We’ve been monitoring the Guardian since 2009, and, in our view, the outlet’s current Jerusalem correspondent, Bethan McKernan, possesses the most visceral hostility towards Israel of any of the correspondents they’ve assigned to the region during that time. In fact, ‘hostility to Israel’ is a kind characterization of the reporter, who, while the Mid-East correspondent for the Independent, effectively endorsed an antisemitic book, and, on Oct. 7, posted on X using language that can be interpreted as a justification for Hamas’s invasion.
McKernan, we have demonstrated, clearly sees her job as an extension of her radical activism.
So, to observe that nothing much shocks us anymore about McKernan’s coverage of the region – which can be said of the Guardian more broadly – is an understatement. That being said, it’s nonetheless edifying to note her decision to promote the evocation – in an article published on Christmas Eve – of the narrative depicting Jesus, a Jew from Judea, as a Palestinian persecuted by the Jewish state, with a headline suggesting that editors weren’t at all concerned with evoking classic antisemitism.
That being said, the Guardian piece does represent one of the more egregious examples we’ve seen of this media holiday tradition. To depict baby Jesus as a Palestinian killed (in Gaza?) by the Jewish state is redolent of the deicide charge – the lethal antisemitic and ahistorical accusation that Jews collectively killed Jesus, a theme introduced by McKernan in the opening paragraphs:
At Bethlehem’s Lutheran Evangelical church, the nativity scene looks very different this Christmas. Instead of a cot in a hay-filled manger, the baby doll has been wrapped in the famous black and white keffiyeh associated with Palestine, and lies among broken breeze blocks and paving slabs.
Christmas celebrations have been cancelled across the Holy Land this year as the region mourns the Palestinians – now more than 20,000, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip – killed in the new war between Israel and the militant group. Munther Isaac, the pastor of the Lutheran church, said he wanted to send the world a message with this year’s nativity scene. “This is the reality of Christmas for Palestinian children,” he said. “If Jesus was born today, he’d be born under the rubble of Gaza.”
The Guardian journalist got the propagandistic quote she wanted, ignoring the fact that Jesus never stepped foot in Gaza, and, even if (in some fictional universe) he was born in (Hamas-controlled) Gaza, as a Jew, his family would have had to flee immediately to escape certain persecution and death.
Moreover, Isaac, as revealed by CAMERA, is among those who peddle what is arguably the most inane defense of Palestinian antisemitism: that Palestinians can’t be antisemitic because they are Semites. This ignores the 19th century German origin of the term, coined to give Jew hatred a respectable, even scientific, veneer. So, unburdened by the moral responsibility to avoid promoting toxic anti-Jewish tropes, the Palestinian pastor naturally felt no unease in peddling a libel used to justify violence against Jews for centuries.
Here he is on X, promoting the same deicide theme, albeit more clearly, by saying that ‘God is under the rubble in Gaza’.
“This is what Christmas looks like now in Palestine, children being killed, houses destroyed and families displaced. We see the image of Jesus in every child that is killed in Gaza.”
‘God Is Under the Rubble in Gaza’: Bethlehem’s Subdued Christmas https://t.co/jRp2t75Jnq
— Munther Isaac منذر اسحق (@MuntherIsaac) December 23, 2023
In fact, this exact wording, on God being under the rubble, is taken from a sermon Isaac gave on Oct 22, published at Sojourners, which included more explicit language evoking the deicide charge:
In this land, even God is a victim of oppression, death, the war machine, and colonialism. We see the Son of God on this land crying out the same question on the cross: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why do you let me be tortured? Crucified?
As you can see in the clip below, in his public Christmas Eve sermon version of his ‘God in the Rubble’ speech noted above, he also evoked the antisemitic distortion of Jewish chosenness‘, and charged Jews with genocide (now in Gaza, as well as in 1948):
— Husam Zomlot (@hzomlot) December 24, 2023
A true massacre in the Al Ahli Hospital in Gaza, which is run by the Anglican Church. Hundreds reported killed in an Israeli air strike. The images are horrifying. The USA and the world powers gave Israel the green light to commit war crimes. The conscience of the world is dead.
— Munther Isaac منذر اسحق (@MuntherIsaac) October 17, 2023
We could find no condemnation of Hamas by Isaac, on his X feed or anywhere else, despite the fact that its their mass murder, torture, rape and mutilation of Jews on Oct. 7 – the most lethal antisemitic attack since the Holocaust – which caused the current suffering, death and destruction in the region.
Finally, let’s remember that the Roman Catholic Church repudiated the deicide 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 former Christian Media Analyst argued, in the context of Christian-Jewish relations, language – visual or rhetorical – which plays upon the deicide 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 journalists who take modern-day antisemitism seriously would consider the moral and political significance of such supremely cynical efforts by Palestinian leaders to resurrect such historically toxic themes within the long history of Christian anti-Judaism.