Jesus, the Radical Palestinian Activist



Amer Zahr

We Palestinians see ourselves in the shadow of Jesus.  Two thousand years ago, Palestinians were the first followers of his message, and whether particularly religious or not, we take that lineage quite seriously.  We are the protectors of his traditions, the original stewards of his good news.
And we are pretty proud that we’re the descendants of the most famous person in the history of the world.  Let me say that again.  Most. Famous. Person. Ever.  Let that sink in.  Yeah, he was one of us.
In our ongoing struggles, we Palestinians see Jesus every day. He was told that he was not welcome in his native land.  He fought against an absolute, ruthless, occupying power. He stood by his message, no matter the cost.  He went through rebellion, rejection, abandonment, suffering, and, eventually, vindication.  I have no doubt we are following his exact path.  Jesus was a Palestinian back then, and he would have been one today, too.
I just wish he had social media like we do today.  I would have loved to read his statuses.

Facebook: Jesus just checked into « Holy Falafel » in Bethlehem.
Instagram: This photo is for everyone who said I couldn’t walk on water.
Twitter: I’ll be gone for the weekend. Everyone be good to each other. See you in three days.
He walked the streets of his own land in constant persecution.  However, despite the unjust condemnation, he was never crestfallen. Like him, we Palestinians say to the world today what he said two thousand years ago: Beware of our Truth.
Of course, I should quickly mention here that Jesus, despite the greatest attempts of some to portray him as such, did not have blond hair and blue eyes.  He wasn’t from South Carolina.  He was a brown-eyed, dark-skinned radical activist from Palestine. My Palestine.
But what if Jesus did live in South Carolina? (He didn’t, just to be clear.) What if he were an American, transported to the America of today? What would he do? I can only imagine.
I think Jesus would be holding a megaphone at every #BlackLivesMatter protest. In his Palestinian accent, he’d be chanting, « I can’t breathe! 16 shots! No Justice! No Peace! » He would stand with Sandra Bland. He would tell the powerful in Chicago that killing Laquan was terrible enough, but covering up the murder of a boy gets you a one-way ticket to fire and brimstone. In fact, now that I think of it, he would have climbed up that pole in Columbia, South Carolina and tore down that Confederate flag himself.
He would emphasize to us that taking in refugees is not a choice, but rather a moral obligation. He would likely remind us that ostracizing and admonishing someone for how he chooses to construct his belief in God is not the right way to live. (He knows a little bit about that.) He’d oppose the death penalty. (He knows about that too.) If he didn’t simply advocate to take away everyone’s guns, he would at least loudly proclaim that if you need a semi-automatic rifle to kill a deer, you also probably need to find a new hobby.  After congratulating the wealthy on their hard work, he would be in favor of overtaxing them.  He would find it bizarre that we incarcerate more people than we educate.  And after studying our political parties, Jesus would likely be quite confused as to why the Republicans invoke him so much and the Democrats so little.
Actually, he’d probably vote for Bernie Sanders, because, lest we forget, two thousand years before Bernie Sanders was a radical Jewish socialist from Vermont, Jesus was a radical Jewish socialist from Palestine.
Finally, if Americans love boisterous rabble-rousers who just « tell it like it is, » Jesus will fit right in.  For while Jesus never exhibited violence, his rhetoric and actions were piercing, emphatic, and categorical.  If we are to correctly understand the Jesus who stormed into the Temple on Passover and cursed that state of affairs, we would see a man opposing the domination of society by a small class of elites, a man who understood that genuine transformation starts with the demand for truth.
Jesus was a brown-skinned social revolutionary.  A radical trying to change the status quo.  And that got him into trouble.  Ultimately, he showed us that persecution can be divine, a sign that you’re doing the right thing.  But why should you listen to me?  Just because I’m a Palestinian from the city of Nazareth who could very well be related to Jesus? Well… yes.




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