Palestinians to Evangelicals: Zionism is a sin

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks to reporters in Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity last year. (Flash 90)


In announcing the push for recognition of a unilaterally declared Palestinian state, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told the UN General Assembly in September: “I come before you today from the Holy Land, the land of Palestine, the land of divine messages, and ascension of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and the birthplace of Jesus Christ, peace be upon him, to speak on behalf of the Palestinian people in the homeland and in the Diaspora, to say, after 63 years of suffering of the ongoing Nakba: Enough. It is time for the Palestinian people to gain their freedom and independence.”

Abbas’s cleansing of Abraham, Moses, and Isaiah from the Holy Land’s history on the center stage of the diplomatic world was no oversight.

It was part of the broader global strategy to delegitimize Israel that also seeks to decouple Christian support from the Jewish state Abbas refuses to recognize. In this campaign, extreme Palestinian political ambitions are often cloaked in theological garb.

While attacks against Israel sometimes seem unrelated, they really operate in concert: the obsession of the World Council of Churches with demonizing Israel, the UNESCO vote on Palestine, the international Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement. “All streams flow to the sea,” Ecclesiastes teaches. Today, that sea is a domain where “experts” at UNESCO can rebrand Rachel’s Tomb as a mosque.

Pro-Palestinian advocacy groups, European NGOs, labor unions, academics, and church groups all converge on the same point: Israel is a pariah state, whose birth was a post-colonialism mistake, and whose continued existence is a moral sin.

Evangelical and conservative Christians–Israel’s most important allies–are increasingly targeted for conversion from Christian Zionism to Christian Palestinianism.

One of the most troubling purveyors of this stealth theo-terrorism lies within sight of Jerusalem. In 2010, Palestinian Christians convened the Christ at the Checkpoint (CATC) conference under the aegis of the Bethlehem Bible College, aimed specifically at Evangelicals. CATC repudiated Christian Zionism as a false teaching, an erroneous misreading and manipulation of Scripture.

One of the architects was Anglican Vicar Stephen Sizer, who denies that he is an anti-Semite, but hangs out with Holocaust revisionists and whose trip to Tehran included a defense of Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial. Other CATC participants, however, came from churches and schools completely identified with the traditional Evangelical mainstream.

Evangelicals who came with an open-minded commitment to hear both sides heard Mitri Raheb, a pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem, deny the connection between modern Jews and those of the Bible.

“I’m sure if we were to do a DNA test between David… and Jesus… and Mitri, born just across the street from where Jesus was born, I’m sure the DNA will show that there is a trace. While, if you put King David, Jesus, and Netanyahu, you will get nothing, because Netanyahu comes from an East European tribe who converted to Judaism in the Middle Ages…. I always loved to say that most probably one of my grand, grand, grand, grandmas used to babysit for Jesus.”

No one stormed out in protest. Rather to the contrary: Some participants, like Lynne Hybels (who is married to the head of the Willow Creek network of 13,000 Evangelical congregations), returned to the US as committed workers for the Palestinian cause.

THE LIST of 2012 CATC conference participants includes names of those who used to be firm and unequivocal supporters of Israel. Among the scheduled speakers is the president of the World Evangelical Alliance, Sang-Bok David Kim. The WEA is the parent group of the National Association of Evangelicals, the largest Evangelical network in the US.

The “affirmations” representing the beliefs of the organizers have already been published. They include the supplanting of Christian Zionism with a supersessionist understanding of Scripture that leaves no room for Jews. In other words, all Scriptural covenants with the Jewish people, as well as its religious dignity, have been replaced and abrogated.

While most Christians have always believed that the New Testament fulfilled the Hebrew Scripture, many Evangelicals found room for a continued relationship between Jews, Divine promises, and even the physical Land of Israel. With no one apparently noticing, that nuance is being deleted.

Another affirmation deals with Jewish Zionism. “Modern Zionism is a political movement created to meet the aspirations of Jews around the world who longed for a homeland,” it begins, quickly growing ugly: “It has become ethnocentric, privileging one people at the expense of others.”

So, Zionism wasn’t always equal to racism, but it is today, according to CATC’s organizers. The UN’s debunked “Zionism is Racism” has been reborn in theological garb, absorbed and preached by some who a few years ago were among Israel’s greatest allies.

Now is the time for concerned Jews to reach out to their Evangelical friends and expose the Palestinian assault on the lovers of Zion of two faiths–before another alliance is drowned in a sea of lies.

The writers are, respectively, the dean and director of interfaith relations at the Simon Wiesenthal Center.