29 December '14..
Mehdi Hasan, political director of the Huffington Post, UK, has a post up entitled, “If Mary and Joseph Tried to Reach Bethlehem Today, They Would Get Stuck at an Israeli Checkpoint.”
How would that carpenter and his pregnant wife have circumnavigated the Kafkaesque network of Israeli settlements, roadblocks and closed military zones in the occupied West Bank? Would Mary have had to experience labour or childbirth at a checkpoint, as one in ten pregnant Palestinian women did between 2000 and 2007?
Well, since Joseph and Mary were Judeans, i.e., Jews, from Nazareth, they wouldn’t need to be afraid of Israeli roadblocks needed to combat Palestinian terrorism, but of being murdered by terrorists from Hamas or Fatah.
Seriously, this sort of historical revisionism, treating ancient Jewish Judeans as if they were Palestinian Arabs, and then analogizing modern Israel to the oppressors of Jesus and his family, a common trope in the UK, would be laughable if it were not so pernicious. Pernicious not simply because it’s a ridiculous distortion of history, and not simply because it’s often accompanied by a large dose of anti-Semitism, with Palestinians playing the role of Jesus and the Israelis being the foreign oppressors crucifying him. But pernicious because it goes to the true heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict–the failure of the Arab side to recognize that the “Zionists” are not the “European settler-colonialists” of Third Worldist imagination, but a people with a three thousand year plus tie to the Land of Israel, whose religion was born there, who ruled two separate kingdoms there, who have prayed toward Jerusalem for two thousand years in their ancient Hebrew language, and so on.
Such denial, coming frequently from even “moderate” Palestinian Authority officials, that there was ever a Jewish kingdom or temple in Jerusalem, or that the Jews otherwise are natives to the area, means that the Arab side can’t see any potential peace agreement as a historic reconciliation between two peoples with strong claims to the land, but as at best a humiliating capitulation to foreign occupation that would have to eventually be reversed. Until that mindset changes, there won’t be long-term peace, regardless of paper agreements, and regardless of their terms–even a radical one-state solution with an Arab majority wouldn’t work if that majority thought it was being forced to cohabitate with foreign colonialist interlopers. Writers like Hasan are quite simply the enemies of peace.
UPDATE: I can’t resist: and as a woman pregnant out of wedlock, if Mary was a Palestinian she’d have a lot more to fear from a potential honor killing than she would from having to traverse and Israeli checkpoint; twenty-seven Palestinian women were victims of honor killings in the West Bank and Gaza in 2013 alone.
David Bernstein is the George Mason University Foundation Professor at the George Mason University School of Law in Arlington, VA. He is the author of Rehabilitating Lochner: Defending Individual Rights Against Progressive Reform (2011); You Can't Say That! The Growing Threat to Civil Liberties from Antidiscrimination Laws (2003);