A remarkable component of Palestinian Arab political strategy is the consistent, concerted effort to rewrite ancient history. For reasons we’ll see, the strategy is called the “Big Lie.”
This Big Lie has three major objectives: 1) Establish a Palestinian people when there was none; 2) place Palestinian Arabs in the Holy Land long before Arabs actually arrived there; and 3) characterize Jews as religious adherents, not a people.
A brief but explosive tweet from U.S. leftist Muslim activist Linda Sarsour recently managed to pack all three lies into one statement.
“Jesus was Palestinian of Nazareth and is described in the Quran as being brown copper skinned with wooly hair,” she wrote on Twitter, noting that this doesn’t negate Jesus being a Jew, because “Palestinian is a nationality not a religion.”
Of course, Sarsour’s statement is full of contradictions, primarily since the Romans didn’t change the name of this region from Judea to Palestine until about 135 C.E., long after the death of Jesus.
Of course, there also were no Arabs in the Holy Land until about 650 C.E. Indeed, there’s no historical mention of a group of Arabs identified as Palestinians until as late as the 1960s.
Indeed, the first Palestinians—both in ancient and modern times—were the Jews, who lived in the Holy Land when it was originally called Palestine and who in the early 20th century gave their institutions such names as the Palestine Symphony Orchestra, The Palestine Post and Palestine Electric Co.
But Sarsour is not the first Palestinian Arab partisan to force a Palestinian nationality on Jesus. Palestinian spokespeople have been peddling this hoax for decades. Perhaps the most notable example is that of Yasser Arafat adviser Hanan Ashrawi, who told the Washington Jewish Week back in 2001 that “Jesus was a Palestinian.”
More recently, Reverend William Barber II, speaking to the 2016 Democratic National Convention, referred to Jesus as a “brown-skinned Palestinian Jew“—in other words, a Palestinian national of the Jewish faith. By all accounts, hardly an eyebrow was raised at this bizarre notion.
On April 19, 2019, an op-ed in the New York Times by Eric V. Copage revived the hoax, claiming that “Jesus, born in Bethlehem, was most likely a Palestinian man with dark skin.”
While the Times was forced to issue a correction, that didn’t stop Muslim U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D.-Minn.) from retweeting Copage’s falsehood just a few weeks later.
This pattern of relentlessly hammering home a blatant falsehood is, of course, nothing new. Nazi propaganda expert Joseph Goebbels maintained that “if you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”
Dr. Mordechai Kedar, a senior lecturer in the Department of Arabic Culture at Bar-Ilan University, explained Rep. Omar’s (and by extension Sarsour’s) use of the Big Lie to Breaking Israel News by observing, “Omar is stating that Jesus was Palestinian because he was born in Palestine. She believes this to be true for anyone and at any point in history, since Palestine has existed since the creation of the world. Therefore, any person who has ever lived here, including all the people described in the Bible and the New Testament, were Palestinians.”
This Big Lie isn’t about Jesus, it’s about the right of the Jewish people to a state in the Holy Land—and as an effort to delegitimize Jewish self-determination, it is fundamentally anti-Semitic.
While both Sarsour and Omar have long established their anti-Semitic bona fides, telling Big Lies about the Jewish people’s inalienable rights to a state in Palestine is apparently no obstacle to many mainstream media figures and politicians, who spread such calumnies without shame.
Suffice it to say that those who believe history is sacred—that it enlightens our present and guides our future—are obligated to rise up against those who trample the truth. The Big Lie can only be defeated by louder, more powerful voices.
James Sinkinson is president of Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME), which publishes educational messages to correct lies and misperceptions about Israel and its relationship to the United States.