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March 10, 2015

CNN Errs on Israel Again


During the 10 a.m. CNN news hour on March 5, 2015 in a discussion starting at 10:52 a.m. about the CNN documentary “Finding Jesus,�? guest Catholic priest Fr. Jim Martin, author of “Jesus, a pilgrimage," at 10:55 a.m. used the erroneous phrase “first century Palestine�? in conversation with CNN’s Carol Costello. Typically for CNN, Costello was either unaware of or unwilling to correct the error.

Misleading its viewers about Israel is commonplace at CNN (examples here, here, here, here and here).

The problem with the phrase “first century Palestine�? is that it reinforces the false Palestinian narrative (and hence, resentment against Israel by the Palestinians and others) that the ancestors of today’s Palestinian Arabs, supposedly the Philistines, preceded the Jews in the land.

The ancient Philistines warred for many years with the Israelites from their 12th century BCE home territory in what is today known as the Gaza Strip (sound familiar?). The Philistines, long gone from world history, were not Arabs. They were most closely related to the Greeks originating from Asia Minor and other Greek areas. They arrived by sea to the coastal area of Gaza adjacent to Israel. They had no physical connection whatsoever with the Arab world. The Arabs now known as "Palestinians" took that name for themselves no earlier than the 1960s. Prior to the 1960s, if Arabs in Palestine defined themselves politically or nationally, generally it was as “southern Syrians.�?

When and how did the land on which Jesus is said to have tread come to be known as Palestine? In the second century, the Jews fought against Roman rule for a second time. After the Romans defeated the rebellious Jews in the year 135 CE, they took away the Jewish name, Judea, and replaced it with “Palestina�? (naming it for the ancient enemy of the Jews, the Philistines) to punish the Jews and to make an example of them to other peoples considering rebellion. Before that, the term "was not usually applied to Judaea, which in Roman times was still officially and commonly known by that name," as Bernard Lewis has explained ("Palestine: On the History and Geography of a Name," The International History Review, January 1, 1980). Since the name of the region was changed over a hundred years after Jesus lived there, it is obviously fallacious to refer to where Jesus lived as "first century Palestine."

As a member of the clergy, Fr. Martin must be aware of multiple verses in the New Testament that identify the place where Jesus lived as Judea. The Bible version commonly used by the American Catholic Church is the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE). Examples from this version show that “first century Palestine�? is an erroneous phrase:

• Luke 1:5: “... King Herod of Judea ...�?
• Luke 2:4: “Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem ...�?
• Luke 3:1: “...Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea ...�?

Furthermore, The name “Palestine�? (or any of its variants) is nowhere to be found in the New Testament.

Posted by MK at March 10, 2015 12:37 PM


Would someone volunteer to take on the Oriental Institute Museum of the University of Chicago which insists on labeling 2,500 year old artifacts as Palestinian. When confronted they insisted that this was appropriate.

Posted by: Al Ruben at March 26, 2015 09:15 AM

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