Manger Square was bedecked with huge photomontages of classic artworks featuring Christian imagery superimposed with images from the Palestinians’ modern reality. Caravaggio’s “Ecce Homo” merged with a photograph of Palestinians crossing an Israeli checkpoint on their way to Jerusalem, equating Palestinians with Jesus and his suffering.
Within the Protestant world, many churches are deeply hostile to the State of Israel. They present the Palestinians as victims of Israeli oppression while ignoring the murderous victimization of Israeli citizens at their hands. This much is generally known. What is less known is the even more disturbing fact that this perverse animus is increasingly fed not by the politics of the present moment but by theology.
This is all the more striking because millions of evangelical Christians are among the most passionate supporters of Israel in America and elsewhere. These Christian Zionists believe the Hebrew Bible’s account of how God chose the Jewish people to form a kingdom of priests and promised them the land of Israel. That religious belief has turned Christian Zionists themselves into a key target for evangelization on the part of those churches that have Israel in their crosshairs—and those evangels are bearing fruit.
The Christian world likes to forget it, but the history of its relationship with the Jews is terrible. In medieval Europe, the Catholic Church used blood libels to incite the population against the Jews, converted them at knifepoint, and murdered them in great number.
These pogroms were driven by a particular demonology called replacement theology, also known as supersessionism. Going back to the early Christian father Origen (182–254 C.E.), this idea holds that, because the Jews denied the divinity of Jesus, all the promises God had made to them now belong to Christians. Exiled from God’s love, the Jews had become the party of the Devil.
After Auschwitz, this vicious theology unsurprisingly disappeared from view. But it turns out that it only went underground. For now it has returned with a fresh geopolitical impetus furnished by “Palestinian liberation theology,” itself a fusion of Palestinian political aspirations and Christian thinking.
It is a variant of liberation theology, the doctrine propounded in the 1960s to suggest that socialist revolution was the proper fulfillment of the Christian duty to the poor. In this iteration, Jesus becomes a Palestinian persecuted by the Jews while Jesus’s descendants—who knew he had any?—become today’s Palestinians, crucified in the very land that was promised to them. Their liberation would, of course, require the dissolution of the Jewish state.
These malevolent concepts, spreading from Palestinian Christians to churches in the West, are rooted in an audacious strategy adopted by the Palestinian Authority to deny Israel’s right to exist by changing Jewish history to suit its own end. Part of this strategy involves denying that Jesus was a Jew from Judea and turning him into a Palestinian who preached Islam.
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