Posted by: theoptimisticconservative | April 25, 2012

Themage*: 60 Minutes, Media Matters, and media narrative-building on Christians and Israel

Do you think it’s a Christian posture to condemn Israel for the security wall erected to keep terrorists from the West Bank out?  Do you think evangelical Christians are suddenly rethinking their support for Israel because they’ve finally gone on guided tours provided by Palestinian Arabs rather than Israelis?  Do you think American evangelicals are, in general, turning away from the political right and toward the left, as regards Israel and other issues?

The left-wing media want you to – and it appears some of the reporters and opinion-writers for the mainstream media do too.  An example that seems to have crossed a new line was Sunday’s edition of 60 Minutes, in which veteran reporter Bob Simon framed the plight of Arab Christians in the West Bank as a problem caused by Israel.  The laughably one-sided report shoehorned a number of freighted implications into its 14-odd impressionistic minutes, including this bumper-sticker point made by one of the interview subjects:

Mitri Raheb:  Christianity started here. The only thing that Palestine was able to export so successfully was Christianity…  Christianity has actually on the back a stamp saying, “Made in Palestine.”

The correct bumper-sticker – if we’re using Greco-Romanized names (like “Palestine”) –  would read “Made in Judea” (Latin: Iudaea), which is what the Roman rulers called the region during the first century of Christianity’s spread.  A series of lengthy points could be made on this head, but the bottom line is that no entity called “Palestine” existed at the time of Christ.  There is no basis for crediting such a non-existent entity with the spread of Christianity. 

I doubt many would begrudge Palestinian Christians their natural pride in being native to the Holy Land.  Today’s Palestinian Arabs are descended mostly from peoples who were not indigenous to the Holy Land at the time of Christ or the early spread of Christianity.  But the Palestinian Arabs of today are nevertheless thoroughly Levantine in culture and heritage, and can rightly point to the importance of the Middle East in the early spread of Christianity, and the fact that the faith went East and South as well as North and West.

That said, however, there is no entitlement from sympathy or sentiment to rewrite history.  In the mishmash of implications from the Simon piece, meanwhile, another is the “false equivalence” idea that Jews and Muslims, between them, are imperiling Christians.  Simon interviews an Israeli journalist who offers this perspective:

Ari Shavit, one of Israel’s most respected columnists, believes Christians have become collateral damage.

Ari Shavit: I think this is a land that has seen in the last century a terrible struggle between political Judaism and political Islam in different variations.

Bob Simon: And the Christians are being squeezed in the middle between the Jews and the Muslims?

Ari Shavit: Absolutely.

Unfortunately, this narrow, simplistic formulation comes off as a cynical attempt to pander to a sort of superficial Christian sympathy.  We are not invited to examine either proposition – “political Judaism” or “political Islam” – and in fact, in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian Arab dynamic, both characterizations fall apart on examination.  It takes little reflection, in any case, to recognize that there is no settled definition to which these expressions apply.  They are nothing more than vaguely parallel-sounding proto-ideas, packaged to imply a joint, morally equivalent menace to Christians.

As to whether there is actually such a parallel, the Simon piece tells us nothing. It leaves out entirely such elements as numbers, demographic facts, and policy information.  It makes no reference to the fact that in the entire Middle East, there is a single nation whose population of Christians has been increasing, rather than dwindling, and that is Israel.  Indeed, Israel’s Christian population grew faster between 1995 and 2008 than the Jewish population, and is up more than 300% from its level in 1948.

Simon also left out the fact that by far the biggest exodus of Christians from Jerusalem and the West Bank occurred during the Jordanian occupation period from 1948 to 1967.  In the West Bank, the Christian population declined from 59,160 in 1945 to 42,494 in 1967.  In Jerusalem only, the Christian population was nearly 13,000 in 1910.  By 1946 it had increased to over 31,000, but by 1967 it was down to under 13,000 again (largely due to Jordanian restrictions on Christian daily life). 

Since 1967, the total Christian population in the West Bank as a whole – Judea and Samaria – has increased again to over 51,000 in 2007.  (In Gaza the number is between 2,000 and 3,000, and was never high.)  This does not mean that Christians haven’t left the Palestinian territories in recent years; some have – mainly in the educated middle class – and Christians undoubtedly endure unequal treatment under the Palestinian Authority, and are sometimes subjected to violent attacks.  But the overall trend is upward from the nadir of 1967.  As the JCPA study indicates, the drop in the percentage of the Palestinian population represented by Christians is due to the increase in the much larger Muslim population, which has more than doubled from about 1.15 million in 1967 to 3.77 million in 2007.

Are Christians emigrating from the West Bank because of the security wall built by Israel to stop terrorists, and the checkpoints administered for the same reason?  The Simon piece doesn’t make that explicit claim – very possibly (given his specious exchange with Israeli ambassador Michael Oren) so that Simon could then say that he never made such a claim.  But the parade of images on the topic of Christians in the Holy Land is heavy on checkpoints and the security wall.  Clearly, the synoptic video scan of the wall from every window of a Bethlehem apartment is not a rhetorically meaningless artistic choice.  The 60 Minutes segment wants us to see the wall and the checkpoints as “the problem” for Palestinian Christians.  We are led to draw the seemingly obvious conclusion.

Fact-deficient segments from 60 Minutes are hardly a novelty, but to my eyes, the Bob Simon piece hits an unusual level of tendentious impressionism.  One thing Simon did make sure to do, however, was include a reference in his segment to the Kairos** Palestine “Moment of Truth” Document, a manifesto issued in 2009 by Palestinian Christian activists (and signed by supporters from various nations) on their situation in the Palestinian territories.

This choice, in light of the rich and varied history of Christians in the Middle East over the last two millennia, and Simon’s thin and perfunctory depiction of them, is informative.  The Kairos document is somewhat Christian in tone, emphasizing forgiveness and restoration, but it contains some problematic passages.  The first two (there are a number of them) occur in the letter introducing the manifesto, which is signed by supporters from various nations.  In the second paragraph of the letter we find this declaration (emphasis added):

In this historic document, we Palestinian Christians declare that the military occupation of our land is a sin against God and humanity, and that any theology that legitimizes the occupation is far from Christian teachings because true Christian theology is a theology of love and solidarity with the oppressed, a call to justice and equality among peoples.

The third paragraph contains a sentence that can only be off-putting to most American Christians (again, emphasis added):

[The document] seeks to be prophetic in addressing things as they are without equivocation and with boldness, in addition it puts forward ending the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and all forms of discrimination as the solution that will lead to a just and lasting peace with the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Al-Quds as its capital.

Appealing to American Christians on this basis is a losing proposition.  Regardless of how they feel about the current political situation, most American Christians recognize Jerusalem as the capital of ancient Israel, a Jewish city that was the seat of King David and the site of the First and Second Temples.   Jerusalem is the subject of a number of Old Testament prophecies, some of which have yet to be fulfilled, and is therefore an enduring link between the Hebrew people and God.

Whether one agrees with it or not, this belief is a widespread reality.  For millions of American Christians, it is anti-Biblical revisionism to give Jerusalem a different name (Jerusalem means “foundation of peace”; “Al-Quds” means “the holy”) and propose to separate it from Israel.  But it is also anti-historical revisionism to pretend that Israel and the Jews did not have their signature – transformative – relationship with the city.  All generations for the last 3,000 years have known the city as Jerusalem, and considered it important and unique, because of the ancient Hebrews who made their capital there.  The Roman emperor Hadrian’s attempt to rename the city “Aelia Capitolina,” following the Bar-Kokhba revolt in the AD 130s, didn’t take – few today are even aware that he made it.

Bob Simon makes no effort to investigate these matters, and certainly makes no explicit case either way.  He merely presents individual Palestinian Christians who speak as if the Israelis are interlopers, and whose sentiments, if one digs down, are different from those of American Christians.  His segment suggests, without explicitly saying, that a religiously justified animosity toward Israel is to be regarded a “Christian” point of view.

Leftward-trending evangelicals?

A method used increasingly to foster the impression that support for Israel is without a Christian foundation is to slip into the discussion the idea that Jesus was something other than a Jew.  Some Christians are at the forefront of this effort.  One of the closest associates of the Kairos Palestine group is Sabeel, a Jerusalem-based Christian foundation promoting the Palestinian Arab cause as defined by the political left.  Sabeel and its leaders get a lot of left-wing media coverage in the United States (e.g., here, here, and here).  Sabeel describes itself as an “ecumenical liberation theology center,” and offers a frequent forum for theologians to make points like “Jesus was a Palestinian” and a “Jesus was community organizer.” This gambit is given a pass by Sabeel’s Christians supporters in America.

Since it is integral to Christian doctrine that Jesus was a Jew – a descendent of David, subject to the Law of Moses, and heir to the Old Testament’s prophetic promises to the Jews – and that he is, in fact, the Messiah promised to all mankind through the Jews, there is really no room for the alternative notion of Jesus as something else.  If Jesus wasn’t a Jew, then he cannot be the Messiah or the foundation stone of the Church, the Body of Christ.  Christian belief cannot accommodate this revision and continue in force.

But for many American Christians, “liberation theology” itself sets off alarm bells and points automatically to radical left-wing politics.  Most evangelical Christians (as well as conservative Catholics and denominational Protestants) view claims like Sabeel’s not as a form of new and possibly interesting “information,” but as anti-Biblical – and anti-historical – revisionism.  There is no doubt that some Christians embrace liberation theology and radical left-wing political ideas, but there is also little support for the idea that this wing of American Christianity is supplanting more traditional evangelicals, or is becoming more influential with Christians as a whole.

This wing is presented by the media, however – in approving tones — as an important social force and voice for Christianity.  The New York Times, for example, published an editorial in November 2011 entitled “The New Evangelicals,” which argued that a “sizable portion of evangelicals” had left the political right and embraced a “new kind of Christian social conscience,” identified as the political themes of the left.  (See here, here, here, here, and here as well.  This Columbia Journalism Review post from 2007, on the other hand, shows some interesting critical research and journalistic self-awareness.)

The NYT editorial relied on soundbites from the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, along with a rather kindergartenish subtraction exercise, using percentages put together by a Pew Forum study.  Regarding the latter, the editorial does a little bait-and-switch, concluding that 24% of the US population – in other words, a set that includes all Christians, such as mainline Protestants and left-wing Catholics, but also includes Jews, Muslims, other beliefs, and atheists – “don’t think of themselves as part of the religious right.”

That could well be an accurate assessment, if a derivative and unproven one, but it’s not information about evangelicals per se.  Nor does it strike me as anything new.  Mainline Protestants and leftist Catholics – particularly their ecclesiastical leadership; not as much their congregations – have been on the left side of many social and international issues for decades.

The New Evangelical Partnership, meanwhile – whose leader, Richard Cizik, is a fellow of George Soros’ Open Society Institute – has taken the name “evangelical” from the multiple, differing traditions of Christian evangelicalism (useful discussion here), and is not representative of the evangelical congregations and social ideas most Americans associate with the term.  Ministries like those of John Hagee, Pat Robertson, Focus on the Family, the Trinity Broadcast Network, and hundreds of non-denominational evangelical churches across America, are what we think of when we imagine evangelical Christians.

That definition does not encompass the evangelical traditions in some of the formal denominations, such as Lutheran, Methodist, Anglican, and Catholic – and the important thing to take away is the real, if inconvenient fact that not all who describe themselves as “evangelical” are representative of each other.  The Evangelical Lutheran denomination, for example, is a formal church of longstanding and differs in a number of ways – both doctrinal and explicitly political – from the mass of self-confessed born-again American evangelicals.

Such is the case with the New Evangelical Partnership, which is Protestant and embraces some of the traditions of evangelicalism, but by no means those of the majority of American evangelicals, who tend (see the Pew study above) to be Baptist, members of small, non-Mainline denominations, or simply non-denominational.  For simplicity, I will call this latter group “traditionalist evangelicals,” using the term essentially as defined in another 2005 Pew study cited below.

The New Evangelical Partnership (NEP) is a sympathetic group for the MSM, however – along with groups like Evangelicals for Social Action – precisely because of its political views.  The NEP made waves in September 2011 with an “Open Letter to America’s Christian Zionists,” in which it took traditionalist evangelicals to task for their support of Israel (emphasis added):

Not to put too fine a point on it, we wish to claim here that the prevailing version of American Christian Zionism—that is, your belief system—underwrites theft of Palestinian land and oppression of Palestinian people, helps create the conditions for an explosion of violence, and pushes US policy in a destructive direction that violates our nation’s commitment to universal human rights. In all of these, American Christian Zionism as it currently stands is sinful and produces sin.

As numerous Jewish and non-religious sites pointed out, the “open letter” appears also to suggest that Israel, along with American Christian Zionists, is calling down God’s wrath on her head, perhaps in the form of a nuclear attack by Iran.  It is worth presenting the entire passage to convey the flavor of this warning, with its evocation of old, hackneyed themes in the West about the Jewish people uniquely bringing destruction on themselves (emphasis added; some spelling corrected):

We are not Old Testament prophets, nor do we pretend to see the future. But we have seen enough to claim that the occupation practices of the modern state of Israel are a direct violation of the most basic biblical moral principles. It is immoral to steal anything, including people’s land, homes, and vineyards. It is immoral to dehumanize people, as occurs daily at Israeli checkpoints. It is immoral to choke people’s freedom and deprive them of their dignity. And it is foolish, a violation of every lesson of history, to think that through sheer intimidation and superior military power a people can be subjugated indefinitely without rising up in resistance or attracting more powerful allies who will do so on their behalf. God gave humanity a recognition of justice and a nearly endless capacity to resist injustice. It is wired into our nature, and the Palestinian people and the neighboring countries have it just like everyone else does.

We genuinely fear that someday someone or some nation inflamed with resentment at the seemingly eternal Israeli subjugation of the Palestinian people will “make your land desolate so no one can live in it” (Jeremiah 6:8). That sounds like a nuclear bomb. Have you heard of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? While in the Middle East we heard from Palestinian leaders a current commitment to pursue their cause nonviolently. We applaud that commitment. We see it as an extraordinary one under the circumstances. We fear that it cannot last forever, for no people will allow itself to be ground into the dust indefinitely. What are you doing to end their suffering and bring justice to them?

We will leave it to God to sort out with the Jewish people of the modern state of Israel the very complex terms of his covenant with them. But we cannot remain silent about the vast array of American Christians who support the most repressive and unjust Israeli policies in the name of Holy Land and a Holy God. We charge that you bear grave responsibility for aiding and abetting obvious sin, and if Israel once again sees war, we suggest that you will bear part of the responsibility. Christians are called to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9), but by offering uncritical support of current Israeli policies you are actively inflaming the Middle East toward war—in the name of God. This is appalling; it is intolerable; it must stop!

As Elder of Ziyon notes, the letter goes to great lengths to dilute the connection of the Jewish people with Israel, and undermine the idea of Israel as an inheritance from God, while leaving out a great deal of relevant material from the Old Testament.  This is a valuable investigation, since we are talking here about Christian exhortation.

The promises associated with Israel are integral to the Christian understanding of God, and if they are dismissed or rejected, there can be no remaining, distinctively Christian message.  If one does not believe that God made specific, accountable promises to the Jews – including promises about Israel and Jerusalem – and does not believe that Jesus, in his death and resurrection, was the fulfillment of the greatest of those immutable promises, then the original and age-old meaning of “Christianity” evaporates.  There is no particular point in Jesus in that case; he is just another famous religious leader, better known and more widely followed than most.

This is definitely a different view of Christianity from that held by a majority of American Christians, and different as well from the doctrinal statements of all the world’s major denominations.  Rasmussen does an annual poll at Easter in which it asks respondents to state things like whether they believe Jesus is the son of God and whether they believe he rose from the dead, and in the last three years, 77-78% of Americans polled believed these things (see here, here, and here).  This could not be the case without the context of the Old Testament account of God’s dealings with, and prophetic legacy to, the Jews, which prophesied and foreshadowed the supernatural characteristics of the Messiah’s existence and purpose.

That traditionalist evangelicals are, in general, unpersuaded by NEP’s and other similar views – as indeed are many in other Christian groupings – is evident in the trends of polling and study data.  In December 2011, blogger Rachel Alexander did a useful comparison of the beliefs registered by evangelical leaders and those of America’s general evangelical Christian population, and came up with a series of disparities.  Leaders tended to evince a greater percentage of revisionist or left-wing views, while their congregations differed significantly, embracing those views to a dramatically lower extent.  (Note: the percentage of respondents holding left-wing views was higher among the leaders, but as Alexander’s links show, there was still a healthy percentage of leaders with the views more traditionally associated with American evangelicals.)

The MSM likes to present the views of left-leaning leaders as a growing trend, and to quote such leaders suggesting that the ideas they prefer are the “real” Christianity.  But ultimately, this hoped-for shift is not one the MSM has the power to broker or bridge.

The depth and breadth of Christian support for Israel in America

If traditionalist evangelicals went by common media themes, they might think their numbers were being outstripped in the rate of growth by left-wing evangelicals.  But as regards support for Israel, as well as conservative views on social issues (and general affinity with the right), the evidence of this is more overhyped than real.  In terms of general political affinities, for example, exit polling during the 2010 election showed 77% of white evangelical poll respondents voting Republican – an overwhelming majority, and one that had risen since 2004.

Regarding Israel, traditionalist evangelicals remain the Christian group most overwhelmingly supportive of the existence and security of the Jewish state.  In this, they are more like their fellow Americans in general than like members of the evangelical (or general Christian) left.  In 2005, a Pew study found that 52% of all evangelicals supported Israel when asked to contrast their support for Israel versus the Palestinians, and of that number, 64% of “traditionalist evangelicals” – the largest evangelical subgroup – supported Israel.

A poll taken in late 2011 showed general US population support for Israel to be where it has been in for decades, in the 60-percent range.  Looking back at the 2005 Pew study, meanwhile, 63% of white evangelicals (and 51% of black evangelicals) believe the modern state of Israel is a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy.   The study also indicated that 55% of white evangelicals considered their views on the Middle East influenced by religious beliefs.

A 2008 poll found that 82% of all American Christians – both Protestant and Catholic – believe they have a moral obligation to support the Jews and Israel.  In a survey of Americans done in early 2011, Wenzel Strategies found that 80% of born-again Christians disagree that Israel is an “aggressor nation”; 71% believe the US should be “very concerned” about Israel’s national security; and 66% say the US will be judged by God according to how we treat Israel.

The news remains good for Israel supporters when the growing evangelical-Latino demographic is considered.  A Pew study in 2007 found that 62% of Latino evangelicals in the US support Israel, a percentage almost identical to that of traditionalist evangelicals overall.  Younger Christians in general are also pro-Israel.  In March, Forbes contributor Stephen Richter pointed out that among all young (under-35) Americans, the majority support for Israel is driven by the overwhelming support of younger Christians.

These sentiments are not a record of the past but the beliefs of today among traditionalist evangelicals, as well as among many American Christians of other denominations.  John Hagee’s organization Christians United for Israel (CUFI), founded in 2006 with less than 10,000 members, now reports having 950,000, of whom the majority are evangelical Christians.  (Jennifer Rubin reported yesterday that in the first 24 hours after the 60 Minutes segment aired, CUFI members sent more than 29,000 complaining emails to CBS.)  But CUFI is merely the largest of dozens of American Christian organizations dedicated to supporting and engaging with Israel, from the evangelical Friends of Israel and Christian Friends of Israel USA to Catholics for Israel, Anglican Friends of Israel, Methodist Friends of Israel, and tattooed Texas Pentecostal bikers roaring up to the Western Wall on their Harleys to show their solidarity with the Jews.

The MSM and left-wing media sites may seek to magnify the importance of the evangelical left and its sentiments about Israel, but for most American Christians, the posture of the evangelical left is not a representative reality.  Recent studies confirm that the traditional commitment of American evangelicals to Israel is thriving, and that in most denominations there is a robust element not only supporting Israel, but rejecting the anti-Israel policies pursued by some of the church leadership (e.g., in the Methodist and Presbyterian churches).

Media Matters: Born to oppose “Christian bias” in the media

There is another dimension where the media intersect with Christians and Israel, and although I don’t assess that it has direct relevance to the Bob Simon segment, it is clearly a related phenomenon, and one requiring examination in the overall context.

Earlier this month, author M.J. Rosenberg, a fellow at the leftist watchdog organization Media Matters, was forced to resign his position after – among other things – repeatedly accusing American Jews who support Israel of being “Israel-firsters,” a dual-loyalties allegation popular with the Nazi leadership of Hitler’s Germany.

Rosenberg isn’t the only Media Matters fellow with an anti-Semitism problem.  Eric Boehlert is another.  Media Matters and the Center for American Progress (CAP) came in last year for criticism from the Simon Wiesenthal Center for their bloggers’ often vitriolic lapses into the language of anti-Semitism.  (As RedState and American Thinker, respectively, note, Media Matters and CAP share fund-raising operations and receive funding from George Soros.)  Around the same time, former AIPAC spokesman and Clinton-administration official – not a conservative Republican –  Josh Block took Media Matters and CAP to task for their bloggers’ anti-Semitic expressions, and was promptly “expelled” from the Truman National Security Project for trying to suppress “open debate” through intimidation and “character attacks.”

As Michelle Malkin highlighted in February, meanwhile, Media Matters and CAP have for some time had a standing weekly appointment in the White House.  (Michelle’s centerpiece is the original Daily Caller article on the topic, but her additional links are worth reviewing as well.)

This context of rabid anti-Semitism and regular White House access sets the stage for a revelation from CBN reporter Erick Stakelbeck this past weekend that Media Matters’ charter document indicates an anti-Christian bias.  In its Form 1023 application for non-profit status, Media Matters made this statement in the section on organizational description (the passage is edited by CBN):

Media Matters for America (MMA) believes that news reporting and analysis by the American Media…has become biased. … It is common for news and commentary by the press to present viewpoints that tend to overly promote…a conservative, Christian-influenced ideology.

Notably, Daily Caller reporter Vince Coglianese tells Stakelbeck that the public mission statement at the Media Matters website omits this motivational reference – perhaps for fear of alienating a notoriously Christian public, much of which would consider the charge that the American media have a Christian bias to be the most ridiculous thing they have ever heard.

Traditionalist evangelicals will not be surprised that an organization dedicated to opposing “Christian bias” in the media has also been called out repeatedly for anti-Semitism.  That there is a unified “theory of themage” working itself out through at least some left-leaning media organizations is increasingly evident.

It is important not to tar all left-wing media with the same brush; some do a commendable job of seeking balance, fairness, and decorum in their coverage of Christians, Jews, and Israel.  Honest disagreement, expressed vigorously and explicitly, is clearly legitimate.

But the emerging pattern of media outlets in the US simply repeating ideas formed from revisionist “liberation theology” and revisionist “history” is a dangerous one.  The rote repetition of Palestinian activists’ themes is a case in point.  Gerald Steinberg of NGO Monitor (quoted at the Jennifer Rubin link) characterized the Bob Simon piece in just such terms:

The 60 Minutes segment uncritically adopted the standard Palestinian narrative of suffering and victimhood promoted by church-based NGOs that work closely with the Palestinian political leadership. … Bob Simon’s segment simply repeated … immoral positions without any independent analysis.

The American public is already wary and suspicious of the MSM, and that includes many Christians and supporters of Israel.  With the Bob Simon segment on Sunday, 60 Minutes has placed itself in the category of media outlets retailing impressionistic themage that misrepresents both Christianity and Israel.  The Simon piece, justly called by critics a “hatchet job” on Israel, could have been put together by Sabeel itself, and might as well have been.

This is perilous territory for CBS.  If the network cannot distinguish its themes from those of Palestinian activists, its distinction from a fringe “attack” organization like Media Matters – and from other avowedly partisan media outlets – will grow fatally fuzzy.  The evidence of a particular kind of unified themage – one that misrepresents Christianity and seeks to undermine Israel – is out there, hovering over the infosphere.  The ones who need to check six are the mainstream media.

 

* Yes, a neologism I created for this piece.

** In Christian theology, the Greek term “kairos” refers to a time of crisis or precipitation: “the appointed time in the purpose of God” when something of eschatological significance happens, requiring a response from man (such as the birth of Jesus Christ).   Christian groups from all backgrounds and creeds invoke the concept of kairos and use it in their organization names. 

J.E. Dyer’s articles have appeared at Hot Air’s Green Room, Commentary’s “contentions,Patheos, and The Weekly Standard online.


Responses

  1. the Christian population remains at approximately the same proportion (2.8% or so) from 1949 to now…….

    according to that CAMERA thing in your link….they’re based their numbers on this, (to which THEY link)

    http://www.cbs.gov.il/shnaton59/st02_02.pdf

    • ??? That proves my point. With the overall population growing, the Christian population had to increase in absolute numbers to represent the same percentage over time. It grew by 345% from statehood to 2008.

      • no, it doesn’t prove your point, my friend. it doesn’t reflect at all upon whether the Christians were ill-treated and oppressed or not…it doesn’t show much at all and does nothing to establish any much beyond the fact that Christians over there have had the opportunity to breed and have taken advantage of it.

        and it certainly ignores all the Christians that were convinced by Israeli actions to leave.

        http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304450004577277833517609876.html?KEYWORDS=Palestinian+Christians

        we can agree that the Israelis are not as hard on Christians as Hamas, but that aln’t setting the bar very high.

        • It proves the part of the point to which she was referring.

          Given the history of Christianity toward the Jews is it surprising that Israeli’s don’t look upon them with particular fondness? Yet anyone familiar with Islam’s intolerance to all other religions can have no doubt as to the attitude of Palestinian Muslims towards Palestinian Christians.

          The letter to which you linked is one man’s opinion and contains thoughts which make his objectivity highly suspect; “With the creation of the state of Israel, 80% of Palestinian Christians were forced into exile.” is most illuminating in exposing the writers bias…

          The writer quotes a study which states that, “most of those who choose to emigrate” are “aggravated by the lack of freedom and security.”. But the writer never mentions why those restrictions are in place. No mention of the unrelenting attacks by Islamic fanatics. The writer is clearly one of those apologists for the radical Palestinian Muslims to whom J.E. referred.

          “we can agree that the Israelis are not as hard on Christians as Hamas, but that aln’t setting the bar very high.”

          Really? In Bethlehem in 2002 about 160 terrorists took over St. Mary’s Church grounds and held the priest and a number of nuns there against their will. The terrorists used the Church as a firing position, from which they shot at IDF soldiers in the area. The soldiers did not return fire toward the church when fired upon…

          • several letters, GB…..and you’re quite correct that the Jews have a rather lengthy list of abuses suffered at the hands of Christians and it’s also true that many Israelis have no trust in the good intentions of Christians… and are quite scornful of Evangelicals claiming to be allies. “useful idiots” sums it up.

            • One man’s opinion or several, does not a plurality make. We have no idea whether that is the commonly held view, but we do know that its not a fair minded one.

              And, “useful idiots” is most unfair. FYI, evangelicals who proclaim support for Israel, do so out of theology, not friendship. In the Bible, God’s promise to the Jews that he is giving them the land of Israel ‘in perpetuity’ is quite clear and unequivocal. Most evangelicals are literalists and so in the context of their beliefs, God’s has spoken clearly on the matter, which compels them, as a matter of faith, to align themselves with support for Israel.

              Religious belief is a matter of faith, so it’s interesting that evangelicals are able to fully support Israel while simultaneously accepting Jesus’ pronouncement that, “no man may come on to the Father but through me”…which would bode ill for the Jews in the afterlife, yes, no?

              There is a way to interpret Jesus statement without the implication that basically only followers of Jesus get into heaven.
              The primary exceptions being that you must have heard the gospel and cannot have died before reaching the age of knowing right from wrong. Interestingly, both Catholic doctrine and psychologist’s commonly place that around 7 years of age.

              One possible interpretation of Jesus’ intent is to presume he’s talking about the full acceptance of God’s love, which Jesus purportedly embodied, that it’s the spirit of love which must be accepted, indicated by “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven”. “little children” may well be a reference to the trusting innocence of the very young and that being necessary to enter the kingdom of heaven.

              I suspect some evangelicals would be fine with this interpretation but as Jesus didn’t directly say that, most literalists would say that the only interpretation doctrinally acceptable is a literal one, which appears to leave the Jews at the gate with no way to get in…perhaps the Israeli’s realize this, which would certainly ‘cool’ Israeli warmth and gratitude toward evangelicals ;-).

              In fairness, I’ve never heard anyone say or write that in the Bible God proclaims acceptance of his Messiah as a necessary condition of forgiveness and reunion with the divine. So perhaps God’s more flexible than the literalists, which many would be fine with, they just aren’t presuming his intent based on a rationality necessarily outside Biblical authority.

  2. No, Ms. Dyer, Christians don’t condemn Israel for building a defensive wall – if that were the purpose of this wall. However, Christians roundly condemn building a wall which grabs chunks of Palestinian land. Christians will refer you to the seventh comandment which says (I will remind you): “Thou shalt not steal”. You will also notice that it doesn’t say “Thou shalt not steal unless it’s Arab property”. Nor does it say “Stealing Arab land is excluded from the ambit of this comandment because stealing Arab land is “disputing”, and is not really stealing”. The 10 Comandments are not “liberation theology”.

    I hope I have been of some service in clarifying this matter for you (Your lengthy tract seems somewhat confused – not to mention, confusing. This is not surprising seeing it twists and turns like a contortionist while it dines a la carte on Christian fundamentals)

    p.s The Methodist and presbyterian (and Roman Catholic) Churches aren’t “anti-Israel”, they are anti – “the stealing of the homes, farm-land, and water of (Semitic) Palestinians by Israel and its agents”. An important distinction. Or perhaps you are arguing that the Israelis have a God-given right to steal (er, excuse me, “dispute”), and that disagreeing with this renders a commentator “anti-semitic”?

    • Defense is that walls purpose and annexing Palestinian land is necessary to its formation. As for ‘stealing’ the land from the Palestinians, the ‘Palestinians’ have been in a state of continual war with Israel since its formation. The Palestinians support the ancient right to claim land won in war but then want to deny Israel the same right they claim for themselves.

      The lengthy tract was easy to follow but children do have a limited attention span, so we can understand your problem.

      The Methodist, Presbyterian and Roman Catholic groups to whom you refer are certainly anti-Zionist but in refusing to credit the situation from which Israel must defend itself, in refusing to acknowledge Israel’s right to self-defense, they reveal the deeper nature of their bias to be simple antisemitism.

      What we are arguing is that if you are determined to take my land and I end up taking yours, you have no basis for complaint. The side you support has set the rules, so have the integrity to demand they live by them.

      • the particular path of the wall wasn’t necessary, GB…. and the High Court mentioned that.

        • I’m not going to argue that every single foot of the walls path was militarily necessary but then I don’t need to in order to make the point that its purpose being militarily defensive, the walls ability to provide secure defense would be its first priority. Making it unlikely that Israel would construct the wall in a militarily less advantageous path solely to spite the Palestinians.

          When they could do both I’m sure they did because when someone hates you more than they love their children, a reaction of spite is really quite mild. The reality is that there would never have been a wall where it not for Palestinian’s refusal to countenance any peace short of Israel’s destruction. Which is the reality that you refuse to accept.

          The wall is an attempt to lessen the violence by restricting access to Israel by suicide bombers. In the main, it seems to have worked.

          • I’ve not the slightest problem with the wall, only with the placement.

      • No, Geoffrey. We went to war against the Axis powers to dispute the principle of the right of conquerers.

        To repeat: The Israelis are perfectly entitled to build a wall on their own territory for whatever reason they wish. They can put a roof on it too for all anybody else cares. It is only when, and insofar, as the wall is used as a device to steal that it is condemned by the mainstream Christian denominations.(I accept that some fundamentalist cults and sects have contrary views)

        • We went to war with Japan because of the attack upon our naval fleet @ Pearl harbor. And Germany declared war upon the US. Since we were now at war with the two largest Axis powers, it was understood that we were now at war with all the Axis powers, such as Italy. Okinawa alone is proof that we do not dispute the ‘right’ to claim land won in battle.

          From 1945 to 1972 the US claimed sovereignty over Okinawa. When we voluntarily turned over control of Okinawa to the Japanese we retained 18% of the Island for our military bases, which remain to this day.

          But regardless of our current view of the matter, the Palestinians support the ancient right to claim land won in war but then want to deny Israel the same right they claim for themselves. A case of heads I win, tails you lose.

          Your ‘mainstream’ denominations refusal to credit the situation from which Israel must defend itself, in refusing to acknowledge Israel’s right to self-defense, which they do when they deny Israel the practical measures necessary to self-defense, they reveal the deeper nature of their bias to be simple antisemitism.

          To repeat: if you are determined to take my land and I end up taking yours, you have no basis for complaint. The side you support has set the rules, so have the integrity to demand they live by them.

      • The “side” I support is the United States of America. I perfectly accept that loyal and patriotic Americans are perfectly entitled to protest and oppose the long standing policy of the US in this region. What I would question, however, is US citizens working hand in glove with secretive foreign organizations to frustrate the foreign policy of their own country.

  3. Is “support Israel” the same as “bomb all of Israel’s enemies”? George Washington said that having a permanent ally-we only have one joined-at-the-hip, support them no matter what they do ally-meant that you had a special friend and also all of their special enemies, a package deal. Midway through Obama’s term, we were bombing six enemies of Israel. Hellfire missiles coming off of berylium rails in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and Somalia. That we know of. Against the advice of GW we’re bombing six countries that just happen to hate them some Zionists. Accident? Tell you what. In whatever country you have ‘deep concerns’ about….1)buy your own AK-47 2)get blood on your own hands 3)step on your own IED’s. How you call yourself conservative while getting in line with the rest to mug me on April 15th to make me pay for all of your foreign policy hobbies is beyond me. How does every so-called conservative get away with having the foreign policy of a certain 1917 Wilsonian Democrat? Yes that’s a hint at what I would call you.
    If only ‘conservatives’ would stop saying ‘we’ like progressives say ‘we’. Bombs away, all.

    • How do we bomb a Muslim country harboring terrorist elements without simultaneously bombing an enemy of Israel?

      Washington’s dictum of America having no permanent allies is under no threat of violation. We limit our support of Israel to lip service in the UN and military assistance, which means allowing them to purchase weapons from us at cost.

      If you get your wish, you will be 1)buying your own AK-47 2)getting blood on your own hands, on American soil 3) stepping on IED’s… where you live. A good offense always beats playing defense.

      Stop refusing to face the reality of a resurgent Islam that is using its petrol dollars to resurrect its dreams of a new caliphate. Islam’s terrorists look forward to the day when they can take jihad to the Great Satan’s house (that would be us) and personally greet you and yours, with their AK-47’s.

      If you’re not willing to pay for those policies that political consensus has approved, then you always have the option of emigration or if you prefer, conscientious objection followed by prison. If your adherence to principle doesn’t extend to conscientious objection, then perhaps a country like New Zealand which sits quietly in a corner offending no one, while hoping the alligator passes it by, will be more to your liking…

      We all have to pay for things of which we don’t fully approve and some that we strenuously object too, get over it and stop whining.

  4. Very good, very insightful post. Thank you for writing it.

  5. So, how did the Children of the Holocaust Survivors event go? I hope the Jews don’t confuse the Libprots, who can’t see a justification for Israel defending itself, with the vast majority of US Christians who generally support Israel.

    • Wrong, Vinnie: The mainstream Christian denominations (and most of their adherents) have no problem with Isreal using proportionate means to defend itself. They also generally support Israel. What they don’t support is stealing because stealing is against the 7th Commandment and morally wrong in the eyes of mainstream Christians. Mainstream Christians reject the attempts by the Israelis and the sects who act as their apologists to confuse proportionate defence with a licence to steal. Similarly, Americans, believers and non-believers alike, hold the liberal values espoused in our Constitution, dear. Among these great values is the respect of private property.

      In any case, most Jews in this country don’t have any truck with fundamentalist Christians (or fundamentalists of any variety), nor do they trust them. Not surprising when you consider that most of the same fundamentalists believe not just in the ethnic-cleansing of non-Jews from Israel/Palestine, but that unconverted Jews go to hell. American Jews see their security and values best protected by liberal democracy and vote accordingly.

      • The mainstream Christian denominations to which you refer, the Methodist, Lutheran and Episcopalian denominations, definitely have a problem with Israel using any means to defend itself. No matter what the Israeli’s do, its always criticized as ‘disproportionate’.

        Here’s a news flash! Proportionate responses, lose wars.

        When you face genocidal maniacs whose ideology demands your death and every other Israelis, a policy of ‘proportionate response’ is a ‘policy’ for suicide. That you and your ‘ilk’ refuse to acknowledge it, makes you complicit in that potential genocide. BTW, how does it feel to, effectively be a concentration camp supporter, where genocide will be the policy?

        The brutal truth is that you win wars by crushing your opponents will to resist. To do that you have to destroy most of the infrastructure and kill enough people that the other sides emotional resistance collapses. Anything less just prolongs the conflict and ensures another war in the future.

        Yes, it’s brutal. So the less the better. Which doesn’t mean pacifism, as that guarantees the barbarian’s future aggression resulting in even more violence and death. But rather a readiness to visit extreme violence upon the aggressor.

        “To survive it is often necessary to fight and to fight you have to dirty yourself. Yes, war is evil, but it is often the lesser evil.” George Orwell

        The olive branch in one hand and a really big stick in the other, with a readiness to use the stick unreservedly, when objective evaluation indicates its need is still the best foreign policy. Simply because it recognizes human nature and responds accordingly.

        “American Jews see their security and values best protected by liberal democracy and vote accordingly.”

        Nonsense. American Jewish identity is encapsulated in liberalism because when that identification formed, the liberalism of the democrats of that time offered greater inclusion and acceptance into American society. That American liberalism has been hijacked by the left into an enemy of liberty, which is something that the Jewish voter is in denial about, just as they were in Germany in the 30’s.

        • Wrong again, Geoff.

          The mainstream Christian denominations, and Christian principles don’t condemn Israel (or anyone else) for using “proportionate” means to defend itself. Using white phosphoros and cluster weaponary in populated areas is not proportionate whether used by the Somalis, Israelis, or Sri Lankans.

          I am confident that American Jews are well aware of where their interests lie when they vote. They have had quite enough bitter experience of the holders of “objective” truth in the form of political and religious fundamentalist ideologies. They much prefer to put their trust in the values of secular liberal democracy. Moreover, the majority of American Jews support the two-state policy of their government, and don’t condone the stealing of Arab land. The settlers Dyer supports are a small fanatical minority. The Jews of my acquaintance have bought or inherited their homes and property, they didn’t steal them from someone else.

      • Disproportionate? Paulite and the Libprots (good name for a band, no?) criticize the building of a wall far more strenuously than they criticize Palestinian rockets, mortars and suicide bombers. I agree on one point: Israel should only take and keep a proportionate amount of disputed land — that is, enough that it becomes greatly more difficult for the Palestinians to successfully launch future attacks by ordinance of suicide bombers.

  6. As we all know, coverage and commentary in the US “mainstream” media is overwhelmingly indulgent towards Israel, and any criticism is generally muted and circumspect. Coverage and commentary in the burgeoning far-right media and blogosphere is universally biased towards the most extreme elements in Israel.
    Whenever a rare article or programme which is neutral, or is even vaguely critical of the Jewish ethnocracy, gets published, it is met by concerted screeching from AIPAC and the usual suspects about “throwing Israel under a bus” and accusations of anti-semitism.

    This 60 minutes programme makes a point. What it says is true. It is uncomfortable viewing for the people who would rather the Arab side of this story were never told. The Israeli side of the story has been aired a thousand times without any acknowledgement that there might be other narratives or calls for “balance”. Congratulations to the brave people who had the guts to make and air this programme. They must have known that by flouting what is widely known in the media as “the last fatwa” they would be letting themselves in for organized abuse and concerted attempts to intimidate and silence them. I hope they have the backbone to stand up to the bullies.

    Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this programme – and something that might give mainstream Christians pause for reflection – is its concentration on a small segment of the victims of Israeli policy. The vast majority of the Arab victims of the Jewish ethnocracy and its agents are not cuddly cute Christians, but Moslems.

    • It is uncomfortable viewing for the people who would rather the Arab side of this story be accurately told and, who recognize that they’re not getting it in the story they’re viewing.

      The vast majority of the Arab supporters of resistance that resorts to terrorism are Muslim’s children, who have been raised in an atmosphere exhibiting an astonishing level of hate. Hate that existed long before their even was an Israel, hate that started with Mohammad’s war crime of exterminating an entire Jewish village, one that had surrendered under the false promise of being allowed to leave the area.

  7. Having seen the entirety of this mini-documentary, I cannot see what the fuss is about. It is mild to the point of anodyne. Its most significant expose is to unmask the practices of the oleagenous Israeli Ambassador who was caught with his hand in the cookie-jar. The rest is a rather gentle critique of what everyone knows is going on.
    Now, if the documentary had covered some more corrosive aspects of the occupation such as “the price” – (where violent extremist Jewish settlers burn the crops of their Arab neighbours in revenge for not getting their way – because they well know that the Arabs have no protection from the IDF), or the bulldozing of Arab homes, or “rush-in” house stealing, we might have more reason to applaud the makers of 60 minutes for their courage.
    But the reaction of Dyer and her ilk to this mildly critical programme gives us an insight into the sheer intolerance of criticism that years of craven appeasement of the settlement lobby has created.

    • You cannot see what the ‘fuss’ is about because your ideological blinders deny the genocidal intent of the Israeli ‘victims’.

      You mention “the price” Palestinians pay, while remaining silent on “the price” that the Muslim fanatics with full support from the Palestinian community extract from those Jewish settlers. Is death a ‘proportionate’ response to stealing? Yet you say nothing of that side of the argument. And we know why, it would destroy you argument, which makes you intellectually dishonest.

      What you label ‘sheer intolerance of criticism’ is an intentional twisting of our position, which is to look at each side’s claims and conclude that the Israeli’s have by far, the better claim and behavior in the dispute.

      Of course Israel at times behaves reprehensibly in just the ways you criticize. Our position is that compared to the way the Palestinians Arabs have behaved, the Israelis are using the minimal amount of force to maintain security and encourage the Palestinians to finally sue for peace. When comparing each sides true desire for peace with a fair resolution of the conflict for both sides, there’s no comparison as to which side has the moral high ground. It’s Israel that wants peace and its the Muslim who wants genocide.

      • Neither I, mainstream Christians, my Government, nor most American Jews, believe that stealing Arab homes and farmland is “wanting peace”, or is a claim to the “moral high-ground”.

  8. [...] J.E. Dyer: Themage*: 60 Minutes, Media Matters, and media narrative-building on Christians and Israel [...]

    • Hey, everyone out there who still thinks the far-right is mentally stable should be forced to read this hilarious looper.

  9. Snyder’s meme is that people voted for Obama last time around for fear of “being called racist”.

    Has anyone told this genius that we have a secret ballot in US elections and that no one need have a clue how anyone else actually votes?

    The real question that’s crying out is who awarded (or sold?) this wingnut his “doctorate”. We have all heard about ‘grade inflation’ in recent times, but this is taking it to the ridiculous.

  10. Wow, thank you for this in-depth, thoughtful post. As an American ex-pat in Israel, it was comforting to read it.

    Forgive me for making a couple of minor comments, which in no way detract from the force of the arguments you make:
    1. The etymology of “Yerushalayim”, the Hebrew name of Jerusalem, is not 100% sure, but I believe that it is generally thought to derive from “city of peace”.
    2. “Al Quds” does not, in fact, mean “the holy”, but rather “the far-away”; it was called so because it was believed to have been the farthest Mohammed ever traveled from the Arabian peninsula. Personally, I find the whole account of this alleged visit to Jerusalem to be dubious, at best.
    3. If I am not mistaken, the total number of Palestinians in Judaea and Samaria is far lower than the number provided in your post of 3.77 million. There was quite a fuss a couple years ago when it came to light that the PA had circulated highly inflated census reports for propaganda (and foreign aid) purposes.

  11. […] Christ at the Checkpoint, or CatC, is a conference sponsored by the Bethlehem Bible College and the Holy Land Trust.  It was held in 2010 and 2012, and is now being held again, in Bethlehem (Judea, in the West Bank), in 2014.  A great deal can be written about the anti-Israel affiliations of its sponsors and the participation of left-wing Western – and in particular, left-leaning evangelical – Christians; a sampling of the background can be found here, here, here, here, and here. […]


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