Christian readers will know that November 30 2014 was Advent Sunday, marking the start of the season of Advent. Advent (which means “coming”) is a season observed in many Western Christian churches as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas. In recent years, the birth and life of Jesus has been hijacked by the Palestinian movement, which seeks to portray Jesus as a Palestinian. This is often referred to as Christian Palestinianism.
In recent decades, the quest to rescue Jesus’ Jewish identity has yielded much fruit. Geza Vermes, Robert Eisenman, E.P Sanders, James Tabor, R. T. Herford, George Foot Moor and Hyam Maccoby are among those who have highlighted Jesus’ Jewish identity and origins. Combined with the shared interest in the Dead Sea Scrolls, Jews and Christians have found common ground in the exploration of the Jewish roots of Christianity.
Jesus was born of a Jewish woman in the Judean town of Bethlehem, and was given the Jewish name of “Yeshua,” literally “Joshua.” He was circumcised, attended synagogue services and the Temple, wore tassels, was referred to as “Rabbi,” and observed the Sabbath, Passover and Sukkots. He quoted from the Hebrew bible and clearly saw himself as fulfilling the scriptures in some way. He held the Torah in high esteem and reiterated the importance of the Shema. He also made it clear that he had “come for the lost sheep of Israel” and that “Salvation is of the Jews.”
However, Christian Palestinianism has a done a great deal to undermine this. The Palestinian Jesus falsehood is a shocking return to the “Jesus was an Aryan” falsehood of the Far Right or the Church-sanctioned portrayal of Jesus as a fair-skinned, blue-eyed gentile. The identicide of the Jewish Jesus is also redolent of an ancient heresy known as Gnosticism, sometimes described as a metaphysical anti-Semitism.
Ye’or, in her book Eurabia: the Euro-Arab Axis, writes of the theological similarities between Palestinianism and Marcion gnosticism, which rejects the Hebrew Bible and believes the God of Israel to be a lower entity than the God of the New Testament. Likewise, Christian Palestinianism either ignores the Hebrew scriptures or wants to ‘de-Zionise’ the prophecies that do not suit the Palestinian agenda. As with Marcionism, God is no longer the God of Israel with a special interest in the fate of the Jewish people, but the God of Palestine.
The ethnic cleansing of Jesus is part of a wider effort to de-Judaize the Jewish people in order to undermine their claim to the land of Israel. So as well as being de-chosen by God, the people of Israel are not even Jewish, according to some Christian Palestinianists. In the mid-1990s, the Palestinian Authority aired a program that claimed Palestinians are the real descendants of the biblical Israelites. One of the so-called experts who was invited to appear on the show was Jarid el-Qadaweh, who declared: “In my blood there is more of the Children of Israel than in that of Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu.” Mitri Raheb, the pastor of Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem, has used the figure of Jesus to question the ethnic validity of the State of Israel:
“I’m sure if we were to do a DNA test between David, who was a Bethlehemite, and Jesus, born in Bethlehem, and Mitri, born just across the street from where Jesus was born, I’m sure the DNA will show that there is a trace. While, if you put King David, Jesus and Netanyahu, you will get nothing, because Netanyahu comes from an East European tribe who converted to Judaism in the Middle Ages.”
Like el-Qadaweh, Raheb claims the average Palestinian is native to the land and is genetically similar to Jesus. In contrast, the average Israeli is an interloper from eastern Europe and is genetically dissimilar from Jesus. This raises the controversial question: is there such a thing as a Jewish gene? Extensive DNA testing does show there is such a thing. Genetic studies on the Y chromosome show that modern Jewish populations have a predominantly Middle Eastern ancestry, thereby discrediting the theory that Ashkenazi Jews are descendants of the Khazars (a semi-nomadic Turkic people from the Middle Ages). But the question of “who is a Jew?” is wide open to interpretation and has been debated for thousands of years, sometimes with devastating consequences.
When Arafat made his first Christmas appearance in Bethlehem in 1995, he invoked the Christian nativity by crying, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill towards men.” To which the crowd responded, “In spirit and blood we will redeem thee, O Palestine!”
Bethlehem obviously held a special place in Arafat’s heart. Not because he had any special love for Jesus and Christianity but because it was a political rallying point. Bethlehem, according to Arafat, was the “birthplace of the first Palestinian Christian, Jesus Christ.”
Arafat’s reference to the nativity is obviously a ploy to unite Muslims and Christian Arabs against Israel. In and of itself, this is unspectacular, but when placed in the wider context of Islamic replacement theology, the (mis)use of Jesus is sinister. (Arafat not only proclaimed that Jesus was a Palestinian but is “our Lord the Messiah,” which is an astonishing statement for a Muslim to make. Referring to Jesus as Lord is to detract from the strict monotheism of the faith, a grave sin known as shirk.)
The appropriation of the crucifixion by Muslim Palestinians in their war on Israel is puzzling. The image of the crucified Palestinian/Jesus is a common propaganda motif. And yet the Quran says that Jesus wasn’t put on the cross but was raised up to heaven. So, not only are Muslims committing an act of apostasy by referring to Jesus as “our Lord” they are even refuting their own sacred scripture by claiming Jesus was a crucified Palestinian. (This is not the only example of Muslims cherry-picking the Quran to suit their agenda. The Quran explicitly states the Land of Israel is a Jewish and not a Muslim inheritance.)
Other times, Jesus is referred to as a Shahid, a holy martyr of Islam. Arafat often referred to Jesus as the first Palestinian martyr, which is historically incorrect and is at odds with Islamic tradition. There are no references to Jesus as a Shahid in Islamic works, and it is impossible for Jesus to be a martyr if he did not die on the cross, which is the view of the Quran.
The final step in the Palestinianisation of Bethlehem is the fact that UNESCO – the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization – has approved a Palestinian bid to categorise the Church of the Nativity (the birthplace of Jesus) as a World Heritage Site. UNESCO’s approval effectively endorses a specifically Palestinian culture and heritage that is distinct from the history of Israel.
Obviously, the invention of the Palestinian Jesus and the misuse of the crucifixion as a political weapon is just one more lethal narrative aimed at demonising Israel and is not an authentic reconciliation with Christianity. In fact, the Christian population in the West Bank has ebbed away under PA rule. And yet Christians in the West seem happy to play along with the pretence that nothing is amiss because they both share the same enemy – Israel.