In a year marked by global tensions, Bethlehem, renowned for its historic Christmas festivities, held a more subdued celebration. This change was a gesture of solidarity with the Gaza victims.
Amidst this backdrop, U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from New York and a member of ‘The Squad’, sparked a significant controversy with her social media statement. She drew parallels between Jesus Christ and the current situation of the Palestinian people, igniting a flurry of reactions from various quarters.
Ocasio-Cortez’s Statement: Drawing Parallels Between Past and Present
Ocasio-Cortez’s post highlighted the plight of Jesus born in what she referred to as “modern-day Palestine,” under Roman rule, facing threats from a government that was killing innocents to protect the power of an unjust leader. She stated, “He was part of a targeted population being indiscriminately killed to protect an unjust leader’s power.”
Extending this historical context to the present, Ocasio-Cortez observed that similar conditions prevail for Palestinians today, noting that the Christian community in Bethlehem felt compelled to cancel their Christmas Eve celebrations for safety reasons and out of respect.
Criticism and Response to Ocasio-Cortez’s Remarks
The statement attracted criticism for its one-sided perspective. Jacob Kornbluh, a senior political reporter at The Forward, criticized Ocasio-Cortez for omitting any mention of “Hamas terror” or the victims of the October 7 attack. Pro-Israel activist Andrea Karshan, as reported by The New York Post, also expressed disappointment over politicizing the Christmas celebration.
In contrast, Ocasio-Cortez emphasized the broader message of Christmas and Christ as one of solidarity with the marginalized and oppressed.
Democratic Response to the Israel-Gaza Conflict
In November, Ocasio-Cortez, along with 23 other Democrats, reached out to President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, seeking details on plans to de-escalate the violence in the region. This move came as Israel continued its military actions in the Gaza Strip. The group explicitly condemned the Hamas attacks on Israel that occurred on October 7, resulting in significant casualties and hostages.
They also expressed concern over the Israeli Defense Forces’ response, which had led to numerous Palestinian casualties, citing figures provided by Hamas.
Bethlehem’s Solidarity with Gaza
The city of Bethlehem, traditionally known as the birthplace of Jesus Christ, announced the cancellation of its usual Christmas festivities, standing in solidarity with Gaza amid the ongoing violence.
The city council made a symbolic gesture by removing regular decorations, dedicating this act to the memory of the martyrs.
This decision was described by theologian Jonathan Morris on Fox News as a political statement overshadowing a sacred event for Christians. A spokesperson for the Bethlehem city council defended the decision, stating that celebrating was inappropriate given the ongoing massacre in Gaza and attacks in the West Bank.