Eretz Israel is our unforgettable historic homeland...The Jews who will it shall achieve their State...And whatever we attempt there for our own benefit will redound mightily and beneficially to the good of all mankind. (Theodor Herzl, DerJudenstaat, 1896)

We offer peace and amity to all the neighbouring states and their peoples, and invite them to cooperate with the independent Jewish nation for the common good of all. The State of Israel is ready to contribute its full share to the peaceful progress and development of the Middle East.
(From Proclamation of the State of Israel, 5 Iyar 5708; 14 May 1948)

With a liberal democratic political system operating under the rule of law, a flourishing market economy producing technological innovation to the benefit of the wider world, and a population as educated and cultured as anywhere in Europe or North America, Israel is a normal Western country with a right to be treated as such in the community of nations.... For the global jihad, Israel may be the first objective. But it will not be the last. (Friends of Israel Initiative)

Saturday, 1 January 2011

“Jesus Was a Palestinian” explains anti-Islamophobia Campaigner

Below is another of those “Jesus wasn’t Jewish” pieces which crop up all too frequently nowadays. Or at any rate, it encourages those who insist Jesus wasn't Jewish, because it's not clear whether its author is denying that fact himself.

Its author, Jehanzeb Dar, is undoubtedly well-intentioned in his endeavours to promote inter-communal harmony and he's probably correct in assuming that Jesus did not physically resemble the northern Europeans depicted by European Christian artists (that's something that many Christians have long conceded). But much of his article is ahistorical nonsense, and prone to be gleefully taken up  –  as indeed it has been  –  by the delegitimisers of Israel.

Entitled “Jesus Was Palestinian and why it matters”, the article (which can be found at  http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=345198) has been reproduced with gusto on many anti-Israel websites. Jehanzeb Dar, who blogs at Muslim Reverie, recently wrote a chapter in "Teaching Against Islamophobia" on the demonization of Muslims and Arabs in mainstream American comics.

Writes Dar, inter alia:

Because of modern alarmist reactions to the word “Palestine,” many non-Arabs and non-Muslims take offense when it is argued that Jesus was a Palestinian (peace be upon him).

Jesus’ ethnicity, skin color, and culture often accompany this conversation, but few people are willing to acknowledge the fact he was non-European. A simple stroll down the Christmas aisle will show you the dominant depiction of Jesus: a blonde [sic; the Americans use the spelling blonde for both genders]-haired, blue-eyed, white man.

Islamophobia and anti-Arab propaganda have conditioned us to view Palestinians as nothing but heartless suicide bombers, “terrorists,” and “enemies of freedom and democracy.” Perpetual media vilification and demonization of Palestinians, in contrast to the glorification of Israel, obstructs us from seeing serious issues such as the Palestinian refugee crisis, the victims of Israel’s atrocious three-week assault on Gaza during the winter of 2008-2009, the tens of thousands of homeless Palestinians, and many other struggles that are constantly addressed by human rights activists around the world.

To speak from the perspective of the Palestinians, especially in casual non-Arab and non-Muslim settings, generates controversy because of the alignment between Palestinians and violent stereotypes. So, how could Jesus belong to a group of people that we’re taught to dehumanize?

When I’ve spoken to people about this, I’ve noticed the following responses: “No, Jesus was a Jew,” or “Jesus is not Muslim.” The mistake isn’t a surprise to me, but it certainly is revealing. Being a Palestinian does not mean one is Muslim or vice versa. Prior to the brutal and unjust dispossession of indigenous Palestinians during the creation of the state of Israel, the word “Palestine” was a geographic term applied to Palestinian Muslims, Palestinian Christians, and Palestinian Jews. Although most Palestinians are Muslim today, there is a significant Palestinian Christian minority who are often overlooked, especially by the mainstream Western media.

That dominant narrative not only distorts and misrepresents the Palestinian struggle as a religious conflict between “Muslims and Jews,” but consequentially pushes the lives of Palestinian Christians into “non-existence.” That is, due to the media's reluctance to report the experiences and stories of Palestinian Christians, it isn’t a surprise when white Americans are astonished by the fact that Palestinian and Arab Christians do, in fact, exist. One could argue that the very existence of Palestinian Christians is threatening, as it disrupts the sweeping and overly-simplistic “Muslim vs. Jew” Zionist narrative. To learn about many Palestinian Christians opposing Israeli military occupation, as well as Jews who oppose the occupation, is to reveal more voices, perspectives, and complexities to a conflict that has been immensely portrayed as one-sided, anti-Palestinian, and anti-Muslim.

Yeshua (Jesus’ real Aramaic name) was born in Bethlehem, a Palestinian city in the West Bank and home to one of the largest Palestinian Christian communities. The Church of the Nativity, one of the oldest churches in the world, marks the birthplace of Jesus and is sacred to both Christians and Muslims. While tourists from the around the world visit the site, they are subject to Israeli checkpoints and roadblocks. The Israeli construction of the West Bank barrier also severely restricts travel for local Palestinians. In April of 2010, Israeli authorities barred Palestinian Christians from entering Jerusalem and visiting the Church of Holy Sepulchre during Easter. Yosef Zabaneh, a Palestinian Christian merchant in Ramallah, said: “The Israeli occupation in Gaza and the West Bank doesn't distinguish between us, but treats all Palestinians with contempt.”

Zabaneh’s comments allude to the persistent dehumanization of Palestinians, as well as the erasure of Palestinians, both Christians and Muslims. By constantly casting Palestinians as the villains, even the term “Palestine” becomes “evil.” There is refusal to recognize, for example, that the word “Palestine” was used as early as the 5th century BCE by the ancient Greek historian Herodotus....

Deliberately avoiding the use of the name “Palestine” not only misrepresents history, but also reinforces anti-Palestinian racism as acceptable. When one examines the argument against Jesus being a Palestinian, one detects a remarkable amount of hostility aimed at both Palestinians and Muslims. One cannot help but wonder, is there something threatening about identifying Jesus as a Palestinian?
....
Certainly, no person is superior to another based on culture, language, or skin color, but to ignore the way Jesus’ whiteness has been used to subjugate and discriminate against racial minorities in the West and many other countries is to overlook another important aspect of Jesus’ teachings: Love thy neighbor as thyself. Malcolm X wrote about white supremacists and slave-owners using Christianity to justify their “moral” and “racial superiority” over blacks. In Malcolm’s own words, “The Holy Bible in the White man's hands and its interpretations of it have been the greatest single ideological weapon for enslaving millions of non-white human beings.” Throughout history, whether it was in Jerusalem, Spain, India, Africa, or in the Americas, white so-called “Christians” cultivated a distorted interpretation of religion that was compatible with their racist, colonialist agenda.

And here we are in the 21st century where Islamophobia (also stemming from racism because the religion of Islam gets racialized) is on the rise; where people calling themselves “Christian” fear to have a black president; where members of the KKK and anti-immigration movements behave as if Jesus were an intolerant white American racist who only spoke English despite being born in the Middle East. It is astonishing how so-called “Christians” like Ann Coulter call Muslims “rag-heads” when in actuality, Jesus himself would fit the profile of a “rag-head,” too. As would Moses, Joseph, Abraham, and the rest of the Prophets (peace be upon them all)...

The ugly truth which never even occurs to most Americans is that Jesus looked a lot more like an Iraqi, like an Afghani, like a Palestinian, like an Arab, than any of the paintings which grace the walls of American churches from sea to shining sea. This was an uncomfortable fact before September 11. After the attack, it became almost a moral imperative to put as much distance between Americans and people from the Middle East as possible. Now, to suggest that Jesus shared a genealogical heritage and physical similarity to the people sitting in dog cages down in Guantanamo is to dance along the edge of treason.

Without acknowledging Jesus as a native Middle Eastern person  – a Palestinian  –  who spoke Aramaic  –  a Semitic language that is ancestral to Arabic and Hebrew  –  the West will continue to view Islam as a “foreign religion.” Hate crimes and discriminatory acts against Muslims, Arabs, and others who are perceived to be Muslim will persist. They will still be treated as “cultural outsiders.” Interesting enough, Christianity and Judaism are never considered “foreign religions,” despite having Middle Eastern origins, like Islam. As Douglas-Klotz insists, affirming Jesus as a native Middle Eastern person “enables Christians to understand that the mind and message” of Jesus arises from “the same earth as have the traditions of their Jewish and Muslim sisters and brothers.”

Jesus would not prefer one race or group of people over another. I believe he would condemn today’s demonization and dehumanization of the Palestinian people, as well as the misrepresentations of him that only fuel ignorance and ethnocentrism. As a Muslim, I believe Jesus was a prophet of God, and if I were to have any say about the Christmas spirit, it would be based on Jesus’ character: humility, compassion, and Love. A love in which all people, regardless of ethnicity, race, culture, religion, gender, and sexual orientation are respected and appreciated.

5 comments:

  1. its a muddled article because it wasn't Palestine when Jesus lived and the Arab's hadn't gotten there yet

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  2. I didn't include his quotations from certain authors - who inaccurately insisted that Jesus lived in "Palestine"; perhaps I should have, to show how ahistorical much of the article is (anyway, click on the link at you get to read the entire thing).

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  3. As a former RE teacher, I could weep - or spit fire! I looked at the comments on the article, in which the author also posts. He is weasel-worded. Jesus is described as a Palestinian Jew! Despite some posters pointing out the historical facts, it amazes me how many are prepared, nay, willing, to believe this sort of rubbish.

    As for the portraits of Jesus, I have seen others from other parts of the world which show Jesus as being from that particular race or culture e.g. black, Indian, Chinese etc. The idea is that Jesus is for everyone. However, being a Protestant, I object to these depictions which can border on, or even cross over into, idolatry. As a teacher, I often reminded children that Jesus was (and is)a Jew.

    Theologically, the Christian Doctrine of the Incarnation includes what is sometimes called the 'scandal of particularity'. Which is to say that the Incarnate God (The Son) is a man, a Jew, born when Herod the Great was King etc. etc. He can never now be anything other. This is the concept of being fully Human. We are all what we are when we are born, and despite the surgeon's knife, cannot really be anything else.

    It may have been odd of God to choose the Jews, but it was odd of God to choose anybody! (Which, by the way, is the point of the couplet). We should be grateful that He did choose because if He had not chosen then we would all have nothing.

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  4. Well according to Jello Biafra and the Melvins, "Jesus was a Terrorist". So yeah, that makes sense.

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  5. Thank you, Ian.
    I saw a TV programme about depictions of Jesus in Latin American churches and cathedrals - he resembled the native people.

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