In late 2001, the violence between Israel and Palestine escalated. In the course of it, the Israelis fired a missile at the building opposite my wife’s house. My mother-in-law, who was by then a widow, was living there. And the building opposite her house was blown up and the roof ripped off our house. We were panicky about how she was coping, so we went there at the earliest opportunity and began living in Leila’s home in Bethlehem in 2002.
Things got worse and worse. On the Monday after Easter Sunday 2002, the Israelis invaded, under Ariel Sharon, and occupied all of the cities of the West Bank, including Bethlehem. We were in the house as helicopters flew overhead, all very scared. The Israeli army eventually moved into the old souk area and surrounded the Church of the Nativity.
I was working with paramedics. There was an idea that ambulances would be able to drive around in the curfew if there were Europeans with them. By that point I felt very Palestinian. There was an attempt by militants to meet Israeli violence with violence but Palestinian cities got wiped out. For ten years there were no tourists! To live through that, you feel you are living as one of the defeated.
Beyond the fact that Blincoe casts the wave of deadly Palestinian terrorism of the early 2000s targeting Israeli civilians as “violence between Israel and Palestine” at best, and “an attempt by militants to meet Israeli violence with violence” at worst, the falsehoods are blatant. First, he claims that “Palestinian cities got wiped out.” This is a flat out lie. Jenin, which took took the biggest hit of all of the Palestinian cities as it was the scene of the most intensive fighting between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian fighters, did not “got wiped out.”
In a March 16 report on a Palestinian film festival, correspondent Julie McCarthy referred to the Jenin refugee camp as “largely destroyed in Israel’s incursion into the West Bank in 2002.”
A number of listeners wrote to object to that description, including Nigel Paneth:
In fact, as has been repeatedly demonstrated, the area of destruction in the camp during the March  incursion constituted considerably less than 10 percent of the camp’s houses. Moreover, much of the destruction of buildings in the Jenin camp was a consequence of the booby trapping of houses by Palestinian terrorists, who bragged about their clever placement of bombs (24 Israeli soldiers were killed in that incursion) in interviews published later in the Egyptian press.
The listeners are correct and Morning Edition will air this correction later this week:
A correction: In a story about a Palestinian film festival last week, Julie McCarthy said that the Jenin refugee camp had been “largely destroyed” during an Israeli military action in 2002. A United Nations report noted that while the center of the camp had been “totally destroyed,” the extent of the destruction for the camp as a whole was 10 percent.
Now, with record bus loads of Christian pilgrims filing through the Church of the Nativity and sleepi
ng at local hotels, Bethlehem is abuzz. …The 1.3 million tourists expected for 2008 surpasses the pre-uprising peak nine years ago. The surge is filling hotels to capacity – an encouraging sign as chains MÃ¶venpick and Days Inn pursue plans to open in Ramallah.Tourism contributed to a modest 2 percent growth rate in the overall Palestinian economy this year – a figure that would have been twice as high if it weren’t for the flagging economy in the Gaza Strip, which has been under a yearlong Israeli blockade.In the Beit Sahour suburb of Bethlehem, hammers can be heard from hotel construction just up the road from Shepherds’ Field, the hillside believed to be the site from where the biblical Star of Bethlehem was sighted. Builders are adding to the Sahara Hotel to nearly triple its capacity to 52 rooms.Owner Majed Banoura said he would open the hotel, closed for renovations, for Christmas to accommodate overflow from Bethlehem. “There is security and a sense of calm,” says Mr. Banoura, who says his family’s souvenir business took in a record $1 million this year. “We feel the rule of law. This is what we need.”
Tens of thousands of tourists and Christian pilgrims packed the West Bank town of Bethlehem for Christmas Eve celebrations Saturday, bringing warm holiday cheer to the traditional birthplace of Jesus on a raw, breezy and rainy night.
With turnout at its highest in more than a decade, proud Palestinian officials said they were praying the celebrations would bring them closer to their dream of independence. …
By late night, the Israeli military, which controls movement in and out of town, said some 100,000 visitors, including foreigners and Arab Christians from Israel, had reached Bethlehem, up from 70,000 the previous year.
In another completely baseless claim, Blincoe, the self-proclaimed Bethlehem expert states:
The reason Israel has been so interested in Bethlehm is the same reason everyone’s always been interested in it: It’s still the source of water for Jerusalem. There’s a pumping station to supply water to Jerusalem, and settlements have grown up around it. The first Israeli settlement in Bethlehem was built in 1967. Now there are 22 surrounding the town.