by Patrick Goodenough
Raphael’s 16th century painting The Deposition has been modified in a banner prepared for Pope Francis’ visit to the Holy Land, with the figure of Jesus melding into the body of a Palestinian. (Image: The Palestinian Museum)
(CNSNews.com) – On the eve of Pope Francis’ first visit to the Holy Land, the Palestinian Authority has instructed the placement of banner poster at venues he will visit that meld classic paintings of biblical scenes with news photographs depicting interactions between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers.
In one of them, the figure of Jesus being taken to the tomb after his crucifixion – in an artwork by the Italian Renaissance painter Raphael – morphs into the body of a Palestinian man being carried, while an armed Israeli soldier looks on.
Another takes a portion of Caravaggio’s “Ecco Homo,” depicting Pilate presenting Jesus to the crowd before his crucifixion, and combines it with a photo of a Palestinian man holding open his jacket, presumably for inspection showing himself to be unarmed.
A third banner modifies a Carracci work depicting the dead Jesus surrounded by mourners, replacing the figure of Jesus with that of a Palestinian woman standing in rubble.
Most of the banners are based on paintings depicting New Testament scenes, but one uses a work by Rembrandt portraying Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac. Abraham, who has his hand placed over his bound son’s face in the painting, is replaced by an Israeli soldier.
Caravaggio’s Ecco Homo has been modified for a banner prepared for Pope Francis’ visit to Bethlehem on Sunday, May 25, 2014. (Images: The Palestinian Museum; wikipedia.com)
The works, prepared by a museum near Ramallah, will be displayed in a courtyard at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the traditional birthplace of Jesus where the Pope is scheduled to hold Mass on Sunday, and at a nearby refugee camp also on his itinerary.
Pope Francis begins his visit to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories on Saturday.
According to Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), a report this week in the official P.A. daily, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida said that the banners were designed at the request of P.A. chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ “Presidential Higher Committee for Church Affairs.”
It said their aim is to “shed light on the every-day life of the Palestinians in the shadow of the ongoing Israeli occupation.”
“While the classical paintings were selected to represent scenes from the New Testament, which took place in Palestine in the distant past, the photographs reflect the painful reality the Palestinians have experienced and still experience under the occupation,” the report said.
The Palestinian Museum, which designed the banners, says on its website they will highlight “the tension between the popular image of the Holy Land and Palestine’s ongoing history of suffering under occupation and oppression.”
PMW said the exhibits both portray Palestinians as Jesus, and also “reiterate another PA message - that Palestinians suffer as Jesus did.”
Rembrandt’s The Sacrifice of Isaac, and the Palestinian Museum’s version. (Images: The Palestinian Museum; wikipedia.com)
According to the Bible and historians, Jesus was Jewish. His depiction as a Palestinian is not a new phenomenon; the late PLO leader Yasser Arafat controversially called Jesus “the first Palestinian fedayeen,” using an Arabic term for militant or freedom fighter.
PMW has long documented the P.A. representation of Jesus as a Palestinian.
The Christmas season is a popular time for such assertions. In his Christmas message last December Abbas said, “In Bethlehem, more than 2,000 years ago, Jesus Christ was born; a Palestinian messenger who would become a guiding light for millions around the world. As we Palestinians strive for our freedom two millennia later, we do our best to follow his example.”
Over the month leading up to Christmas two years ago, PMW monitored a number of similar statements, including:
--“Jesus is a Palestinian; the self-sacrificing Yasser Arafat is a Palestinian; Mahmoud Abbas, the messenger of peace on earth, is a Palestinian. How great is this nation of the holy Trinity!” – Al-Hayat Al-Jadida op-ed.
--“The greatest Palestinian in history since Jesus is Yasser Arafat.” – Fatah Central Committee member Jibril Rajoub.
--“We all have the right to be proud that Jesus is a Palestinian.” – Ramallah district governor Leila Ghannam.
--“We can be proud, oh son of Mary, that you are the first Palestinian who redeemed mankind.” – Christmas Day editorial in Al-Hayat Al-Jadida.
--“Jesus is a Palestinian par excellence.” – mufti of Jerusalem Sheikh Muhammad Hussein.