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Daily Israel Report

PA Claims Jesus was First Shaheed, Mary a Palestinian

The PA booted most Christian residents out of Bethlehem, but claims Jesus was a Shaheed, defying history and the New Testament.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 12/25/2010, 10:16 PM

When Christmas comes around, the Palestinian Authority looks for ways to incite Christian hatred of Jews worldwide. This year, the Jew-baiting has taken the form of a report by AFP regarding a Jewish town's opposition to Christmas trees and a book that defies history and the Bible to call Jesus "the first Palestinian martyr."

While carrying the anti-Jewish Christmas tree story, world media neglected to note that the PA has been brutally and systematically driving out its Christian population - in Bethlehem and elsewhere - through torture and murder.
 
Depicting Israel in the role of Dr. Seuss's "Grinch who stole Christmas," AFP sadly reported that "there will be no celebrations this year in a Jewish suburb of Nazareth, after its mayor sparked outrage by refusing to allow Christmas trees to be placed in town squares, calling them provocative."
 
 
The report has been featured on Yahoo!news, eliciting mostly angry anti-Israeli talkbacks, and elsewhere.
 
The suburb in question, Nazareth Illit, was established for the express purpose of creating a Jewish neighborhood next to Arab Nazareth. Over the past decade, however, thousands of Arabs have taken advantage of Israeli democracy to move  into the Jewish neighborhood, and it has become dangerous for Jews to walk down certain streets due to Arab harassment. Mayor Shimon Gapso and many of the Jewish residents see the demand by Arabs to put Christmas trees in public squares as just another act of Arab-nationalist chutzpah.
 
AFP, however, quoted Aziz Dahdal, a 35-year-old Christian resident of Nazareth Illit, as saying Gapso's decision against Christmas trees in public squares amounted to "racism."
 
Christmas trees were placed on the main street in Jerusalem leading to the Jaffa Gate for several days .
 
Jesus - from Jew to Arab
While depicting Jews as anti-Christian, the PA likes to promote the notion that Jesus - who was a Second Temple era Jew who is  mentioned in the Talmud as a student of Jewish rabbinic figures of the time - was in fact a "Palestinian." Palestinian Media Watch, which monitors PA incitement, reported that author Samih Ghanadreh from Nazareth called Jesus "the first Palestinian martyr" in a recent appearance on PA TV (see embedded video). Earlier this year the Fatah Communications and Education Authority issued as statement on the official Fatah website claiming the Virgin Mary was "of the nation of Palestine."
 

 
The news sources that blamed Israel over Christmas trees in Upper Nazareth and called Jesus a Palestinian martyr failed to note that in the areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority, Christians have been murdered, tortured, and intimidated into leaving ever since the PA took over. Nowhere is this more evident that in Bethlehem, a city which Christians hold sacred as Jesus's birthplace, although PA authorities are happy to receive tourist revenues during the Christian holiday seasons..  
 
According to a report by the Jerusalem Institute for Global Jewish Affairs, the Muslim Fatah-controlled PA is encouraging a "sharp demographic shift" in Bethlehem, where the Christian population went from a 60 percent majority in 1990 to a 40 percent minority in 2000, to about 15 percent of the city's total population in 2008. 
 
The percentage of Christians in the city is likely even lower today.
 
As people with "dhimmi" status, Christians living in PA-controlled territories are "subjected to debilitating legal, political, cultural, and religious restrictions," International human rights lawyer Justus Reid Weiner, who teaches at Hebrew University, told JIGJA. It is estimated that more than one thousand Christians have been emigrating from the Bethlehem area annually.
 
"There are many examples of intimidation, beatings, land theft, firebombing of churches and other Christian institutions, denial of employment, economic boycotts, torture, kidnapping, forced marriage, sexual harassment, and extortion," said Weiner. PA officials are directly responsible for many of the attacks, and some Muslims who have converted to Christianity have been murdered.
 
"Tens of thousands of Palestinian Christians have left their ancestral homes and emigrated to North America, Central America, South America, Europe, and Australia. They flee to almost any country that will issue them a visa," Weiner said. "Neither the Palestinian Christian leaders nor the PA want to reveal accurate statistics. That would mean the extent of the emigration would become publicly known. They would then have to face questions about the reasons for this decline."
 
'Najib the Christian'
In Gaza, too, the Christians are being "cleansed" and are believed to number now less than 3,000, amid 1.2 million Muslims. 
 
Attacks on Christian targets and those identified with Western culture in Gaza began before the Hamas takeover in June 2007, experts said, but grew more frequent after it. The targets have included churches, Christian and United Nations schools, a YMCA library and other Christian libraries, the American International School and Internet cafes.
 
The PA was involved in the torture of two Muslim brothers from Samaria who adopted the Christian faith. The first brother was arrested by the PA secret police and accused of collaborating with Israeli and American intelligence. After the interrogation the police placed a cardboard sign on his back upon which was written, ‘Najib the Christian.' Then he was told to ‘curse Jesus.'" He eventually made contact with Israelis who arranged for him to hide in a bomb shelter in a Jewish community and was finally granted asylum in Norway.
 
His brother spent 21 months in a PA prison after being arrested on fabricated charges. He was held for seven months in underground solitary confinement. Weiner quoted his testimony before him thus: "I was beaten with sticks; they stripped me naked and made me sit on bottles, and on the legs of chairs that they turned upside down, and many, many other sadistic things that I am even ashamed to say."
 
Despite all of this, Weiner said, anti-Zionist American Episcopalians and Presbyterians frequently blame Israel for the Middle East conflict. Leaders of other North American churches including the Methodists, the United Church of Christ, and the Lutherans "have also gone to great lengths to offer up one-sided condemnations of Israeli policies."