'The Jesus guy,' a missionary in Jerusalem (file)
'The Jesus guy,' a missionary in Jerusalem (file) Hadas Parush / Flash 90

Jesus was not Palestinian, the Uniting Church of Australia said after an umbrella Jewish group objected to a news story that called Palestinians "the living descendants of Christ."

The saga began when two Palestinian Arab members of the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network, which has links with the Uniting Church of Australia, wrote a story that appeared last Tuesday in the leftist political publication New Matilda.

The article, which was penned by Samah Sabawi and Bassam Dally, stated: “An official delegation representing our country in Israel has added fuel to the flames of extremism abroad by applauding proven human rights violators and insulting the living descendants of Christ in his home of birth in Palestine.”

According to JTA, Peter Wertheim, executive director of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, wrote a letter of protest to the Uniting Church of Australia, to which Stuart McMillan, president of church, wrote in response:

“I would like to assure you and the Jewish community that the Uniting Church does not accept the view that Jesus was Palestinian. We affirm that Jesus and most of his early followers were Jewish. We note that Jesus was born neither in Israel nor in Palestine, but in the Roman-occupied province of Judea, and that it is entirely inappropriate for anybody to attempt to claim political capital from the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem to bolster claims of either ‘side’ of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.”

In his letter to McMillan, Wertheim wrote: “The proposition that Jesus was a Palestinian and that the Palestinian Arab population of today are his ‘living descendants’ is so absurd and offensive that it deserves an immediate and substantive rebuttal.” He also referred to continuing attempts to “to erase the Jewishness of Jesus and the common origins of Christianity and Judaism, and to pretend that the Holy Land has no Jewish national or religious history.”

The Australia Palestine Advocacy Network has a relationship with the Uniting Church of Australia, which is the country’s third largest Christian denomination, through the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Network.