On Sunday, when Pope Francis celebrates mass in Bethlehem’s Manger Square, he may be confronted with billboards depicting Jesus being attacked by Israeli soldiers.
This not-so-subtle modern day version of the deicide is transparent classical anti-Semitism in the guise of criticism of Israel. The posters are a product of The Palestinian Museum, which announced that at the request of the Palestinian Authority (PA)’s Supreme Presidential Committee for Church Affairs, it had prepared special billboards to decorate Manger Square which “combine recent media photographs of the Palestinian landscape and its people with Western baroque paintings of biblical scenes.”
The posters, some of which depict Jesus suffering at the hands of Israeli soldiers, will highlight “the tension between the popular image of the Holy Land and Palestine's ongoing history of suffering under occupation and oppression,” according to the Museum.
Palestinian efforts to present themselves as the direct descendants of Jesus are nothing new. Nor is the manipulative and anti-Semitic comparison of Palestinian suffering at the hands of Jews just as they claim Jews were responsible for suffering and death of Jesus.
The message carefully chosen by an official Palestinian body to publicly welcome Pope Francis demonstrates how deeply intermingled anti-Jewish and anti-Israel attitudes are in the Palestinian public sphere.
At the weekly meeting of Israel’s cabinet, Prime Minister Netanyahu decried Palestinian incitement, citing the ADL Global 100 Survey findings about the high level of anti-Semitic attitudes in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
While the PA regularly complains that incitement is an Israeli-manufactured excuse, there is no denying that extreme anti-Israel and anti-Semitic messaging appears routinely in official Palestinian publications and institutions.
Earlier this week, the May 21st edition of the Palestinian Authority daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, featured an op-ed by one of its frequent writers, Yahya Rabah, entitled “No One Believes Shylock,” featuring the denial of the Jewish connection to the Land of Israel, comparisons of Israel to the Nazis and other outrages. Rabah writes:
"… Israel lives on a broad and extensive system of laws from the British Mandate, on illusionary Torah maps, as well as on hallucinations from the Babylonian captivity or from the Roman, the existence of neither has no single evidence. (It also lives) on practices borrowed from the Nazis, currently imitated by the Israelis against the Palestinian people, as clearly established by a number of intellectuals, authors and historians in Israel these days."
The issue of Palestinian incitement, and the PA’s chronic failure to prepare the Palestinian public for peace with Israel was on ongoing concern cited by Israeli officials during the recent cycle of US-brokered peace negotiations.
And with these egregious examples appearing almost-daily, it is certain to continue to alarm all those committed to true Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation.