More than 2,000 years ago, a miracle happened in Bethlehem and the prophet of peace, love and forgiveness was born. Now Bethlehem, as well as every other Palestinian city, town and refugee camp, still lives under occupation and oppression. If am allowed to make some wishes for this Christmas this is what they would be:
I wish that the spirit of this Christmas will make world leaders become unable to lie, unable to stand in front of TV cameras, in conferences, and tell one lie after another.
I wish that US President Barack Obama, who was seen as a symbol of change and hope, will come back to his senses and tell the truth.
I know politicians and truth are on opposite ends of the spectrum and rarely can they be on the same side. But it’s Christmas after all and maybe we will have our own miracle today and world leaders will not be able to lie anymore.
We all know the Ten Commandments and what they instruct us to do or not to do, but maybe presidents and government officials are brainwashed before they take office in order to fit their new positions, in which they must lie to their people and to the whole world with a nice smile on their faces.
Jesus was born in Bethlehem, yet Bethlehem — the place where I was born and raised my whole life before moving to the United States several years ago — is not witnessing peace, and the star that the shepherds followed more than 2,000 years ago is fading away.
Bethlehem is also the place where an undercover Israeli soldier shot me five times in my chest and back, and kicked me repeatedly until I lost consciousness. It was the place where the last words I heard from my oppressor were: “After all that I did, you are still alive?” I guess by living, even with injuries that require me to use a wheelchair, I am disappointing him. So living, along with loving my country and my people, is what I will continue to do, and real peace is what I will continue to seek.
Christmas is near, in Bethlehem and everywhere else around the world, and this means that we will continue to hear world leaders and politicians standing, once again, in front of the cameras and lying.
We will hear talk of peace and justice, but in Palestine we will continue to witness crimes and occupation.
“Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9). Leaders must not be among those blessed, because while they claim to seek peace, in truth they are only motivated by political gains and the next round of elections.
Due to the fact that I do not believe that there is a living leader who does not lie on a daily basis, I want to send my message to ordinary people who live their lives, day by day, trying to make ends meet.
The hope and change is in you, not in world leaders. You are the salt of the earth, you have the power to tell your elected politicians that it is about time to stop lying.
Tell them we do not want another Christmas lie, we want a real Christmas truth, not even a miracle, just the truth.
Let our Christmas message be a message of real peace and real love, the message of love that Jesus brought to the world, and the wisdom he spoke of. Maybe then peace will prevail, occupation will end and the people can live together in justice and equality.
Saed Bannoura is a Palestinian journalist who helped create the International Middle East Media Center (IMEMC.org) in Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank, and currently works as the center’s Editor-in-Chief. Despite having been shot and paralyzed by Israeli special forces in 1991, Saed Bannoura has spent his adult life working for peace and justice through nonviolence.