For Some Palestinian Factions, Christmas Is Either Manipulated or Banned
Palestinian factions in the West Bank and Gaza can’t make up their minds about Christmas. Some fabricate the holiday’s origins in an attempt to make it fit with their cause, while others coerce their populations to outlaw it.
The Al-Nasser Salah al-Deen Brigades, the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC)’s military wing disseminated flyers just before the holiday depicting a burning Christmas tree and threatening those celebrating the holiday. The PRC is an umbrella organization encompassing various Palestinian terrorist groups and represents the third-largest Palestinian faction in Gaza after Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
A Quranic verse on the flyer warns Muslims “not to go the way of the Jews and the Christians, indeed God is not for the evil people.” There are only about 1,000 Arab Christians living in Gaza, who undoubtedly feel threatened by Islamist factions seeking to ban Christmas.
According to an Israeli government source speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Israel granted special permits to more than half of Gaza’s Christian population to facilitate travel a week before Christmas.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Fatah have continued their long tradition of spreading misinformation about the Christmas holiday and presenting Jesus as a Palestinian, according to Palestinian Media Watch (PMW).
“Christmas is one of the permanent Palestinian symbols, and the whole world follows Mass in Bethlehem. … The children of Khan Al-Ahmar are happy about the lighting of this tree, as it is the symbol of the first Palestinian, Jesus, peace be upon him,” PLO Executive Committee member and senior Fatah official Azzam Al-Ahmad said on Monday.
PMW had documented numerous examples of Palestinians expropriating Jesus as a “Muslim Palestinian,” despite his being born Jewish 600 years before the creation of Islam. For example, the PA’s Minister of Education shared a picture last year of Jesus wearing the Palestinian keffiyeh with the English-language text “Made in Palestine.”
Palestinian factions were not the only organizations spreading misinformation about how some groups commemorate Christmas. The New York Times published an article on Tuesday framing Hezbollah, a designated terrorist organization that has killed hundreds of Americans and Israelis, as a tolerant movement devoted to helping Lebanese celebrate Christmas. The article failed to note that Hezbollah battled Christians and other religious groups in Lebanon during its early years, and is only accommodating Christian expression in Lebanon for pragmatic reasons, in order to widen its support across the country.
Among critics chafing at the Times article, Hezbollah expert Hanin Ghaddar, who “grew up in a Muslim community in Lebanon,” tweeted about how Hezbollah used to fight against Christmas and only promoted Shia religious holidays. Whether trying to outlaw or appropriate the holiday, some Middle Eastern terrorist groups and factions continue to exploit Christmas for cynical political reasons.
Steven Emerson is considered one of the leading authorities on Islamic extremist networks, financing, and operations. He serves as the Executive Director of The Investigative Project on Terrorism, a non-profit organization that serves one of the world’s largest storehouses of archival data and intelligence on Islamic and Middle Eastern terrorist groups.