Israeli TV mocks Jesus, Mary and the Prophet

The Israeli media shocked millions of Muslims and Christians last week with its back-to-back content on Israeli TV mocking Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and the Prophet Mohammed.
channel 10.jpg
Skit on channel 10 mocks Mary and Jesus, followed by an insult on Israeli version of "Survivor" of the Prophet Mohammed © Channel 10

GAZA, February, 27 2009 (MENASSAT) - A private Israeli TV station - Israel Channel 10 - has angered Christians and Muslims in Israel and abroad for mocking the major figures in both religions.

A late night Israeli talk show on Channel 10, "Tonight with Lior Shlein" hosted by well-known Israeli comedian Lior Shlein, aired a skit on February 17 claiming that the Virgin Mary was pregnant after having sexual relations with a 15-year old school friend.

Shlein also suggested during the show that Jesus Christ could never have walked on water because, "He was so fat he was ashamed to leave the house, let alone go to the Sea of Galilee with a bathing suit."

A few days later on Channel 10, a contestant on Israel's version of the hit reality show "Survivor" named his shoe "Mohammed" during a rant mocking a former contestant.

These back-to-back incidents predictably sparked outrage among the country's Muslim and Christian Palestinian population.

Sheikh Raed Saleh, the head of the Islamic Movement in Palestine, said in a statement that the defamation of the Prophet Mohammed and Jesus is an attack on every Muslim in the whole world.

And shortly after Channel 10 aired the show, Zohir Andreus, the CEO of the Palestinian-Israeli newspaper Ma-Alhadath, wrote an opinion piece in Ynet calling the skit a "wild attack against Christianity and against Mother Mary and her son Jesus, peace be upon him."

Bitter Revenge

Shlein said he aired the script as a "lesson" to Christians who deny the Holocaust. It was a reference to the Vatican's recent decision to lift the excommunication of a bishop who denied that 6 million Jews were killed during World War II.

British bishop Richard Williamson, said that Jews had not been gassed during the Holocaust and that only 200,000 or 300,000 Jews had been killed.

Shlein said on his talk show, “Every now and then, a religious figure in the Vatican throws a statement against the Holocaust and denies it.”

“This means that Christianity doesn’t believe in the Holocaust. We have to set the record straight. These comments are really frustrating. But instead of getting angry and not responding, I will answer them harshly and will deny Christianity,” he said.

Demonization of Arabs

Some Palestinians living in Israel said this is part of a greater issue of marginalizing their community, who make up 20 percent of the population.

"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,"  said Andreus in Ynet, the CEO of the Palestinian-Israeli newspaper Ma-Alhadath.

"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."
A member of Knesset Hannah Suweid said the two incidents - the skit on Jesus and using the name Mohammed in the Israeli "Survivor" program - are not isolated incidents, and show that "racism and incitement against Arabs" permeates Israeli society.

Salim Qobti, lawyer and chairman of the Regional Committee of Church Courts in the Lawyers’ Syndicate in Israel, said that he was working with other lawyers on filing a complaint against Channel 10 and Shlein himself.

But little can be done legally in Israel because Channel 10 is a privately owned TV station.

Qotbi told MENASSAT that Shlein was using sensitive issues to increase viewer rates on his talk show.

The Head of Islamic Judges, Sheikh Tayssir al-Tamimi, denounced the Shlein show, and has called on Muslims and Christians to express their condemnation of his "abuse."  

"This is not the first time the Jewish extremists have done such a thing,” he said.

Shlein says sorry

The Vatican issued an official complaint on February 20 to the Israeli government, and said the show ridiculed Mary and Jesus "with blasphemous words and images" that amounted to a "vulgar and offensive act of intolerance."

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert issued an official apology following the skit. "I regret these comments against Christians, especially since they target the Christian community in Israel."

Shlein also apologized for the remarks, assuring that he didn’t mean “to hurt anyone.” The station assured that the segment would not be shown again.

The Bishops of the different Christian sects in Israel denounced the program and said in a statement, “We are sorry and denounce the ugly attack on Jesus and his mother, Virgin Mary, on the Israeli television.”

Father Manuel Moslim, head of the Latin Church in Gaza refused to comment on the video.

“I am the only one who doesn’t want to comment on this video because we are used to the insolence and the depravity of Israel. I don’t care much about their insolence. Let them do what they want, I never want to comment on this show.”