Amy Harris/Invision/AP

Palestinian propaganda frequently includes the ridiculous claim that the founder of Christianity, who was a Jew living in Judea, was “Palestinian,” an ethnicity that didn’t exist for another two millennia.

By United with Israel Staff

Palestinian-American stand-up comedian Mohammed (Mo) Amer is the star of a new eponymous show on Netflix, which has been hailed for bringing to light the experience of Palestinian immigrants in the U.S.

While Amer’s series features an Israeli character and even addresses antisemitism, the popular comic recently used his platform to promote a popular, yet demonstrably false, talking point in Palestinian propaganda.

“Being Palestinian…Jesus was Palestinian, from Nazareth. This is a crazy overlooked fact,” Amer claimed in a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times. Amer made the comment in reference to a scene in which his character “walks into a Catholic Church at the urging of his Mexican American girlfriend, Maria (played by Teresa Ruiz), and gives confession to a priest played by local rapper Bun B.”

The founder of Christianity, Jesus, was of course not a “Palestinian” as the term is understood vis a vis Amer’s ethnicity. According to the historical record, this figure was born to a Jewish mother living in a land called Judea, an area that Jews to this day call Judea.

“The absurdity of [the claim that Jesus was Palestinian] is breathtaking,” commented Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate and director of Global Social Action Agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, in a 2019 interview with the Jewish Journal. “Jesus was born in Bethlehem, think about who his parents were — his mother, Mary, was betrothed to Joseph, a carpenter. In the Gospels, there is no mention of Palestine, only Judea, which is where Jews lived.”

Cooper made the remarks after U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, who has a lengthy history of antisemitic statements, retweeted a New York Times op-ed suggesting Jesus’ “Palestinian” ethnicity.

“Palestine was a name made up by Romans after they crucified thousands, destroyed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and exiled the People of Israel from their homeland,” Cooper added.

Furthermore, Arabs living in the Land of Israel did not even begin to start identifying as “Palestinian” until the 20th century. Even so-called Palestinian historians and politicians admit this fact.

“Before the Balfour [Declaration] when the Ottoman rule ended (1517-1917), Palestine’s political borders as we know them today did not exist, and there was nothing called a Palestinian people with a political identity as we know today,” explained historian Abd Al-Ghani Salameh in program broadcast by the Palestinian Authority’s official TV channel in 2017.

Michael Curtis, distinguished professor emeritus of political science at Rutgers University, similarly explained, “No independent Palestinian state has ever existed, let alone one that manifested a ‘Palestinian identity.'”

“The new concept became important as a claim to self-determination by Arabs in the period after World War I in reaction to the increasing importance of Zionism and the assertion of self-determination by the Jewish people. The single most important factor leading to the idea and development of a Palestinian national identity was the creation of Israel and the Arab defeat by Israel in 1948-49. One might say it was even an imitation of the Zionist movement. Palestinian national identity was formally asserted only with the formation of the PLO in 1964,” concluded Curtis.

Cooper, for his part, expounded on the motive for the Jesus-was-Palestinian myth, noting, “For people who have no theological or historical rooting, the idea that Jesus was a Palestinian creates a new narrative for Palestinian history, which otherwise does not date back very far. If one can say that Jesus was Palestinian 2,000 years ago, then that means the Jews are occupying Palestinian land.”

Cooper added that for people who “don’t like Jews to begin with, it is a deadly combination of the Jews killed Jesus and now they are doing the same to his progeny. From a political and propaganda point of view, there is something to be gained.”

When Cooper made the comments in 2019, Omar had recently accused elected officials in the U.S. of being bribed by pro-Israel groups, tweeting “it’s all about the Benjamins.”

“The ‘Benjamins,’ the big lie of dual loyalty, Jesus is a Palestinian — it is all rewriting history to plant in people’s minds that the Palestinian people go back thousands of years,” said Cooper. “Ilhan Omar is a clever anti-Semite, so truth does not play much of a role anyway.”

Amer’s precise motives for misrepresenting facts on the ground with regard to the historical remain unclear.

He may be a talented comedian drawing on his own experiences as an Arab-American, however, his decision to spread false Palestinian propaganda reflects either extreme dishonesty or appalling ignorance.

Either way, fans of his show or his comedy specials should take with a grain of salt any content purporting to communicate historical realities or the actual contours of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

While Amer is free to present his own experience in any way he sees fit, playing fast and loose with the truth in promotional interviews for his series undermines his credibility.