Professor of Religion’s Easter Op-ed slams AOC for labeling Jesus a “Palestinian”

Professor of Religion’s Easter Op-ed slams AOC for labeling Jesus a “Palestinian”

A respected professor of Christian theology published an Easter message slamming the popular left-wing talking point describing Jesus as a Palestinian. While the claim may seem innocuous and based in ignorance, the professor ascribed deeply antisemitic motives to the claim.

Paula Fredriksen is clearly an expert on Christian theology. An American historian and scholar of early Christianity, she is an Aurelio Scripture emerita at Boston University and Distinguished Visiting Professor emerita in the Department of Comparative Religions at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She has written numerous books on the subject and has won many prestigious awards.

On Thursday, Prof Fredriksen published an op-ed in the Washington Post titled “This Easter, let’s not try to pretend Jesus was a ‘Palestinian Jew’”. 

“Easter marks the resurrection of Jesus,” she wrote. “But this year the holiday comes with a twist: Jesus resurrected as Palestinian. Never mind that Jesus was born and died a Jew in Judaea.”

She cites an article in the Encyclopaedia Britannica describing Jewish Palestine at the time of Jesus. Prof; Fredriksen also cites the more egregious statements made by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who, last Christmas, posted to Instagram a photo of a child standing in the rubble of Gaza. The photo was accompanied by an alternative history of Jesus:

“In the story of Christmas, Christ was born in modern-day Palestine under the threat of a government engaged in a massacre of innocents,” she wrote.

“He was part of a targeted population being indiscriminately killed to protect an unjust leader’s power. Mary and Joseph, displaced by violence and forced to flee, became refugees in Egypt with a newborn waiting to one day return home.

“Thousands of years later, right-wing forces are violently occupying Bethlehem as similar stories unfold for today’s Palestinians, so much so that the Christian community in Bethlehem has canceled this year’s Christmas Eve celebrations out of both [fear for their] safety and respect,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote.

She also made a stunning claim that the Jews today are not the descendants of the Biblical nation.

“The country that is Israel today is not the Israel of the Bible,” said Ocasio-Cortez. “The country that is Israel today was established in this century.”

It should be noted that Christmas celebrations and decorations were canceled this year by the Bethlehem municipality and churches to show solidarity with Hamas in its war against Israel. The cancellation of Christmas was enforced by the Palestinian Authority.

Palestinians watch the lighting of a Christmas tree at Manger Square, outside the Church of the Nativity in West Bank town of Bethlehem, December 4, 2021. Photo by Flash90.

“This high Christian holiday is about honoring the precious sanctity of a family that, if the story were to unfold today, would be Jewish Palestinians,” AOC continued in her Christmas statement.

Prof. Fredriksen dissected the premise, revealing its absurdity.

“The gambit casts 1st-century Jews in the role of an occupying power and ‘Palestinians’ as their victims,” she wrote. “Just as Herod, the king of Judaea in Jesus’ time, persecuted the ‘Palestinian’ holy family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, so, too, goes the claim, is modern Israel an occupying power persecuting Palestinians today.”

The professor of religion noted that modern-day Bethlehem is suffering under an oppressive occupying power; the Muslim Palestinian Authority which has administered Christianity’s holiest city since 1995. Under this administration, the Christian population plunged from 86 percent in 1950 to less than 12 percent in 2016.

Prof. Fredriksen described the plight of Christians under Hamas as being even more dire.

After dispelling the myth of a modern “Palestinian Jesus”, the professor then presented the origins of the term “Palestine” as a 3,000-year-old Greek invention designating five cities that stretched from Gaza into Lebanon. This term never applied to the heartland of Israel. Jesus, being born in Bethlehem, was a Judean.

The Romans coined the term “Syria-Palestina” and applied it to the entire region after the Jewish revolt in 132 CE, almost a century after Jesus’ death. 

It was a deliberate way to “de-Judaize” the territory by using the throwback term for the coastal Philistines,” the professor wrote. 

“There was no political entity called  ‘Palestine’ in his lifetime,” Fredriksen wrote. “If Jesus was born in Bethlehem, he was born in Judaea as a Jew. He certainly died as one, under Rome’s heavy hand — the political condition that led to the two Jewish revolts.”

While claiming Jesus was a Palestinian can be written off as just another factual blunder by AOC, Prof. Fredriksen attributes this claim to a nefarious agenda.

“…in the current crisis, even Jesus is being enlisted for attacks on Israel,” Fredriksen wrote. “Calling Jesus a “Palestinian” or even a “Palestinian Jew” is all about modern politics. Besides being historically false, the claim is inflammatory. For two millennia, Jews have been blamed for Jesus’ execution by the Romans; casting him as a Palestinian just stokes the fires of hate, using Jesus against Jews once again.”

A rally in Bethlehem in support of Hamas. Credit: Soman via Wikimedia Commons.
(source: JNS)

“It is, further, an act of cultural and political appropriation — and a clever rhetorical move. It rips Jesus out of his Jewish context. And it rips 1st-century Jews — and 21st-century Israeli Jews — out of their ancestral homeland, turning them into interlopers. This is polemic masquerading as history.”

“There have already been too many casualties since Oct. 7. Let’s not allow history to be one of them,” Prof. Fredriksen concludes.

Despite the claim that Jesus was a Palestinian is an obvious anachronistic myth, it is disturbingly prevalent. This narrative was adopted by left-wing activist Linda Sarsour and several times in the New York Times

This egregious perversion of history and religion is becoming mainstream in the Democratic party. Last year, Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Muslim, retweeted the NYT op-ed. Raphael Warnock, senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church and a Democratic candidate for the US Senate, referred to Jesus in one of his sermons as “a Palestinian prophet.”

Jeremiah Wright, who almost cost his parishioner Barack Obama the presidency in 2008, with his anti-American and anti-Semitic barbs, used the Nation of Islam podium to advance a modern-day version of the Passion, in which the Jews are persecuting a Palestinian Jesus.

In December 2020, the BBC, a network that refers to the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorists as “militants”, aired a radio program Heart and Soul describing Jesus as a “darker-skinned Palestinian”.

In 2022,  the former director-general of Al Jazeera, tweeted an image accusing Israel of killing modern Palestinians just as the Jews killed the Palestinian Jesus.  

In pushing the narrative of Jesus as a Palestinian, the media and politicians are advancing an extremist Palestinian talking point. It is believed that the credo was an invention of Yasser Arafat’s adviser Hanan Ashrawi, a Christian, who said in an interview to the Washington Jewish Week on February 22, 2001, that “Jesus was a Palestinian.”

This became the official PLO platform as evidenced by their frequent reference to Jesus as “the first Palestinian martyr” and whose annual Christmas statement reads, “Every Christmas, Palestine celebrates the birth of one of its own: Jesus.”

At a Christmas ceremony in 2019, Dr. Mohammad Shtayyeh, the Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, referred to Jesus as “a Palestinian guerrilla fighter”.

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