Monday 19 December 2011
The Palestinianisation of Jesus
Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber turned Jesus into a Superstar, to Kris Kristofferson ‘Jesus was a Capricorn’, to Judy Tzuke, ‘Jesus was a Cross Maker’ and to Sir Elton John, Jesus was (what else?) a ‘super-intelligent gay man’. I've also heard that Jesus was a Buddhist priest, a spaceman and a time traveller. Now he’s a Palestinian hero.
It’s nothing new for the Palestinians to claim that Jesus was one of them. Yasser Arafat used to declare as much every Christmas in Bethlehem. Arafat may be gone but the malady lingers on, as demonstrated last week in a statement from the Palestinian Authority’s ‘moderate’ Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
'Christmas is an opportunity to celebrate the Palestinian identity of Jesus Christ,’ Fayyad declared when he flipped the switch lighting a 50-foot Christmas tree in Bethlehem's Manger Square last week.
The notion that Jesus was a Palestinian permeates Arab society in the region. In an interview on 3 December last year, the author Samih Ghanadreh was interviewed on Palestinian Authority TV about his book Christianity and its Connection to Islam. Ghanadreh recalled with fondness that Arafat labelled Jesus ‘the first Palestinian Shahid (Martyr),’ to which the host responded that no one denies ‘Jesus was a Palestinian.’
Earlier in 2010, the Communications and Education Authority of Fatah issued a statement on its official website:
If we are proud of the holiness of our land, then we are proud and pride ourselves that the first and most important holy woman among the nations and peoples is from the holy land: The Virgin Mary – the woman of love and peace – is of the nation of Palestine…
In 2009, the Mufti of Jerusalem Mohammed Hussein, who was appointed by Mahmoud Abbas, preached on Palestinian TV:
Jesus was born in this land; he took his first steps in this land and spread his teachings [of Islam] in this land. He and his mother [Mary], we may say, were Palestinians par excellence.
The belief that Jesus, the Messiah of Israel, was a Palestinian and a pre-Islamic Muslim to boot is ingrained into the Palestinian communal psyche. All historic or religious ties between Jesus and the Jews have been severed, just as the Palestinians have severed all historic and religious ties between the Jews and the land of Israel.
But it’s not only Palestinians that are being indoctrinated. Western Christians are very susceptible to Palestinian propaganda. Some years ago I attended a symposium in London at which one speaker recounted that on his first encounter with Palestinian Christians he had asked when they became Christians. There response was one of annoyance. How dare he ask that question? Their people had been Christians since the day of Pentecost!
A biblical scholar I admire very much has stated that on the day of Pentecost, Peter preached in Arabic!
Other western Christians can do even better than that. One evangelical author knows Palestinian Christians who have been faithful to the Saviour since the magi visited Bethlehem, while another knows Palestinian Christians who are descended from the shepherds to whom the angels appeared!
Well, as they say, this is a magic season, so we shouldn’t be surprised that there are conjurors around who can turn Israel into Palestine, Jesus into a Palestinian and Christianity into Islam.