Jesus, Early Palestinian
posted at 1:59 pm on September 15, 2010 by J.E. Dyer
Melanie Phillips (author of The World Turned Upside Down: The Global Battle over God, Truth and Power) writes in the UK Spectator about an article from the UK Guardian this week, describing Europe’s first Christian theme park. The park, to be built on the Spanish island of Mallorca, will “aim to emulate the success of Christian attractions in the US such as the Holy Land Experience in Orlando, Florida.” The Guardian piece includes a photo of an actor playing Jesus at the Orlando theme park, with a lamb in his arms.
What Phillips picks up on, however, is the wording used by the Guardian’s author to describe a similar theme park in Buenos Aires:
Exact details are scant, but the Buenos Aires park offers its re-enactments of the creation of mankind, the birth of Christ, the resurrection and the last supper eight times a day. With a cast of extras in the costumes of Romans and early Palestinians, the park advertises itself as ‘a place where everyone can learn about the origins of spirituality.’
Early Palestinians? A friend pointed out yesterday that the article doesn’t mention the word “Jew” or “Hebrew” even once, in spite of the fact that its topic is theme parks that reenact the main narrative of the Bible.
Phillips identifies this false depiction of historical reality as the product of a campaign by Arab Christians in Jerusalem to invent a “Palestinian” history and claim Jesus for Arabs rather than Jews. And there is certainly such a campaign underway. The effort is much broader than a few Arab Christian theologians, however. Its main thrust is claiming Jesus, as a Palestinian Arab, for Islam. (Islam already calls Jesus a prophet: the second greatest after Mohammed. The Palestinian refinement is to claim him explicitly as a non-Jewish, Palestinian Arab.)
The Jerusalem Post’s Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) has a number of useful links here, here, and here, documenting the Palestinian Muslim effort to invent a history for “Palestinians,” erase the historical reality of Jews in Israel, and – among other absurd claims – call Jesus the first “tortured Palestinian.”
This is not by any means a fringe development. Yasser Arafat, speaking to Arab reporters at the UN in 1982, said this:
Jesus Christ was the first Palestinian fedayeen who carried his sword along the path on which the Palestinian today carry their cross.
The Bible, of course, calls Jesus a Jew – specifically a descendant of Abraham’s son Isaac, and of Jacob, Judah (ancestor of one of the twelve tribes), and King David; a genealogy outlined in the Old Testament and repeated in the first chapter of the gospel of Matthew. The Roman administrators of Judea and Samaria in the time of Jesus Christ dealt with the occupants politically as “the Jews,” acknowledging in particular the religious authority of the Judaic high priest and the Sanhedrin. Phillips points out Jewish traditions in which Jesus participated; the gospels list his observances of, and encounters with, Jewish law.
Rome did not refer to the region as “Palestine” until more than a century later; there was no such thing as an entity called “Palestine” peopled by the ancestors of today’s “Palestinian” Arabs. In fact, the narrative of a historical “Palestinian” claim to the territory of today’s Israel is a modern fiction.
But in the US, we’ve had little exposure to this explicit effort to build a fictional narrative – and in particular, to its theological aspect. I am unconvinced, moreover, that this narrative has won over very many MSM journalists in Europe. The connections documented here are undoubtedly relevant, but I think something more insidious is at work. In the case of a writer like Giles Tremlett (author of the Guardian piece), I judge that the dynamic in question can be described in well-understood terms: political correctness has turned him into a useful idiot.
Tremlett probably couldn’t give a valid definition of theological “supersessionism” if put on the spot. If you asked him whether revisionist theological theories should govern our understanding of history, he would want badly to say “No,” because that’s the obvious answer for the properly skeptical empiricist. He certainly wouldn’t state the fictional Palestinian narrative, wholesale, as his argument for anything.
But he understands instinctively that a categorical “No” would preempt a whole revisionist industry in the “victimized world.” So he would almost certainly decline to answer the question, reverting, as if a switch had been flipped, to the modern Palestinian victim narrative instead. That narrative, with its emotional tug, gives the Palestinian Arabs carte blanche to make up whatever stories they want. And it compels political correctness as a sign of allegiance from the sympathetic.
The effect of this dynamic is to induce people to say very foolish things. Politically correct speech prefers internal correctness over reason, as, for example, when an American confusedly refers to a black Englishman as an “African-American,” because he can’t say “black.” The man in question may be a third-generation Englishman who’s an accountant in Birmingham and is fed up with voting for those Labour twits, but what matters in the American’s indoctrinated mind is the narrative of political correctness: skin color = African origin = victimization => officious solicitude, euphemism, and ellipsis.
The solicitude and euphemism are bad enough, but it’s the ellipsis that gets us in the end. It’s the facts and reality that we are induced to leave out of our discourse – induced by a willingness to suspend disbelief and to avoid whatever anyone insists is an offense to someone – that increase our vulnerability to evil developments. The case of the Christian theme parks is illustrative: it’s not sufficient to merely refrain from explicitly retailing the “Jesus was a Palestinian” narrative. Not telling the lie explicitly isn’t enough. We have to affirm the truth. It’s necessary to affirm that Jesus was a Jew, and the Jewish people were the ones governed by the Herods and occupied by Rome during Jesus’ lifetime.
The peculiar Western decision to deprivilege our own historical record – indeed, to deconstruct our entire civilizational narrative, and offer an unmerited credulity to any competing narrative that campaigns to supplant it – has softened us up for this. Having done this consciously, on principle, colors our view of all theory and knowledge. It weakens our perception of the link between knowing the truth, acting on it, and living successfully. We have come to believe, oddly, that we can do the latter indefinitely while treating the former as if it doesn’t matter.
And so a competing narrative that rejects everything the West is about – our intertwined roots in Judaic law and culture, in philosophical empiricism and honest investigation, and in the “covenant of grace” conferred by Jesus Christ – is able to gain a foothold through our intellectual self-abnegation. It’s essential to understand the dynamic here: it’s not that Westerners, in droves, are explicitly embracing the fictional Palestinian narrative, and certainly not because of its power or intellectual coherence. It’s that the narrative is quietly backing in, under the banner of the Palestinian victim meme, where we have left a void in our minds.
We can reverse this trend immediately, simply by beginning to think and recover history. But until enough of us do, we have become the people who, believing in nothing, will fall for anything.
Cross-posted at The Optimistic Conservative.