Jesus was a Palestinian, and many Palestinians were Jews
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week asserted that archeological digs run by the State of Israel have found proof that the Palestinians were never indigenous to the “Land of Israel” and immigrated from Europe. But since he opened the window to the topic, it’s worth noting that many of today’s “Chosen People” are actually Christians and Muslims who converted from Judaism during the occupation of the Holy Land by the Romans. Netanyahu is actually the son of an immigrant to Palestine from Warsaw, Poland as are many Israelis who claim to be “Jewish.”
By Ray Hanania
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a man of many hats, including a warmonger, a racist, and an ardent foe of the Two-State solution, which is a plan for peace with the Palestinians based on compromise.
The mercurial rightwing Israeli leader, who is the target of a wide-ranging corruption probe by the Israeli Attorney General, also fashions himself as an amateur anthropologist declaring after reading an article in Science Magazine recently that the “Palestinians” were never indigenous to the Holy Land and are actually descendants of Europeans.
Netanyahu turned to Twitter this week to document his assertions, declaring in one Tweet,“A new study of DNA recovered from an ancient Philistine site in the Israeli city of Ashkelon confirms what we know from the Bible – that the origin of the Philistines is in southern Europe.”
In a follow-up Tweet, Netanyahu asserted, “The Bible mentions a place called Caphtor, which is probably modern-day Crete. There’s no connection between the ancient Philistines & the modern Palestinians, whose ancestors came from the Arabian Peninsula to the Land of Israel thousands of years later.”
Now, if a non-Jew made the argument that today’s Jews are not Jews at all but descendants of the Russian Khazars, as is sometimes asserted, they would be called “anti-Semites.” The punishment for challenging Israel’s narrative can be brutal.
When a Palm Beach, Florida high school teacher told a parent recently, “I can’t say the Holocaust is a factual, historical event because I am not in a position to do so as a school district employee,” he was immediately reassigned. Worse things have happened to others who have challenged the Holocaust or the Jewish claims to the Holy Land.
The threat of punishment for challenging Israel’s right to exist is the foundation upon which Netanyahu can get away with his anti-Semitism. Like most Israelis, Netanyahu conflates religion (Judaism) with race and nationality (Hebrews, Philistines and Israelis) to create an exclusive identity they use to justify an exclusive control over the Holy Land.
In 1976, I debated Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban on national television and touched on that very issue. I was an activist, at the time, representing the Arab American Congress for Palestine, fresh out of U.S. Military service during the Vietnam War.
During the televised debate, Eban told me that my name, “Chanania” was a Hebrew word when translated meant “God has been gracious,” In fact, Hanania is cited repeatedly in the Old Testament of the Bible suggesting that if I go far enough back into my ancestry, I would discover that my ancestors were probably Jews.
Israel’s super eloquent spokesman at the time was trying to argue, as Netanyahu does today, that Palestinians don’t really exist and that we are a figment of our imagination.
Eban was actually angry with me because instead of arguing about the politics of the Middle East conflict, I argued about the “people” of the Middle East conflict. I looked sympathetically into the eye of the camera at the American audience watching the TV show, and I explained that my family has deep roots in Jerusalem going back hundreds of years and Netanyahu has no right to brush that off.
“My father was born in Jerusalem,” I said, noting we are Christians like the majority of people watching the TV debate in America. “My friend here, however, Abba Eban, was born in South Africa. His real name is Aubrey Solomon. Why does he have a right to live in Jerusalem but my father does not?”
For many Israelis like Eban, who died in 2002, and Netanyahu, who faces potential criminal indictment later this year in 2019, they have to constantly prove to the world that because they are Jewish, they have more right to live in the Holy Land than Palestinians like me who have stronger ties through name and history to the Holy Land, Jerusalem, Bethlehem and the Galilee.
My point raised a subtle question, was Abba Eban even really Jewish? Or did he or maybe one of his ancestors convert to Judaism? As a convert from Judasim to Christianity, doesn’t my family ties and the ties of millions of others who converted from Judaism to Christianity, and to even Islam, mean we have a greater claim to the “Land of Israel” than either Eban or Netanyahu, or the millions of people who claim the Jewish religion who live in Israel today?
Judaism is a religion that anyone can embrace. But your racial origins are embedded in your DNA. That counts for more than an individual’s religious choice.
If I am right, then Jesus of Nazareth, the prophet whose suffering at the hands of Hebrews during the Roman occupation of the Holy Land, was a Palestinian, too.
Jesus was born in Bethlehem, near where my mother was born and where her family lived for centuries. It’s a powerful point to counter people like Netanyahu who asserted in his Tweets that Palestinians have no connection to the Holy Land.
Jesus is often described not as a pale skinned person who looked European like Netanyahu, but rather as a slightly dark-skinned man whose parents immigrated to Palestine who looks more like me.
Eban wasn’t the only person born someplace else. Netanyahu’s father, Benzion Netanyahu, was born in Warsaw, Poland, where many of today’s Israeli Jews originate.
Keep in mind, I did not bring this topic up. Netanyahu did.
So, when we get to the final point in this discussion that Netanyahu opened on Twitter, we have to wonder aloud, who really are the “chosen people” that God is quoted as referencing in the Old Testament? Is God talking about today’s Israelis, many converts to Judaism who immigrated from European nations and changed their names? Or, was God speaking about the true ancestors of the Holy Land, Jews who lived there who converted to Christianity and Islam?
I don’t need Science Magazine to justify my existence. I have the historical track-record of DNA and also a name that traces directly back to Biblical origins.
So to naysayers like Netanyahu, I respond, “My mother was born in Bethlehem. And Jesus is my cousin.”
Ray Hanania is an award winning political and humor columnist who analyzes American and Middle East politics, and life in general. He is an author of several books.
Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. He began writing in 1975 publishing The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper (2004-2007).
Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues as Special US Correspondent for the Arab News ArabNews.com, at TheArabDailyNews.com, and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday, the Orlando Sentinel, Houston Chronical, and Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.
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