My dear brothers, I remain committed to speaking at your conference next May in Bethlehem regardless of how you respond to this appeal. But the spirit of truth, justice and love compels me to write. Do you really seek reconciliation and mutual understanding, or do you seek to gain sympathy for your cause by delegitimizing and demonizing Israel?
You say on your Facebook page, "We believe that one of the first hallmarks of discipleship is love for both our own community and for our enemies. We wish to find Jesus at the center of everything we do and to make his life our life. Which means finding courageous love for Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews alike."
That is an admirable goal indeed. And it is a goal that I share. But, as I wrote to you on Oct. 16, virtually every post on your Facebook page is meant to question Israel's right to the land, to criticize Israel's treatment of your people and to underscore the hardships of your life under "the occupation."
There's not a syllable about Israeli suffering (either terrorist attacks or children living in poverty), not a syllable to support the idea that God has restored to the Jewish people to their ancient homeland – despite our many flaws and failings – not a syllable that would create any sympathy for the Israelis at all.
Instead, we read quotes like this: "We don't live a normal life. Our guard is always up; we're always under pressure. We can't even eat normally; there is no stability in our lives because of the [Israeli] settlers and the soldiers."
Or this: "Imagine working hard for years and saving money to purchase a piece of land to secure your future and the future of your children, only for an occupying army to arrive in this land and confiscate it by force for the use of the 'empire'. In Palestine, this is not imagination. This is reality under occupation."
Or this: "The language of Netanyahu and his cabinet increasingly references a Bible-citing and religious, rather than political, war against the Palestinians. And American evangelicals are his enthusiastic foot-soldiers."
Or links to articles like this: "Banksy throws a street party for Palestinian refugees as an 'apology' for 100 years of British support for Israel."
And this: "As Bethlehem's mayor, I ask: Why are U.S. Christians celebrating Israeli policies strangling Jesus' birthplace."
Then there are quotes from some of your senior leaders claiming that Christian Zionism is antithetical to following Jesus. And on and on it goes.
So, my appeal to you is simple: Either state clearly the purpose of your conference, which appears to be anything but reconciliation and understanding, or else make a radical change to your Facebook page (and conference schedule) allowing for equal presentation of both sides of this important debate. At this point, I would dare say that, if you posted an article like this on your page, it would be quickly overwhelmed with hostile comments.
Many of my Messianic Jewish friends in Israel are actively involved with reconciliation movements with their Arab Christian brothers – in the Land and beyond – yet they do not participate in Christ at the Checkpoint. Why? It is because they see no genuine attempt to reconcile and understand but only to bash and criticize Israel and to reject God's eternal promises to the Jewish people.
One of your recent Facebook posts reads: "If the creation of the state of Israel is a sign of God's faithfulness to the Jewish people, then what kind of sign is it to the Palestinian people? When the state of Israel was created, around 700,000 Palestinians became refugees and more than 500 Palestinian towns and villages were completely destroyed. How am I supposed to understand that? Furthermore, this year marks 50 years of the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. So am I supposed to believe that the state that is oppressing me and my people is in covenant with God today?"
Why not mention that 800,000 Jews were expelled from surrounding Arab and Muslim lands and largely absorbed by the fledgling state of Israel, which was fighting for its very life? (And this, just a few years after the Holocaust.) Why not mention all the Jewish attempts to get the local Arabs not to flee but rather remain as neighbors and co-workers?
Why not mention the refusal of the Arab leadership to accept a two-state solution in the 1930s and then in 1947? Why not mention that, rather than accept the partitioning of the land, the Arab leadership declared that the Jews would be driven into the sea, urging the local Arab populace to flee their homes until the expected victory came?
Why not mention Resolution 1547 of Arab League (in 1959), stating that none of the league nations would allow Palestinians to become citizens? Why not mention the widespread mistreatment of Palestinian refugees to this day in surrounding Arab and Muslim lands? (Why, for that matter, are there sill Palestinian refugee camps in countries like Syrian and Lebanon?)
You might say, "We categorically reject this narrative. That's why we hold this conference. We must educate Christians in the West."
That would be perfectly fine, although, quite obviously, I would differ with you on many points. But at least you would be putting your cards on the table.
Instead, everything I have seen on your Facebook page consistently paints Israel in a bad light, consistently presents an anti-Israel theology and never points to the Islamic oppression (and attempted genocide) of Christians in the Middle East. Yet you claim your conference is all about reconciliation and keeping Jesus in the center. How, pray tell, does that put Jesus anywhere near the center?
As a friend of Israel and a lover of all Christians worldwide, I will stand with you against oppression and tyranny. And where Israel needs to be corrected or rebuked, I will raise my voice with yours.
But please, for the sake of the truth of the gospel, either balance out your Facebook page and conference schedule, or change your stated intentions. Is that too much to ask?
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