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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Controversial Israeli Embassy Facebook Page Taken Down \'for Maintenance\'

The Israeli Embassy in Ireland has temporarily removed its entire Facebook page from the Web, after a controversial Christmas message stating that Jesus would “probably end up being lynched in Bethlehem by hostile Palestinians” if he lived today was posted and then deleted from the account on Monday.

A screenshot of a Christmas card sold by pro-Palestinian activists in Ireland.Colm Mac Athlaoich, via IPSC.ie A screenshot of a Christmas card sold by pro-Palestinian activists in Ireland.

Just as the Facebook page went offline, however, the embassy posted a series of combative updates on its @IsraelinIreland Twitter feed on Tuesday, attacking pro-Palestinian activists for Christmas cards that imagine the original nativity scene being disrupted by the Israeli separation barrier built around Bethlehem.

The embassy's press officer, Derek O'Flynn, told The Lede in an e-mail on Tuesday that the Israel in Ireland Facebook page had been taken down by the embassy “for maintenance.” That action came after reports on the Christmas message also drew attention to a number of other potentially objectionable posts - including a video that mocked Irish journalists and an update that called Ireland's g overnment “naive” for supporting Palestine's successful effort to upgrade its status at the United Nations.

Although the embassy spokesman said he had no idea who had posted the “Christmas thought” on Facebook on Monday, updates to the embassy's Twitter account on Tuesday included an indignant response to comments by a spokeswoman for the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, who told The Irish Times that the embassy's Facebook post was “outrageous and extremely cynical.”

Neatly deploying the rhetorical device known as “You started it,” the unnamed author of the embassy's Twitter feed accused Israel's critics of politicizing the holiday first by pointing to Christmas cards sold by pro-Palestinian activists, which feature a painting by the Irish artist Colm Mac Athlaoich showing the three wise men being blocked from Bethlehem by the high, concrete slabs of Israel's separation barrier.

The inscription in the cards sold by the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign reads: “The image portrays the three wise men obstructed on their journey by the ‘apartheid' wall being built by Israel on Palestinian land. This illegal structure acts as a prison wall, blocking the aspiration of all Palestinians to freedom and self-determination.”

The image is similar to a painting made by the British street artist Banksy in 2005, depicting Joseph and Mary being blocked from Bethlehem by the concrete slabs. The British artist first displayed that work shortly after he returned from painting a series of images on the West Bank barrier itself.