The political director of the Huffington Post UK wrote a column earlier this week envisioning that if Joseph and Mary had traveled to Bethlehem today, they would have been stopped at an Israeli military checkpoint.
In response, a contributor to the Washington Post’s libertarian legal blog Volokh Conspiracy penned a piece challenging Hasan’s premise, a column titled “If Joseph and Mary tried to reach Bethlehem today, they might get murdered by Palestinian terrorists.”
The argument presented by the Huffington Post’s Mehdi Hasan followed a tradition of Palestinian efforts to frame Jesus as a Palestinian Arab, a theme that increases in volume around Christmastime. For example, in his Christmas message last year, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called Jesus a “Palestinian messenger.”
Hasan wrote on Monday, “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 labor or childbirth at a checkpoint, as one in ten pregnant Palestinian women did between 2000 and 2007?”
(Note: serious questions have been raised about the validity of the “one in ten” figure cited by Hasan, as explained below.)
In response to the column, George Mason University law professor David Bernstein wrote, “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,” Bernstein wrote.
“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,” the law professor added.
That denial of Jewish history, Bernstein noted, includes statements from Palestinian officials across the political spectrum questioning any Jewish link to the Holy Land and Jerusalem.
In a later update to his post, Bernstein added, “[A]s 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.”
The Israeli media watchdog Presspectiva Wednesday pointed out that Hasan’s statistic that one in ten pregnant Palestinian women went into labor or gave birth at an Israeli checkpoint between 2000 and 2007 came from a subsequently discredited 2011 article in the medical journal Lancet.
Dr. Arthur Eidelman, former head of pediatrics at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center, in 2011 wrote a letter to Lancet questioning the validity of the data and noted that the statistics presented in the article actually contradicted data published a year earlier in the Lancet.
Other problems in the article included “unsubstantiated” data contradicting official Palestinian Authority health figures, the use of data from years not included in the time frame that the author declared he was examining, and the lack of wider population statistics needed for proper mathematical calculations.
Eidelman wrote that according to Palestinian Health Ministry statistics, the number of births at checkpoints was 0.016% of the births. This number is far lower than the 10 percent the Huffington Post political director noted.