It’s been a rough few days for The New York Times on the Judaism front: A day after running a widely decried anti-Semitic political cartoon, the newspaper issued a correction for an article that identified Jesus as a Palestinian.
“Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article referred incorrectly to Jesus’s background,” said the correction posted Friday. “While he lived in an area that later came to be known as Palestine, Jesus was a Jew who was born in Bethlehem.”
The claim appeared in an April 19 op-ed by Eric V. Copage headlined, “As a Black Child, I Couldn’t Understand Why Jesus Had Blue Eyes,” and was revised after a week’s worth of criticism in Jewish publications, social media and elsewhere.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean and director of the Global Social Action Agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told the Jewish Journal that the description was “a grotesque insult to Jesus born in the land of Israel and to Christianity.”
Tweeted Boston College law lecturer Elliot Hamilton: “Jesus existed before the name ‘Palestine’ was even coined by the Romans. This is historical revisionism at its finest. The @nytimes is truly the worst.”
The op-ed by Mr. Copage, a New York Times reporter, said originally: “But Jesus, born in Bethlehem, was most likely a Palestinian man with dark skin,” according to a screen grab on the Way Back Machine posted by the Daily Caller.
The revised version says, “But Jesus, a Jew born in Bethlehem, presumably had the complexion of a Middle Eastern man.”
The correction coincided with an outcry over a cartoon that appeared Thursday in The New York Times’ international edition depicting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a dog.
The Times posted a Saturday editor’s note attributing the cartoon’s publication to an “error in judgment,” followed by a Sunday apology that blamed “a single editor.”
Ira Stoll, columnist for the Algemeiner, said that “using the term ‘Palestinian’ to describe Jesus is indeed anachronistic, to the point of being misleading.”
“The Times using its columns to push that false claim is enough to make readers wonder if the Times agenda here has less to do with the ancient history of early Christianity, and more to do with taking sides in the present-day conflict between Israel and Palestinian Arabs,” Mr. Stoll said in an April 24 column.
A New York Times article claiming that Jesus “was most likely a Palestinian man with dark skin” is generating a fierce push-back from the Jewish community. https://t.co/PD6ErZfNNf
— Algemeiner (@Algemeiner) April 23, 2019
Rabbi Cooper also saw a political link. “The claim that Jesus was a Palestinian is so bizarre that the question becomes what one gains by making that allegation,” he told the Jerusalem Post.
“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,” he said. “If one can say that Jesus was Palestinian 2,000 years ago, then that means the Jews are occupying Palestinian land.”
Referring to Jesus as a Palestinian dates back at least a couple of decades — Palestinian Liberation Organization spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi made the claim in 2001 — and has resurfaced in recent years on the left.
The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whose Chicago church was attended by Barack Obama before he became president, raised hackles at a 2015 rally by saying, “please remember, Jesus was a Palestinian.”
Omar Suleiman, a Southern Methodist University professor of Islamic Studies, met with pushback earlier this month for tweeting, “Don’t they know Jesus was a Palestinian?” He said he was quoting a Palestinian Christian relative.
I was once asked by a relative who is a Palestinian Christian why the Christian right in America largely supports their oppression. “Don’t they know we’re Christian too? Do they even consider us human? Don’t they know Jesus was a Palestinian?” https://t.co/YJDwdlIIgM
— Omar Suleiman (@omarsuleiman504) April 20, 2019
Students Supporting Israel tweeted back, “Is it for real? Jesus was a Jew. What’s next? The Pope is also Palestinian? Stop lowering our IQ.”
Mr. Suleiman later posted a speech by the Rev. William Barber at the 2016 Democratic National Convention saying, “Jesus [was] a brown-skinned Palestinian Jew.”
Not everyone had a problem with the statement. Rep. Ilhan Omar, Minnesota Democrat, retweeted Mr. Suleiman’s post.
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