"While shepherds watched their flocks by night" is of course the opening line of a familiar Christmas carol. Shepherds are part and parcel of traditional nativity scenes and plays.
As we have seen in recent years, the Jewish Jesus is being transformed by anti-Israel propagandists into a "Palestinian".
Al Beeb hasn't given the shepherds a makeover of that sort, but it has taken the symbol of the (Judean) shepherd and updated it for political ends. Thus Al Beeb's Gaza and West Bank correspondent Jon Donnison, a young man but an old hand at shooting Bowen arrows in Israel's direction, has been to meet a Palestinian Arab shepherd, in a feature especially for Yuletide.
"Bethlehem's Shepherds Are A Dying Breed," screams Donnison's illustrated piece, which topped the list of features advertised on the BBC News home page earlier, so keen was Al Beeb to ensure a wide audience. The piece says in part
'The shepherds are forced to buy fodder for their sheep, but the prices are too high. He said Israeli security restrictions had made it harder for him and his sheep to roam.
"We can't move. If we want to go anywhere we have to get a permit."
Bethlehem is one of the Palestinian towns that has been most affected by the West Bank barrier, which Israelis call a "security fence" but Palestinians call an "apartheid wall"....
Israel says it is needed for security reasons, but it makes it very difficult for Palestinians to move freely.
Palestinian ID holders cannot pass it without Israeli permission.
And from Carlos Sarras's back garden you can see another obstacle.
"This is the settlement," he said, pointing his stick at the concrete perimeter wall of the Har Gilo settlement which backs on to his land....' Read the entire piece hereIt's not a pressing news story.
It's a planted feature of invented topicality.
It can be seen as an attempt to use Christian imagery in order to enhance vitriol against Israel by touching a particular nerve in the public, and thus as kindling religious antisemitism.
It's hardly the first Yuletide kicking for Israel by Al Beeb that smacks of Christian antisemitism. One of the most blatant examples occurred some years ago when the egregious Orla Guerin presented a similarly gratuitous Israel-bashing sob story of a report from Bethlehem that revolved around a conveniently newborn Palestinian infant called by the Arabic name for Jesus.
Incidentally, on the BBC television news today Donnison blithely told viewers that the number of Palestinian Christians is betweeen 50,000 and 100,000. Compare that seemingly inflated figure to this information about their numbers (and status) in 2003.
No wonder that all many of Al Beeb's viewers want for Christmas is the release of the suppressed Balen Report. [Update: For more BBC Yuletide mischief at Israel's expense see my next post]