WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas labeled Jesus Christ a “Palestinian messenger” in a Christmas greeting issued earlier this week.

Israeli and Christian leaders reacted negatively to the comments in which he suggested that Israel is responsible for Christian exile from the Holy Land, saying Bethlehem is “under occupation,” the Times of Israel reports.

“We celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem under occupation,” wrote Abbas. “This Christmas Eve, our hearts and prayers will be with the millions who are being denied their right to worship in their homeland.” He labeled the security blockade an “annexation Wall, which is stealing [Palestinians’] land and dooming their future.”

He called Jesus “a Palestinian messenger who would become a guiding light for millions around the world.”

In response, Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told The Times of Israel on Monday. that Abbas’s statement is an “outrageous rewriting of Christian history.”

Abbas did express his ongoing commitment to peace negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians despite the harsh words regarding Israel.

One portion of the message was made to Palestinians and Christians living abroad: “To them we say that Bethlehem is their town and Palestine is their country. We will continue working tirelessly to give them the freedom to decide where to spend Christmas.”

“Christians are not a minority here: they are an integral part of the Palestinian people. Orthodox, Catholics, Armenians, Assyrians, Lutherans, Anglicans, Copts, Melkites, Protestants and others are all part of the rich mosaic of this free, sovereign, democratic and pluralistic Palestine we aspire to have.”