Jesus, the radical Palestinian activist

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.


About Amer Zahr 181 Articles
Amer Zahr is a Palestinian American comedian, writer, professor and speaker living in Dearborn, Michigan. He is also the editor of "The Civil Arab."


  1. Smart as usual. The Jesus phenomenon, however, can’t be made into just a struggle against Roman occupation. What about the fundamentalists and rabbis who in fact condemned him and cried for his death, and his revisions of Old Testament laws, basically to annul them? The Christ figure is a very ancient one, going back thousands of years before Judaism into essential pagan beliefs, and as such can be seen as not strictly “Jewish’ (otherwise he wouldn’t have been killed in the story) but a form of popular religion.

  2. Interesting… Jesus was a radical Socialist. I never really thought of him that way. Along side the likes of Stalin, Chairman Mao, Pol Pot, the Castro brothers, Hugo Chavez, etc. etc. I guess I missed those verses in my Bible where Jesus sent his distractors to gulags or forced labor camps. Or where the disciples enslaved the citizenry…or just simply executed them. I will have to bone up on those chapters where Jesus was responsible for millions of deaths of innocent people in the name of some greater good. I also find it interesting that Jesus would have only been opposed to America. I will need to further ponder why he would have been silent on the matters of Saddam Huissen, or Gaddafi, or Basher al-Assad. I guess it is because they are/were such fine upstanding leaders of their people, having only their best interest at heart. Yes…this is all certainly good food for thought. Thank you for your stimulating observations.

  3. Yes, that is our rebel Palestinian native son. I wonder whether the families with the last name “Issa” are directly related to him.

  4. Agreed with everything except for one: I think he would vote for Jill Stein instead of Bernie Sanders. ;-)

    Thanks, Amer, for another really insightful article.

  5. Amar,

    All the pieces you write are, as usual, right on target; whereas this one is absolutely superb. Thank you, as well to you, Basem and Bill, as your comments are equally as important.

    How refreshing it would be to have heard this piece read aloud by just one, any one, of our most vociferous politicians!

  6. Not a socialist nor a capitalist Amer, these are modern secular and materialistic concepts alien to the ancient world. If you were to spell out what these two sides of the same fake coin actually mean to a pious person of 2000 or 1400 years ago he or she would look at you aghast. Neither is conducive to achieving what a Messenger of God is sent for, which is to achieve the spiritual destiny of the human being, regardless of his or her material status. In true ancient tradition there was no aim to be rich nor any virtue in being rich unless one’s wealth was spent on the needs of others. That’s not socialism though.

  7. I have never read such garbage! JESUS was a Jew according to the flesh. He was of the tribe of Judah. He was of the lineage of King David.

  8. Amer, you are right about one thing. Jesus had dark hair and dark skin.
    Jesus was of the lineage of King David.
    Sorry…you are wrong in all your facts about Jesus.
    He is linked to ones who send children to the roof tops in Gaza, before the IDF bombs the buildings you shoot your rockets from, against the people He is coming again, to win the final battle…against most likely, Islam?
    You are 100% wrong.
    This one thing I know, He does love you…died for you…but without your whole hearted repentance…your heart becoming loving to all Jews globally…your final resting place will not be with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob…the Jewish people, or Jesus in heaven…and, yes…those who spoke in tongues in Acts…were probably some if your descendants! You could repent of hate…get saved, and have a heart like Jesus!

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