by Dr. Reuven Berko
The Palestinians are going out of their way to show Pope Francis Israel's alleged violations of freedom of religion, but they are the ones trampling on the Christian narrative.
Regardless of the Palestinian spin, Pope Francis' meetings with President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are de facto recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. The pontiff's meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem also spelled his recognition of the division of Christian holy sites between Israel and the Palestinians.
The pope's visit comes at a difficult time for Christians in the Middle East. The Arab Spring has seen the various Christian denominations in the region brutally persecuted by the Muslims.
The Vatican has not forgotten how in 2002 Palestinian terrorists barricaded themselves in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, and vandalized and defiled it. The majority of Bethlehem's Christian community had fled the city, but the abuse by Hebron's youths of those remaining, especially the rape of Christian women, has not been forgotten; nor has Israel's "betrayal" by leaving the city following agreements included in the peace process, which left the Christians to fend for themselves.
In his dealing with the Palestinians, Pope Francis is trying to duplicate the miracle attributed to Jesus at the Sea of Galilee. The pope is trying to walk on the proverbial water without being drowned by waves of hatred in a region plagued by Islamic radicalism. He knows that the Jews -- including those fighting to retain Israeli control over David's Tomb -- are not dangerous, but dealing with the Palestinians and the Islamists requires extra vigilance.
The pope's visit has seen the Palestinians go out of their way to prove that Israel infringes on freedom of religion and worship for members of other faiths.
To that end the Palestinians have enlisted Al-Jazeera, which is typically in the service of the Muslim Brotherhood. Under the title "The Banned Pilgrimage," the Palestinians air footage of riots on the Temple Mount (depicting Arab youth throwing rocks onto the Western Wall plaza) and of Christian events (when Palestinian interrupt festivities), seeking to illustrate how Israeli security forces (trying to prevent Palestinian violence) maliciously infringe on Christian freedom of worship.
Never before has Jerusalem been so open and accepting of pilgrims from all over the world -- a fact made poignantly clear by the disaster plaguing Christians in our region. Jerusalem's normality has been steadfast despite the provocations by radical Islamists doing the bidding of Hamas or other Palestinian groups.
The Palestinians dislike the safe freedom of worship Jerusalem offers, as it undercuts their efforts to disrupt public order and undermine Israel's legitimacy in the city. In their ignorance, the Palestinians have added a new, grotesque dimension to their fight against Israeli legitimacy, claiming that they are the descendents of the Canaanites, or the Jebusites, depending on who you ask. The Palestinians -- who are not even mentioned in the Koran -- claim that the Jews in Israel are not the true Israelites to whom the land was promised, thus refuting the words of the prophets (including the Prophet Muhammad).
The Palestinian propaganda meant to pilfer the Jews' identity reached new heights ahead of the pope's meeting with Jerusalem grand mufti Sheikh Muhammad Hussein at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on Monday.
Efforts currently focus on denying the Jewish Temple's location on the Temple Mount -- despite it being an undisputed historic fact widely accepted by all religions, including Islam. Palestinian leaders have even adopted the "Palestinian" Mary and her son Jesus as the "Palestinian messiah," naming him the first Palestinian "shahid " ("martyr"). The Palestinians are thus trampling on the Christian narrative, effectively calling it false.
Anti-Semitism aside, every Christian knows that the Jewish Jesus preached at the Temple in Jerusalem 600 years before the rise of Islam. The Palestinians deftly deny the existence of the very temple where Jesus fought corruption, but nonetheless manage to make him "Palestinian." Bravo.
During his meeting with the grand mufti, Pope Francis will no doubt hear the story of how Jesus became the first Palestinian shahid killed by the Jews. Portraying Jesus, the man of peace who preached turning the other cheek, as an icon of violence -- a Palestinian terrorist "shahid" who kills innocent people -- is spitting in the face of Christianity (which has exonerated Jews in the matter). It also illustrates Islamic ignorance, as the Koran clearly states that Jesus, in fact, survived: "And they did not kill him nor did they crucify him, but it appeared to them so" (The Women, 157).
Dr. Reuven Berko
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