The Palestinian Authority commissioned an art exhibit to coincide with Pope Francis’ visit to the region this week that consists of visual displays which includes classic bible-based art merging depictions of Jesus with modern day Palestinians.
As Palestinian Media Watch notes about the exhibit and past efforts by the PA to conflate Jesus with Palestinians:
The PA has misrepresented Jesus for years, claiming he was not a Judean as in Christian tradition, but rather a “Palestinian,” thereby claiming a Palestinian history dating back to the time of Jesus. Mahmoud Abbas recently said Jesus was “a Palestinian messenger.” This exhibit reinforces the pretense that Jesus was a Palestinian by visually merging the image of Jesus in classical art with pictures of Palestinians.
Whilst the Guardian’s Peter Beaumont briefly makes a reference to the Palestinian Museum exhibit in a recent report on the Pope’s visit (Pope Francis faces political and religious minefield in Holy Land, May 23), he completely fails to provide any context nor ask any critical questions.
Here are the relevant passages in Beaumont’s article:
In a refugee camp near Bethlehem, final preparations are being made for Pope Francis‘s first official trip to the Holy Land, which begins on Saturday night. On Saturday, in the Phoenix Centre, a modern community hall on the outskirts of the Deheisheh camp, Francis will sit with children from Palestinian refugee families. They will sing to him, show him their pictures and receive a blessing. After barely 15 minutes he will be whisked away on the next leg of his three-day tour of Jordan, Palestine and Israel.
The walls have been hung with giant composite pictures – archive images of the displacement of Palestinian refugees in 1948 merged with pictures documenting the changing Palestinian landscape until the present day.
Walls in streets across Bethlehem, through which the Pope will drive in an ordinary, non-bulletproof car, carry images from the same project, comparing the Palestinian experience to the suffering of Jesus. The point of these pictures, curator and director of Jack Persekian explained to the Guardian, is to emphasise to the pope the continuity of Palestinian experience since 1948.
Of course, “comparing the Palestinian experience to the suffering of Jesus” doesn’t, as Persekian claims, merely “emphasise to the pope the continuity of Palestinian experience since 1948”. It emphasises the putative continuity of the Palestinian experience since the birth of Jesus.
Moreover, Beaumont fails to explain the significance of the Jesus theme.
For instance, one work in the exhibit even evokes the decide charge (that Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus) by using Raphael’s The Deposition (1507) which shows the dead Jesus being carried to his tomb.
Here’s the original by Raphael:
Here’s the Palestinian version from the current Palestine Museum exhibit:
As you can see, “Jesus’ legs have been replaced by a photo of the wounded legs of a Palestinian, which are being carried away by a man as an Israeli soldier looks on”. This image likely represents an attempt to draw a historical line from the crucifixion of the ‘Palestinian’ Christ two thousand years ago to the violence committed today against modern day Palestinians by Israeli Jews.
Of course, the Roman Catholic Church repudiated the decide charge in the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). Pope John XXIII, who initiated the first session of the Council, declared more broadly that “the sacred events of the Bible and, in particular, its account of the crucifixion, cannot give rise to disdain or hatred or persecution of the Jews”.
As CAMERA’s Christian Media Analysis Dexter Van Zile argued, in the context of Christian-Jewish relations, visual language which plays upon the decide charge (which has preceded and justified the killing of Jews for nearly two millennia) “is the [moral] equivalent of a noose hanging from a tree in the Old South”.
But, then again, only those journalists who take modern-day antisemitism seriously would consider addressing the moral and political significance of such supremely cynical efforts by Palestinian leaders to evoke such historically toxic themes within the long saga of Christian anti-Judaism.
(See more from the Palestinian Museum Exhibit here)