During Christmas last year, there was a concerted effort by some Palestinian factions and their supporters worldwide to gaslight public opinion into believing the current Israel-Hamas war is in fact a Jewish-Christian issue. In the Arab press and across social media, there were invocations of the age-old antisemitic trope of deicide – the accusation that Jews killed Jesus – by depicting baby Jesus being targeted by the Israeli army, including when he was born.

It was particularly ironic to see that Israel’s detractors, who often hailed from countries where Christians are on the brink of extinction after centuries of violent persecution, attack the Jewish state, which is the only country in the Middle East where the population of the Christian community has remained relatively stable. These voices have been completely silent over the years in the face of reports of Hamas and its allies persecuting Christian communities in Gaza and the West Bank, including through a ban on Christmas celebrations

Some references were more subtle in their attempt to impose a religious term of reference on the current Israel-Hamas war.  Jesus was used to draw attention to the plight of Palestinians, including through displaying baby Jesus inside an incubator to equate him with premature babies born in Gaza during the war, and depictions of him in the backdrop of Gaza being bombed. These depictions of Jesus also carry the deeper message that as a Palestinian, Jesus was not a Jew. 

Others chose a different approach to politicizing Christmas by depicting Santa Claus being threatened and targeted by the Israeli army, sometimes together with the United States.

These examples from Israel’s detractors seek to portray the Israel-Hamas war as a Jewish-Christian conflict, in part to shift attention from Hamas’s anti-Christian agenda. They also feed into a disturbing culture of lies and denialism surrounding the atrocities carried out by Hamas on October 7. 

The reality for Christians in Israel is starkly different from those living under Hamas rule. A recent poll conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute found that among Arab Israeli Christians, 73 percent shared a sense of belonging to the State of Israel, and over 90 percent responded that their relations with Jews were not impacted following Hamas’ October 7 massacre and Israel’s retaliation. Some even stated that relations have improved. 

Admittedly, an ugly phenomenon of attacks on Christians and vandalism of Christian sites by a small number of Israeli Jews has emerged in recent years. In response, ADL has reached out to leaders of the Christian communities and urged local and religious leaders to take action. More importantly, this phenomenon, which in no way reflects Israeli policy, was met with wall-to-wall condemnation by Israel’s top leaders, including the President, the Prime Minister, the Knesset Speaker, and leading religious figures.

As a proud Israeli and former ambassador, I am committed to fighting these distortions of reality and history, and the cynical exploitation of religious symbols as fodder for targeting Israel and Jews. Not only are these depictions offensive to Christians and Jews, but they are also a disservice to most Palestinians who don’t view this conflict through a religious lens and whose lives have been upended by decades of Hamas brutality. Those who share a genuine concern for the region’s Christians must call out Hamas and the region’s other extremist actors. Failure to do so will only further endanger innocent lives and strengthen the voices of hate and extremism.