds much of the town. Israel built the barrier a decade ago to stop a wave of suicide bombings. Palestinians view the structure as a land grab that has stifled the town’s economy.

December 24, 2013:

The heavy turnout, its highest in years, helped lift spirits in Bethlehem as leaders expressed hope that the coming year would finally bring the Palestinians an independent state of their own.
***
Despite the Christmas cheer, Mideast politics loomed in the background. In order to enter Bethlehem, Twal’s motorcade had to cross through the hulking concrete separation barrier that Israel built during the uprising. Israel says the barrier is needed to keep attackers from entering nearby Jerusalem, but Palestinians say the structure has stifled the town and stolen their land.

December 24, 2012:

For their Palestinian hosts, this holiday season was an especially joyous one, with the hardships of the Israeli occupation that so often clouded previous Christmas Eve celebrations eased by the recent recognition by the United Nations of an independent state of Palestine.
***
[Patriarch Twal] then set off in a procession for the West Bank city of Bethlehem, Jesus’ traditional birthplace. There, he was reminded that life on the ground for Palestinians has not changed since the U.N. recognized their state last month….

Patriarch Twal had to enter the biblical town through a massive metal gate in the barrier of towering concrete slabs Israel built between Jerusalem and Bethlehem during a wave of Palestinian suicide bombings in the last decade.

December 24, 2011:

Located on the southeastern outskirts of Jerusalem, Bethlehem is surrounded on three sides by a barrier Israel built to stop Palestinian militants from attacking during a wave of assaults in the last decade.

Palestinians say the barrier has damaged their economy by constricting movement in and out of town. Twenty-two percent of Bethlehem residents are unemployed, the Palestinian Authority says.

Israeli settlements surrounding Bethlehem have added to the sense of confinement.

December 24, 2010

But the bloodshed has left its mark. Visitors entering the town must cross through a massive metal gate in the separation barrier Israel built between Jerusalem and Bethlehem during a wave of Palestinian attacks last decade.

The Roman Catholic Church’s top clergyman in the Holy Land, Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal, crossed through the gate in a traditional midday procession from Jerusalem.

December 24, 2009:

[Patriarch Fouad] Twal and his convoy of dozens of vehicles entered Palestinian-controlled territory through a massive steel gate in Israel’s heavily guarded West Bank separation barrier, escorted by Israeli soldiers and police in jeeps.

The barrier and the heavy Israeli security presence served as reminders of the friction and hostilities that have thwarted peace efforts.

“We want freedom of movement, we don’t want walls,” Twal said after passing through the barrier. “We don’t want separation fences. We hope that things will become more normal for us.”

December 24, 2008:

Bethlehem has suffered from the Israeli-Palestinian fighting of recent years, and is now surrounded on three sides by concrete slabs and fences – part of a barrier Israel has built against Palestinian suicide attackers, some of whom came from Bethlehem. The Palestinians see the barrier as a land grab and say it has strangled the town’s economy.

December 24, 2007:

Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah, the top Roman Catholic official in the Holy Land, began Christmas celebrations with his annual procession from Jerusalem to Bethlehem.

Sabbah could enter Bethlehem only after passing through a massive steel gate in Israel’s separation barrier — a stretch of concrete slabs built to keep suicide bombers from reaching Israel.

Israeli mounted policemen escorted Sabbah, in his flowing magenta robe, to the gate, and border police clanged it shut behind him.

December 24, 2006:

To get to town, Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah, the Roman Catholic Church’s highest official in the Holy Land, rode in his motorcade through a huge steel gate in the Israeli separation barrier that separates Jerusalem from Bethlehem.

Israel says it built the barrier to prevent Palestinian suicide bombers from reaching Israeli population centers. Palestinians view the structure, which dips into parts of the West Bank, as a land grab.

December 24, 2005:

Israel’s imposing separation barrier at the entrance to town dampened the Christmas spirit and provided a stark reminder of the unresolved conflict.
***
The separation barrier prevented tourists from walking into town on the biblical-era route likely used by Jesus and Mary. Instead, they entered through an Israeli checkpoint.”The wall has got to go. It’s a wall of shame. Jesus is a uniter not a divider,” said James Elsman, a 69-year-old lawyer from Detroit.

I never knew being a reporter is so easy! There are other recurrent themes, too, like the kilt-clad Palestinian scouts that keep cropping up and the interchangeable, generic quotes from American Christian tourists. I am pretty sure I could write next year’s AP story on Christmas Eve in Bethlehem without bothering to go to Bethlehem.

For the AP, the news isn’t as much about facts as it is about point of view.

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