Monday, December 21, 2015

20 years ago: Bethlehem comes under Palestinian control

But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. Micah 5:2

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
Luke 2:4-7

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.
And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,
And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.
Matthew 2:1-6

On December 21, 1995, Bethlehem, the birthplace of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, changed hands when Israeli military forces withdrew and Palestinian Police entered in keeping with the Oslo II peace accords.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is among those who, in recent years, have claimed that Jesus was a Palestinian--usually as another excuse for criticizing Israel. As reported by Ahuva Balofsky of Breaking Israel News, December 24, 2013:

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas issued a Christmas message Monday in which he suggested Israel persecutes Christians and claimed Jesus was a “Palestinian messenger.” Despite the confrontational tone of his message, he maintains he is committed to negotiations with Israel.

“As we Palestinians strive for our freedom two millennia later,” he wrote in a statement, “we do our best to follow his example. We work with hope, seeking justice, in order to achieve a lasting peace.”

Abbas elaborated on the PA’s commitment towards a peaceful settlement with Israel, “including ending the occupation of the Holy Land with the establishment of a fully independent and sovereign Palestinian State on the 1967 border with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

He was critical of Israel, saying, this Christmas Eve, our hearts and prayers will be with the millions who are being denied their right to worship in their homeland.

“We are thinking of our people in Gaza, trapped under siege, and of those who are prevented from worshiping in Bethlehem,” he said. “Our hearts and prayers are with the people of Al Dbayeh Refugee Camp in Beirut, along with all of our Palestinian refugees — Christians and Muslims uprooted from their hometowns in 1948 and who, since that time, have suffered the vicissitudes of a forced exile.”

Abbas went on to express solidarity with his Christian constituents, claiming, “Christians are not a minority here, they are an integral part of the Palestinian people. Orthodox, Catholics, Armenians, Assyrians, Lutherans, Anglicans, Copts, Melkites, Protestants and others are all part of the rich mosaic of this free, sovereign, democratic and pluralistic Palestine we aspire to have and as established in our declaration of independence and draft constitution.”

As heart-warming as such a description may be, it flies in the face of reality, as Christian populations throughout Muslim-controlled areas across the Middle East dwindle. Israel is the only country in the region whose Christian population is growing. In Bethlehem, birthplace of Jesus, where Christians used to make up the majority, they are now in the minority.

Israeli officials scoffed at Abbas’ comments. Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told The Times of Israel, “He should have read the Gospel before uttering such offensive nonsense, but we will forgive him because he doesn’t know what he’s doing.” He referred to Abbas’ statement as an “outrageous rewriting of Christian history.” He called Abbas’ harsh words, “not exactly in the spirit of Christmas,” and joked, “Maybe he needs a hug from Santa?”

Another Israeli official took offense to Abbas’ implication that Israeli policy is responsible for the mass Christian departure from the Holy Land. “The exodus of Christians from Bethlehem turned into a flood the moment the PA took control,” the official said.
Local nominal Christian authorities have taken issue with the claims of Mr. Abbad and others, as reported by Ahuva Balovsky of Breaking Israel News, December 21, 2015:

In response to repeated statements by Palestinian Authority (PA) officials that Jesus was a Palestinian, Israeli Christian leader Father Gabriel Naddaf denounced the claims on Facebook earlier this month.

“On what authority does President Abbas claim that Jesus was a Palestinian?” Naddaf wrote. “The Bible says that He was born in the Jewish city of Bethlehem to Jewish parents from the city of Nazareth and was circumcised on the 8th day as a Jew and presented to the Jewish Temple by His parents according to the Mosaic law.”

The PA has had a long-standing policy of rewriting history to undermine Jewish connections to the Land of Israel and to strengthen Palestinian and Arab claims to the land.

Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) has documented this effort since 1998, when Al-Ayyam daily paper printed, “Dr. Yussuf Alzamili [Chairman History Department, Khan Yunis Educational College] called on all universities and colleges to write the history of Palestine and to guard it, and not to enable the [foreign] implants and enemies to distort it or to legitimize the existence of Jews on this land… [History lecturer Abu Amar] clarified that there is no connection between the ancient generation of Jews and the new generation.”

According to PMW, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said last Christmas season, “We celebrate the birth of Jesus, a Palestinian messenger of love, justice and peace.” ‎This was not the first or last time Abbas or other PA officials have made or repeated such a claim. Some have gone so far as to call Jesus “the first martyr” for the Palestinian cause.

In a television special earlier this year about former Greek-Catholic Archbishop of Jerusalem Hilarion Capucci, who exploited his position to smuggle arms, PA Secretary-General of the Jerusalem Council Hanna Issa claimed the archbishop told him, “First of all, don’t forget that the first Martyr (Shahid) was Palestinian – Jesus the Messiah. Look how they tortured, crucified and killed him…”

Naddaf serves as Head of the Greek Orthodox Church in Yafia, near Nazareth, and of the Christian Empowerment Council, a group committed to further integration of Christians into Israeli society. He blasted the erroneous position.
“His family were Torah-observant Jews,” Naddaf explained, “and as an adult, Jesus Himself affirmed the authority of the Torah and the Prophets. He attended Synagogue on Sabbath and even taught in the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem and observed the Jewish feasts of Hanukah and Passover.”

Naddaf also called out the PA for its abuse of history for political gains. “According to the Bible, the Land of Israel, including Judea and Samaria, belongs to the Jewish people forever. So, no matter how much the Palestinian Authority tries to distort history, they cannot manipulate the Word of God to legitimise their political aims. The Promises of God to His people cannot be erased.”
The best argument against the idea of Jesus as a Palestinian is the Biblical record. The Palestinians are Arabs, who are descended from Abraham through Ishmael. Jesus, however, is descended from Abraham through Isaac, not Abraham, as per the covenant that God made with Abraham:

And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.
And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation.
But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year.
Genesis 17:19-21

The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren;
Matthew 1:1-2

And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli,...
...Which was the son of Jacob, which was the son of Isaac, which was the son of Abraham, which was the son of Thara, which was the son of Nachor,
Luke 3:23,34

The reader will notice that Isaac, but not Ishmael, is mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus Christ.

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