Among the many sources of Anti-Semitism, the accusation of “Christ killer!” stands out as having the longest history—and the most deadly consequences for Jews. Although Vatican II saw the charge of deicide officially expunged from Catholic doctrine in 1962, it continues to thrive in the Arab world. And nowhere does the charge find a more enthusiastic audience than among the Palestinian Arabs and their largely European groupies.
While devout Muslims have adopted Christ as one of their prophets, they claim that he did not die on the Cross, but was transported directly by Allah to Paradise. By contrast, Christian Arabs believe in the Crucifixion story, and are therefore most prone to identify themselves with the martyred Christ.
One of the most prominent leaders of such Palestinian clerics is Dr. Naim Ateek, an Episcopalian priest and the major exponent of Arab liberation theology, a philosophy that relates the scriptures to contemporary Third World experience, usually with socialist and revolutionary overtones. Not surprisingly, the Crucifixion story provides Dr. Ateek with the strongest link between the scriptural past and the Palestinian present: “It seems to many of us that Jesus is on the cross again with thousands of crucified Palestinians around him. It only takes people of insight to see the hundreds of thousands of crosses throughout the land, Palestinian men, women, and children being crucified. Palestine has become one huge Golgotha.” And Dr. Ateek doesn’t hesitate to blame Israel for this alleged cruelty: “The Israeli government crucifixion system is operating daily. Palestine has become the place of the skull.”
This theological confounding of deicide and genocide, of the crucifixion of Christ and the supposed persecution of the Palestinians, has been taken up by Anglo-Saxon churchmen as well. Take for instance, Brandt Driscoll, of the Strait Gate Ministry, an organization that traffics in anti-Jewish conspiracy theories. Driscoll, who regularly asserts that “the treatment of the Palestinians by the Jews is a form of slavery and oppression,” has likened Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians to the Passion of Christ, claiming that the “crucifixion of Jesus and his passion is being collectively applied to a people.”
Similarly, in an anti-Jewish screed titled “Crucifixion of the Palestinian People,” Charles Carlson (not to be confused with former Nixon aide and friend of Israel, Chuck Colson), the head of the Strait Gate Ministry, cavorts with Holocaust-deniers but mourns the “superhumanly brave” Palestinian suicide bombers, rejoicing that they have “brought Israel to its knees” by crippling the tourist-based Jewish economy.
The American religious activist and paleoconservative pundit, Gary North, has put forth a related claim. Giving voice to the explicit anti-Semitism and hectic anti-Zionism much in fashion among the paleoconservative right, North has claimed that the “modern crucifixion” of the Palestinians will result in future acts of terrorism: “If Jews and Christian Zionists succeed in this modern crucifixion, it will not produce another Savior. Not all 100 million Arabs and one billion Muslims are turn-the-other-cheek followers of Jesus. This crucifixion will produce a thousand more World Trade Center horrors.”
Evidence of the incorporation of the historic Crucifixion into the current Intifada can also be discerned in European liturgical art. For instance, during Easter of 2001, an Edinburgh church displayed a painting of the crucifixion that depicted Roman centurions mingling with Israeli Defense Force officers at the foot of the cross.
The effort to foment anti-Jewish sentiment by recourse to the Crucifixion is by no means a novel one in Europe. After all, it was not so long ago that the Passion Play performed in Oberammergau, Germany, motivated its Catholic audiences to go out and kill Jews.
Nor is the accusation that modern Jews have committed deicide advanced exclusively by Islamic and Christian clerics. It has found new and unexpected mouthpieces among far-leftist Jews. For instance, Gilad Atzmon, an Israeli Jew whose contempt for his home country has prompted him to immigrate to Europe, has urged his erstwhile countrymen to view the plight of Palestinian Arabs through the framework of Christ’s suffering: “Perhaps the Zionist tendency to associate themselves with their ancestors can help us to understand the oppression and the atrocities against the Palestinian people in terms of a repetition of Christ's via Dolorosa, the way of suffering. Apparently the Palestinian people are today's Jesus.”
In the film (Mel Gibson's “The Passion of Christ”) Pilate, the Roman governor of Palestine, says, 'Behold the man,” displaying the broken and bleeding Jesus to the crowd. But the high priest insists, “Crucify him.” Pilate responds, “Isn't this enough?” The mob roars, “No,” and only then does the Roman leader agree to the Crucifixion. In today's reality the world, like Pilate says, “Behold the man,” displaying the broken and bleeding Palestinians asking “isn't it enough?” But the Israeli mob roars “No” to requests for mercy. If anything, they want more persecution and misery. Evidently, the popularity of the high priest Sharon rises sharply after each killing of Palestinians. Like their biblical ancestors, the image of blood fills the Zionist with cheer.
Secular Europe, no stranger to Jew-bashing, is also getting into the act. When the IDF besieged terrorists in Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, Italy's La Stampa published an editorial cartoon showing the Baby Jesus, crouching in his manger under an Israeli tank, while crying out, “Oh, no! They don't want to kill me again?!”
Finally, the stigma of deicide has invaded the foreign policy realm, in the person of French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine, who reportedly charged the Bush administration with washing its hands of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, just as the biblical Roman governor Pontius Pilate washed his hands of responsibility for the crucifixion of Christ. The odious implication of Vedrine’s remarks is clear: the blood libel attaches not only to the Jews, but also to their Gentile allies.
Although the above citations provide a limited sampling, the condemnation of Jews as modern Christ-killers has been taken up almost universally by Palestinian jihadis, Christian-Arabs, some Protestant and Catholic clerics of Europe and America, European statesmen, and self-hating Jews.
Each party has its own agenda. Some Protestants fall back on the ancient charge in order to dispute and invalidate the Jew's possession of Jerusalem; the Arabs revive it in order to give divine support to their claims of being history's preeminent victims; the Europeans revive it in order to shift the burden of Holocaust guilt (killing Christ is even worse than killing Anne Frank) away from themselves and onto the victims. But whatever the reasons for their j'accuse against Israel, all these factions draw their condemnatory text from the same ancient sources of myth and imagery, and they are unanimous in holding the Jews of Palestine/Israel responsible, both for the wounds of Christ, and for the sufferings of today's Palestinians.
There is no indication that the rhetorical assault on Jews and Israel has alleviated the plight of the Palestinians. Still, it has had several results, neither of them propitious for Europe. For one thing, the “Jew as Anti-Christ” line of attack has contributed to the “Palestinization” of Europe, creating a cult worship of everything Palestinian, coupled with an equally mindless debasement of Israel and the Jews.
More worryingly for Europe, the incessant attacks on Jews and Israel have distracted Europeans from their own immigration crisis, which looks to make Christian Europe safe for Islamic Eurabia. Consumed with convicting Israeli Jews of deicide, Christian Europe has failed to recognize its own looming destruction.