The growing boycott, divestment and sanctions movement received a boost this holiday season as the mayor of Bethlehem called on the international community to boycott Israel. Speaking after giving his traditional annual Christmas address, Victor Batarseh echoed widespread criticisms of Israeli policy, comparing it to that of apartheid-era South Africa.

Mayor Batarseh, a Christian Palestinian, was elected in 2005 on a slate of candidates affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. He said: “Boycotting Israel culturally, educationally, in sports, economics, and trade … is the only way to make Israel come back to the negotiating table and make peace within six months. It worked in South Africa.”

Recalling the Christmas story from the Bible, Batarseh said that today, “Joseph and Mary would be stopped and searched entering Bethlehem…The Magi would run into a huge concrete wall. The shepherds would not be able to graze their sheep; their land would have been confiscated.”