There are memes going around the internet that say Jesus was a Palestinian. There is one purpose to these memes. They serve to identify Jesus with the Palestinian cause and co-opt Jesus into the service of a coloniser narrative. Let’s clarify the history and the context.
Jesus was a Jew. The Christian New Testament states quite clearly that when challenged, Jesus stated “I am of the Jews and my message is for the Jews.”
When the Romans conquered and colonised Israel, as part of their attempts to obliterate Jewish history and connection to Israel (a typical coloniser technique), they renamed it after an historic enemy of the Jews, the Pleshtim. They were Aegean raiders, probably from Greece. Pleshtim comes from a Hebrew word meaning “invader”. The Roman rendering of this word was Palestina.
The irony that the name meant invader was not lost on the Romans who further renamed the region Syria-Palestina in their empire building project which typically attempted to eradicate all memory of the indigenous people of the region. At that point, the Romans in an act of domination and power, and ignoring the names by which Jews referred to themselves and their country, renamed the Jews “Palestinians.”
This was an act of colonialism well-known and understood by both colonisers and those who are conquered. It was further repeated by the British when they gained control of the mandate and called it “the Mandate of Palestine” after wresting it from the Ottoman Empire at the end of WWI.
Until 1964, the only people who were historically referred to as “Palestinian” were Jews. The Arabs who flooded out of the Arabian peninsula in colonising, conquering waves after the death of Muhammad some 1600 years after the establishment of the original state of Israel always referred to themselves as “Arab” and emphatically refused to be identified as “Palestinian” until it became politically expedient to rename themselves thus in the PLO charter of 1964.
So, to people who post shallow memes referring to Jesus as a Palestinian, know that you are posting something that was used by colonisers in an act designed to eradicate the memory of the indigenous people of the area. It was a name used to insult and disenfranchise all Jews, including Jesus.
Perpetuating these memes is an act of cultural appropriation that deliberately lacks historic context in order to further the agenda of cultural revisionism that is STILL an attempt to erase the connections that identify Jews as the indigenous inhabitants of Israel, Judea and Samaria. This is a cynical act of propaganda that circulates on social media and becomes accepted “social media truth” by the uneducated and the uninformed.
Famous quotes on the matter follow. If PLO and Hamas officials know this, people who spread these memes should do their homework before they promote revisionism in the interests of a colonial narrative intended to displace an indigenous people from their homeland.
“The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct “Palestinian people” to oppose Zionism. Yes, the existence of a separate Palestinian identity exists only for tactical reasons, Jordan, which is a sovereign state with defined borders, cannot raise claims to Haifa and Jaffa, while as a Palestinian, I can undoubtedly demand Haifa, Jaffa, Beer-Sheva and Jerusalem. However, the moment we reclaim our right to all of Palestine, we will not wait even a minute to unite Palestine and Jordan.”
~PLO official, Zaheir Mohsen
quoted by James Dorsey, “Wij zijn alleen Palestijn om politieke reden”, Trouw, 31 March 1977.
“Personally, half my family is Egyptian. We are all like that. More than 30 families in the Gaza Strip are called Al-Masri [“Egyptian”]. Brothers, half of the Palestinians are Egyptians and the other half are Saudis. Who are the Palestinians? We have many families called Al-Masri, whose roots are Egyptian. Egyptian! They may be from Alexandria, from Cairo, from Dumietta, from the North, from Aswan, from Upper Egypt. We are Egyptians. We are Arabs. We are Muslims. We are a part of you.”
~Hamas Foreign Minister, Fathi Hammad, 2014.