As a member of the Arab nation who lives in harmony with my identity – belonging to the nationalistic Palestinian camp, sharing in the Arabic-Islamic culture, and being a Christian Catholic – I feel an obligation to address Lior Shlein’s wild attack against Christianity and against Mother Mary and her son Jesus, peace be upon him.
Had the host of a satirical show in a Western country dared attack Judaism as a religion, as Shlein did to Christianity, chances are that Jewish organizations and the State of Israel would embark on a crusade and charge him with anti-Semitism and demand that he be suspended from work, not to mention requests to indict him.
Should anyone in the Western world hint that the Jewish people did not experience the Holocaust in World War II, everyone would enlist in order to put him in his place. They will not make do with suspending him from his work, but rather, demand that he be indicted. After all, in many European countries there is a special law that enables authorities to indict people for denying the Holocaust; there is no other example, in my view, that can illustrate the extent of the insult done to us Christians.
The various Holocaust deniers are denying a historical act but are not attacking Moses or Judaism. On the other hand, when Shlein claimed, with great chutzpa and during a live broadcast, that Holy Mary was not a virgin and was impregnated by a fellow student, and that Jesus was fat and kept on seeking methods to lose weight, prompting Christians to pray on Sunday because he was busy with his diet, he is in fact denying a whole religion. This is the huge difference between denying the Holocaust and denying Christianity.
This is a cardinal issue that must be considered, and therefore I am not satisfied by Shlein saying that he apologizes if his words hurt anyone and moving on to the next item.
Adding fuel to the fire
Satire is a creative facet of the world of television, yet the argument that Shlein and his ilk are allowed to deny Christianity in the name of freedom of expression adds fuel to the fire; there is a limit to satire too.
As an Arab, Palestinian, and non-devout Christian Catholic, I feel Shlein cynically exploited Christianity as a religion. In my view, various religions should not be used in order to make an audience laugh and boost one’s rating. This is improper. Freedom of expression has limits that should not be crossed, because when the lines between satire and false satire are blurred, we find ourselves in a mess that further undermines the terrible relations between Palestinian Arabs in the Jewish State and the Jewish majority.
Shlein and his colleagues should know that there are enough programs on the various channels that engage in a campaign of incitement, de-legitimization and demonization against the Arabs, while deliberately ignoring the elementary possibility of offering them the right to respond. This is lowly journalism.
However I will end this piece with the message I was educated in line with, as Jesus told his believers, and I am one of them: Love thy enemies, bless those who curse you, be good to the hateful, pray for those who insult and expel you. Amen.
Zohir Andreus is CEO of the Israeli Arab newspaper Ma-Alhadath