This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

"After the Paris attacks, Europe stood up as one and decided it wasn’t coming [to the Middle East]. We also used to get a lot of people from eastern Europe who come via Turkey and visit here, but not after the Russian plane [downed over the Sinai desert in Egypt in October]. Then there is the situation here …"
"We even cut our rates by 20%. We’ll review where we are in February."
Johnny Kattan, Manager, Jacir Palace – Bethlehem’s most luxurious hotel

"We rely on the tourists who come on their own, not the pilgrim buses who go to the same shops on the main road where the guides get a commission. And there are no tourists. They are too scared to come after what they’ve seen on television. It’s killing us. The only people around are a few locals. Today so far I’ve made only 99 shekels [£17]."
"I’m Catholic. But I don’t feel Christmas at all this year. I took my son, who is three, to school this morning. It’s near Deheish [nearby town where latest attacks occurred]. And you could smell the gas from a kilometre away. It’s getting worse and worse."Nabil Giacaman, aged 29, Manger Square shopowner 

Bethlehem’s Manger Square, where authorities have cancelled many festivities amid continuing violence. Photograph: Peter Beaumont for the Guardian    
"The situation here", to which Mr. Kattan referred was the three-months'-long haba shaabiya – or popular uprising, where Palestinians have used knives, vehicles or anything remotely destructive they could manage to attempt to kill Israeli Jews. Of the attackers thus far, five were from the Bethlehem area. The hotel is no stranger to these events; during the second intifada the-then newly-opened hotel shuttered itself for a four-year period.

Clashes by Palestinians with the IDF have ensured that tension remains high. With this knowledge why would tourists make their way to Bethlehem? Given the circumstances, crowds have been thin on the ground reflecting the focal point that Bethlehem has become for clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinian 'protesters' in the months since the wave of violence erupted in the region.

Elsewhere in the West Bank though the city was without incident on Christmas Eve, violence reigned as three Palestinians were killed carrying out stabbing or car-ramming attacks against Israeli security personnel. A fourth Palestinian assailant was killed wounding a soldier and two Israeli security guards.

"We're in Bethlehem celebrating Christmas, celebrating the birthday of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the birthplace of the king of peace, so what we want is peace", the Palestinian tourism minister Rula Mayyah exhorted. It might help if the Palestinian Authority made any kind of an effort to dissuade Palestinians from violence, and not continue to incite it as they appear dedicated to doing.

Few tourists can be seen admiring the town's Christmas tree. Pilgrims had poured in their thousands into Manger Square in the relative calm of previous years at Christmas time.

Hotel bookings, according to one Palestinian officials dropped 24 percent from last year's figures weak as they were even then. "The situation is what it is, a war and intifada. But God willing, we'll overcome it and celebrate", said a Santa-suited Said Nustas. "God willing", as it happens, is what Islamic State terrorists also end their statements of intent to slaughter with.

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