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Israeli government lashes out, as evangelicals’ pro-Israel consensus thing of the past

MEMO | March 10, 2014

Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has issued an unprecedented attack on a Christian conference taking place in Bethlehem this week, accusing organisers of “using religion for the purpose of incitement”.

Christ at the Checkpoint (CATC), hosted by Bethlehem Bible College, is the third such gathering following successful conferences in 2010 and 2012. Delegates predominantly hail from Protestant communities in Europe and North America, and in particular from evangelical churches and organisations.

As such, the Israeli government and its lobby groups see CATC as threatening the pro-Israel support long characteristic of much of the evangelical community. As an Israel MFA official told Christian Zionist publication Israel Today, the conference “is particularly problematic, because it is designed for the evangelical Christian leadership – an extremely important audience to us.”

The Israeli government statement released to Israel Today reads as follows:

The attempt to use religious motifs in order to mobilize political propaganda and agitate the feelings of the faithful through the manipulation of religion and politics is an unacceptable and shameful act. Using religion for the purpose of incitement in the service of political interests stains the person who does it with a stain of indelible infamy.

In addition, the Israeli government claimed to have “already actively targeted specific participants in the conference, as well as leaders of the groups who will attend the event, in a coordinated effort to expose them to our side of the story”.

Prior to the MFA statement, groups known for attacking human rights defenders and supporters of Palestinian rights such as NGO Monitor and Christians United for Israel had already lambasted the conference.

There was no sign that the attacks would have a detrimental effect on the conference programme, with speakers and delegates beginning a full schedule of events, many of which will be streamed online.

March 10, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Christian Zionists Plan to Open University in Nazareth

By Richard Edmondson | Fig Trees and Vineyards | October 27, 2013

Christian Zionists are apparently planning to bring “enlightenment” to the poor, benighted indigenous inhabitants of Occupied Palestine. Governor Rick Perry of Texas, with help and assistance from John Haggee of Christians United for Israel, has struck a deal whereby Texas A&M University will open a branch campus in Israel.

The campus is to be located in Nazareth—populated largely by Palestinians, both Christian and Muslim. In fact, the area contains one of the largest concentrations of Palestinians inside Israel’s 1967 borders.

Nazareth presently has an institution of higher learning—called the Nazareth Academic Institute or NAI. It was founded in 2010 by local academics, and while it has applied for funding from the Israeli government, it has never received any. What is more, the NAI is the only college of higher education in Israel that receives no state funding. This means it has been financially strapped from day one. Texas A&M plans to take it over with a cash infusion of $70 million and rename it “Peace University.” Once the deal goes into effect, classes will be taught in English only—and there are concerns that the school’s Arab culture and character will diminish as a result.

The takeover has been written about by Jewish blogger Richard Silverstein and by Jonathan Cook, who lives in Nazareth. Both are deeply cynical about the motives behind the scheme. Writes Silverstein:

Who participated in this consortium? Pride of place goes to John Hagee, the international Christian Zionist apocalyptic firebrand who blamed the Jewish victims of the Holocaust for their own martyrdom. Hagee, an avid proselytizer of the heathen, also is known as an avowed Islamophobe.  Presumably he’s delighted to plop a U.S. Christian Zionist university in the middle of tens of thousands of Israeli Palestinian Muslims. One wonders whether Hagee and his followers would play some role in the institution and use it as a base for preaching to the “heathen.”

Another participant was former Texas governor, Rick Perry, a Christian Zionist perennial presidential candidate. He used a recent political pilgrimage to Israel to announce the deal with a flourish together with Israel’s nonagenarian president, Shimon Peres. It’s no accident that Texas A&M’s chancellor was a college roommate of Rick Perry. Though not an evangelical (he’s Catholic), he uses the Christian Zionist lingo when he boasts of his “kinship” with Israel…

The new campus for this mongrel educational institution will sit on land donated by the Israeli Lands Authority. No one mysteriously has identified where the site is located (if anyone in Nazareth knows, please contact me). The ILA is the same institution that is working to expel Israel’s 40,000 Bedouin from their native Negev communities and move them to government-sponsored “reservations.” This is also known as the infamous Prawer Plan. This land transfer would enable the Judaization of the Negev, just as settlers are gradually expelling East Jerusalem Palestinians from their homes in neighborhoods like Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah.

Perhaps the crowning glory in all this is the identity of the Sugar Daddy who’s going to finance the construction of this munificent educational palace. He is none other than Munib al-Masri, the wealthiest Palestinian in the world. Numerous media profiles of him invariably feature his weirdly out-of-place Italian palazzo in the middle of the West Bank. Al-Masri has a far-flung empire that includes a construction company that will likely undertake building the campus. He is a key power player in the PA and Fatah and undoubtedly seeks to curry favor with Israel, which could lead to further business opportunities.

Given that the Israeli government has never seen fit to offer funding to NAI, one must ask the question: why would the Israeli Lands Authority suddenly think it a wonderful idea to donate land for this new school?

Apparently the Palestinian administrators presently running the institute are feeling somewhat like the proverbial drowning victim suddenly tossed a life preserver. Cook supplies a quote from Dean of Students Suher Bisharat:

We hoped and wanted to be an Israeli academic institution in every respect, not a branch [of a foreign university]. But when we didn’t find a budgeting solution, and ran into many problems, we saw that cooperation with Texas, which is a respected university, was a solution.

Cook goes on to comment:

There are good reasons to be worried about this development.

The chancellor of Texas A&M, John Sharp, has this to say: “I wanted a presence in Israel. I have felt a kinship with Israel.”

Also behind this initiative stands the very unpleasant figure of Pastor John C. Hagee, a notorious Christian Zionist who has no love of Palestinians in Israel. He apparently sold the idea to Shimon Peres, who wants to get Arabs better integrated into the workforce to help Israel’s poor OECD rankings.

Lessons will be taught in English, not Arabic – and therefore will do nothing to stop the gradual erosion of Arabic language and culture in Israel. It also seems that the staff will be from Texas A&M, therefore doing nothing to help local Arab academics who are massively under-represented in Israeli academia (currently they’re about 1% of higher education staff).

It will be called the Texas A&M Peace University, reiterating the idea commonly expressed by Israeli Jews that “Arabs” need western education and values to curb their inherent terrorist impulses.

Doubtless, economically this move will be good for Nazareth. But there are reasons for great concern. It will destroy for another generation any hope of a real Arab university in Israel. The foreign staff, with their dubious agenda, risk subtly reinforcing racist colonial stereotypes among the local population. And with Hagee involved, there are good grounds for fearing that the campus could ultimately contribute to increased tensions between Muslims and Christians in the Galilee, one of Israel’s long-standing goals.

Cook has previously written about efforts to divide Muslims and Christians by enticing Palestinian Christian youths to join the Israeli military. Will the new facility, despite being named “Peace University,” endeavor to facilitate this drive? Will it also seek to inculcate a Christian Zionist ideology among the Palestinian Christians who enroll? Silverstein thinks there is a possibility that Palestinians will boycott the new school, but this, he says, will in reality further the Judaization process already under way. In other words, even if Palestinians don’t enroll at the university, Jews will.

This is a significant statement because Israeli ultra-nationalists have set their sights on “Judaizing” all of the territory within Israel with significant Arab populations including the Negev, Galilee, and East Jerusalem. This is part of a covert attempt to expel Palestinians through attrition. Trajtenberg is tacitly putting Nazareth further into play in this battle by suggesting that Israeli Jews from around the country may find attractive the opportunity to pursue English-language studies at a low-cost American university. In such a way, Texas A&M could become an advertent or inadvertent participant in this far-right campaign toward a Jewish majority in the Galilee.

See also:

Israel Seeks to Pit Christian Arabs Against Muslims in Cruel Clash

Israel Stokes Religious Tensions Between Palestinian Christians and Muslims

For more on Governor Rick Perry and his Christian Zionist leanings see my article The Hypocrite’s Masquerade.

October 28, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The role of the Israel lobby in the growth of “Christian Zionism”

By Alison Weir | April 2, 2013

While some individuals, both Jewish and Christian, have talked about a Jewish “return” to Palestine throughout past centuries, today’s version of Christian Zionism was largely invented in the 19th century; adherents of political Zionism, a movement to create a Jewish state, were a major factor in how and why it grew.

As I write in my article on the history of US-Israel Relations, the precursor to today’s pro-Israel lobbying groups, the “American Zionist Emergency Council” (AZEC), played a significant role in creating Christian support for Zionism. Below is an excerpt from my piece:

Secret Zionist funds [by AZEC], eventually reaching $150,000 in 1946, were used to revive an elitist Protestant group, the American Palestine Committee. This group had originally been founded in 1932 by Emanuel Neumann, a member of the Executive of the Zionist Organization. The objective was to organize a group of prominent (mainly non-Jewish) Americans in moral and political support of Zionism.

[AZEC head] Rabbi Abba Silver’s headquarters issued a directive saying, “In every community an American Christian Palestine Committee must be immediately organized.”

The Christian committee’s operations were hardly autonomous. Zionist headquarters thought nothing of placing newspaper advertisements on the clergymen’s behalf without bothering to consult them in advance, until one of the committee’s leaders meekly asked at least for prior notice before public statements were made in their name.”

AZEC formed another group among clergymen, the Christian Council on Palestine. An internal AZEC memo stated that the aim of both groups was to “crystallize the sympathy of Christian America for our cause.”

By the end of World War II the Christian Council on Palestine had grown to 3,000 members and the American Palestine Committee boasted a membership of 6,500 public figures, including senators, congressmen, cabinet members, governors, state officers, mayors, jurists, clergymen, educators, writers, publishers, and civic and industrial leaders.

[For citations, and additional information on the Scofield Annotated Bible – a significant source of Christian Zionist beliefs – see my article.)

In the 1970s the Israeli government gave Jerry Falwell a jet plane, helping him to spread his version of theology.

Numerous Christians, including a great many evangelical pastors and theologians, have long opposed the Christian Zionist interpretation of the Bible.

Among this large and extremely diverse group have been Philip Mauro writing in the 1920s and Rev. Harry Emerson Fosdick and Rev. Henry Sloane Coffin, two of the most celebrated pastors of their day (’20s through the ’50s); William Sloan Coffin in the 1970s; and today’s Gary BurgeRev. Stephen SizerCarl Medearis, members of Sabeel, the organizers of Christ at the Checkpoint, and numerous others. The list could go on and on.

A number of people have made a wide range of documentaries on this topic. Some are specifically from a fundamentalist, evangelical perspective and are particularly intended to reach Christians who hold Christian Zionist beliefs; one, “Christian Zionism, the Tragedy and the Turning,” contains interesting information about the Scofield Bible; another,  “With God On Our Side,”  has been shown with considerable effect in many churches.

However, none of the above individuals have the jet planes and massive funding of a Jerry Falwell or John Hagee to deliver their views and information to American Christians.

Two final notes: many of the politicians who support Israel do so for the simple reason that the pro-Israel influence in Congress and the media is extremely significant to their chances for re-election rather than out of religious motivation.

North Carolina’s Jesse Helms was an example: he demanded that Palestinians receive a “just settlement of their grievances” until he learned that such a stance would hurt his coverage by the media, at which point he changed it.

It is also important to be aware that numerous members of the Israel Lobby are behind the efforts to create Islamophobia in the American public. Please see CNI’s large, detailed section on this.

While there is a growing focus on Christian Zionism, which leaves out virtually all of the information above, there is a simultaneous coverup on the nature of Jewish fundamentalism and its role in Israel. I discuss this a bit in my article “What Our Taxes to Israel are Funding.”

Israeli author Israel Shahak’s books are esssential reading on this. Both are available online:

Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years

Jewish Fundamentalism In Israel, co-authored with Norton Mezvinsky.

April 3, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | 1 Comment