Was Jesus a Palestinian?
That is the latest historical claim of Mahoud Abbas.
The status of Abbas is its own problem, due to his term as President of the Palestine.National Authority having run out in January, 2009, and there being no subsequent election.
His claim about Jesus is even more problematic.
While the reliable documentation is sparse, most agree that he was born to a Jewish mother in what was then Judea, three or four years before or after the beginning of what became the Common Era. The area did not become "Syria Palaestina" until Hadrian made it such some 60 years after Jesus' death.
Varda and other Israeli Jews of her generation have a better claim to the title of "Palestinian" than Jesus. They were born during the British Mandate for Palestine, with the backing of an official birth certificate.
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Who was the real Jesus is a knotty problem, dealt with by Albert Schweitzer in his doctoral dissertation and by numerous other researchers seeking to learn something from the lone historical source, which isn't all that good as such. The various parts of the New Testament were composed several decades or more than a century after the death of Jesus by disciples of his disciples, or by the third or fourth generation of Christians on the basis of what they heard from their predecessors.
Think about the party game that shows how a message changes as it passes around a circle.
The New Testament includes much that is inspirational, which Jesus is reported to have said. Those parts look pretty much like the words of the Prophets spoken several centuries earlier. As a record of historic reality the New Testament is not any more reliable than the Book of Genesis.
Abbas' claim about Jesus is a part of the Palestinian creation of history to suit their political agenda.
We all should know that the history you read depends on the historian who wrote it. History as an academic discipline varies from practitioners who are assiduous in using all the tools of social science to describe what happened, to those who emphasize their interpretations of what was associated with what, and what caused whatever they perceive as having happened. The creativity and doubts about certainty contribute to decisions in many universities to put the Department of History in the Humanities, along with Art and Literature, rather than with the Social Sciences. No one should claim that the social sciences are free of those who interpret freely and creatively, but that gets us into issues beyond the scope of this note.
What is important for Israel is the Palestinian freedom of inventing a history, in which there is no place for Israel or the Jewish people. The Palestinian history, imposed on the education of Palestinian children by the political leadership, and often spoken of to crowds is that the Jews have no claim to this place; that Palestine goes from the Jordan to the sea; that Jews stole what they have from the Palestinians, and continue stealing with every home they build. School children chant about returning to Haifa, Jaffa, and Acco, and their school maps do not show Israel. Palestinian religious leaders, given responsibility by Israel for managing the Temple Mount, which the Palestinian narrative denies ever was the location of Judaic Temples, are doing what they can to destroy archaeological evidence of a Jewish presence there.
The issue is far more important than a quarrel over the content of history lessons. It justifies Netanyahu's insistence that the Palestinian leadership recognize Israel as a Jewish state, or the state of the Jewish people, which the Palestinian leadership remains steadfast in opposing.
Israeli educators for some decades have been concerned to teach Jewish children that the Palestinians have a view of what happened in 1948, alongside the Jewish view of what happened in 1948.
Palestinian educators and the politicians who direct them, are far from recognizing anything beyond their own narrative.
Not only the Israeli right, but also the center and even some of the left wanting so badly to reach an agreement with the Palestinians recognizes the problem in the lack of symmetry.
Palestinians are being told time and again that Israel has no legitimate claim to existence, and will sooner or later disappear. Palestinians who have killed Israeli citizens are lionized as heroes if alive and national martyrs if dead, with streets and other public sites named in their honor.
We should wonder about John Kerry's obsession, reported to be on the edge of irrationality, as he prods a large crew of aides day and night with his latest ideas about to how to solve the problems of Palestine and Israel.
Until the Palestinian leadership recognizes the legitimacy of Jewish history (which need not mean accepting all the details of what Israelis want in the context of an agreement), and stops teaching their children and adults that we are illegitimate, it seems fair to ask if there is a point in the US Secretary of State tweaking the latest idea into what might become a "Framework decision."
Posted by Ira Sharkansky at December 30, 2013 12:25 AM
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem