Gerald A. Honigman
December 26, 2008
The arrival of Christmas has also brought with it, for decades now, the
season of yet more Arab pipe dreams.
Since this year we're also in the midst of Chanukah (that lunar calendar
thing)--which commemorates the fight for the very survival of the Jewish
people and their unique way of life and religious beliefs--it seems only
fitting to address this issue at this time.
" Now Jesus having been born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of
King Herod..." is how the account of Jesus's birth begins in the
second chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. Of course, if too many of
today's politically correct Church leaders were writing this story, it
would undoubtedly read a bit different
But notice, please, the location is Bethlehem of Judea...not the "West
Bank"...not "Palestine"...but Judea.
Turning the clock back a bit, as the year 2003 began, the Greek Orthodox
Metropolitan, Irineos, sought the appointment as Patriarch of Jerusalem.
Letters with his signature on them to the late Egyptian
ghoul--the West's current darling, Mahmoud Abbas's, good buddy and
fellow Fatah terrorist colleague Yasir Arafat--contained, among other
things, the following:
"You are aware of the...disgust...all the Holy Sepulchre fathers feel
for the descendants of the crucifiers of our Lord Jesus...crucifiers of
your people...Jewish conquerors of the Holy Land of Palestine."
Irineos claimed that his 6/17/01 letter, revealed in the Israeli
newspaper, Maariv, was a forgery. Unfortunately, there were many other
documents of the same flavor making the rounds as well.
Irineos' attitude is not uncommon among many Christians, in the Middle
East and elsewhere.
Indeed, the quote above is virtually the same as words often spoken by
the Greek Catholic Archbishop of Jerusalem, Hilarion Capucci, a few
decades earlier. So it's safe to assume that many people share these
Some simply inherited and modified them from traditional Christian
teaching. Others, feeling exposed and vulnerable themselves living among
real or potentially hostile dominant Muslim populations, seek common
ground with their own off again/on again persecutors by turning the
focus on the favorite common demon, the Jew. Christians played an
important role in the nascent Arab nationalist movement in the late 19th
and 20th centuries (think George Habash and the Popular Front for the
Liberation of Palestine, and so forth), and the above explanation was
certainly one of the main motivating factors. This was not unlike some
Jews seeking to be absorbed under the potentially protective, inclusive
umbrella of various socialist movements in Christian Europe around the
During an earlier visit by the Pope to Israel, the media reported one of
many of Arafat's own frequent comments on this subject. Speaking of the
Apostle Peter, Arafat explained the allegedly "Palestinian"--i.e.
non-Jewish--identity of Peter & Co. Later day Arafatians like to repeat
this as well.
Now for a reality check...
There was no country nor nation known as "Palestine" during the time of
Jesus. The land was known as Judaea and its inhabitants were
As I often feel obliged to remind folks, Tacitus and Dio Cassius were
famous Roman historians who wrote extensively about Judaea's attempt to
remain free from the Soviet Union of its day, the conquering Roman
Empire. They lived and wrote not long after the two major revolts of the
Jews in 66-73 C.E. and 133-135 C.E. They make no mention of this land
being called "Palestine" or its people "Palestinians." And they knew the
differences between Jews and Arabs as well.
Check ou this quote from Vol. II, Book V, The Works of
Titus was appointed by his father to complete the subjugation of
Judaea...he commanded three legions in Judaea itself...To these he added
the twelfth from Syria and the third and twenty-second from
Alexandria...amongst his allies were a band of Arabs, formidable in
themselves and harboring towards the Jews the bitter animosity usually
subsisting between neighboring nations.
After the 1st Revolt (see also the contemporary accounts of the
Roman-sponsored Jewish historian, Josephus, in his extensive
Antiquities of the Jews and Wars of the Jews), Rome issued
thousands of Judaea Capta coins which can be seen today in museums all
over the world. Notice, please...Judaea Capta...not
Additionally, to celebrate this victory, the Arch of Titus was erected
and stands tall in Rome to this very day.
When, some sixty years later, Emperor Hadrian decided to further
desecrate the site of the destroyed Temple of the Jews by erecting a
pagan structure there (not unlike the revolt of the Maccabees a few
centuries earlier against a Greco-Syrian Seleucid emperor, Antiochus),
it was the grandchildren's turn to take on their mighty conquerors.
The result of the struggle of this tiny nation for its freedom and
independence was, perhaps, as predictable as that which would have
occurred had Lithuania taken on the Soviet Union during its heyday of
power. Read this next quote from Dio Cassius:
"580,000 men were slain, nearly the whole of Judaea made desolate.
Many Romans, moreover, perished in this war (the Bar Kochba Revolt).
Therefore Hadrian in writing to the senate did not employ the opening
phrase commonly affected by the emperors, 'I and the legions are in
The Emperor was so enraged at the Jews' struggle for freedom that, in
the words of the esteemed modern historian, Bernard Lewis, "Hadrian made
a determined attempt to stamp out the embers not only of the revolt but
also of Jewish nationhood and statehood...obliterating its Jewish
Wishing to end, once and for all, Jewish hopes, Hadrian renamed the
land itself from Judaea to "Syria Palaestina"--Palestine--after
the Jews' historic enemies, the Philistines, a non-Semitic sea people
from the Aegean area.
Sorry Arabs...hijacking the latter's identity as you've tried with the
Jews won't work either.
All of this did not occur until after 135 C.E., with the defeat of
Judaea's charismatic leader, Shimon Bar Kochba.
And, as with the breathtaking discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls
practically at the very moment of Israel's rebirth over six decades ago
by an Arab shepherd boy, Bar Kochba's letters to his troops, his minted
coins "For The Freedom Of Israel," and other archaeological treasures
were also soon unearthed. Gift from G_d to usher in the resurrection of
the Jewish nation.
"Palestine" later became largely "Arab" the same way that most of the
twenty-one states that call themselves "Arab" today did...by the
conquest, occupation, and forced Arabization of other native, non-Arab
peoples and their lands. Muhammad's and his successors' imperial
Caliphal armies burst out of the Arabian Peninsula in the 7th century
C.E. and spread in all directions.
From the 10th century onwards, the Arabs lost control of the land
themselves. And when the Arabs' own l empires ruled, it was from
Damascus or Baghdad. There was no independent entity of Arab Palestine
The Ottoman Turks were the latest in a long series of imperial
conquerors to rule the land since the Jews fought for their freedom
against Rome. They did so for some four centuries up until World War I.
During the Mandatory period soon afterwards, the League of Nations
Permanent Mandates commission recorded scores of thousands of Arabs
pouring into a largely depopulated Palestine from surrounding countries
to take advantage of the economic development going on because of the
Jews. Many more entered under cover of darkness and were never listed.
All of these folks were preceded in the 19th century by many thousands
of Egyptians who came with Muhammad Ali and son Ibrahim Pashas invading
armies and never left... more Arab settlers setting up Arab
settlements in Palestine. Arafat himself was one of them. So was
Hamas' virtual patron saint, Sheikh Izzidin al-Qassam...coming from
Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah...and so much for Arafat's "Palestinian"