Palestinian Christians have launched a strong attack against an Israeli-based group that claims to represent Christian supporters of Israel worldwide. Leading Baptists in Palestine and Jordan had scathing words regarding Christian Zionists.
The Israel Allies foundation published on its website a list of 50 Christian leaders the first among them is Paula White the Advisor to the White House on Faith & Opportunity Initiatives. She is also the chair of the evangelical advisory board in President Donald Trump’s administration. The Christian Zionist foundation calls the 50 leaders the top supporters of Israel worldwide.
Issa Kassisieh the Palestinian ambassador to the Holy See and a member of the Higher Presidential Committee for Church Affairs believes that Christians around the world should cooperate with the local church. “they should have alliances with the living stones in the holy land. They need to know that local Christians are evaporating.” Kassisieh called on all to work for justice and peace and not to side with the oppressed. “They need to listen to the voice of the strive for justice and peace and support those who believe in the two-state solution, not with the radical voices that are not serious about peace with justice.”
Rev. Alex Awad an evangelical Palestinian leader called the Israel Allies Foundation hypocrites and warmongers. He said that the group headed by Josh Reinsetin the director of the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus and the producer of a TV show is simply seeking after money. According to the website the Allies Foundation president Josh Reinstein also “owns and operates JSR International Marketing, international marketing, and public relations firm based in Israel. Reinstein didn’t respond to a request for an interview.
Speaking about the list of Christian leaders Awad questioned that they even truly love Israel. “I am not sure that these 50 Christian leaders have a genuine love for Israel. They love themselves and they love their organizations, ministries, books, and TV programs. They know where the money is found and they follow in its track,” says Rev. Alex Awad. Awad, the retired pastor of the East Jerusalem Baptist Church and former dean at Bethlehem Bible College said that the Christian Zionist leaders have no understanding of the simple biblical value of Justice. “As for Justice to Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims, they have a blind spot. The majority of them are warmongers, they supported and will continue to support every US military adventure against Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims. From their blurred perspectives, Israel is always right and Palestinians are always wrong. Awad quoted the gospel of Mathew to illustrate his position. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices — mint, dill, and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law — justice, mercy, and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. “
Reverend Munther Isaac a Lutheran pastor in Bethlehem and the curator of the Christ at the Checkpoint conference said that the list underscores the strong and tragic influence Christian Zionism has on Middle East politics and the Palestinian Israeli conflict. “I wish these Christians realize the extent of the damage they are causing on our witness and presence in the land. It is not an understatement to say that they are posing a threat to our existence.” Isaac says that those behind the list and those in it completely ignore Palestinian reality “and do not consider the positions of the church leaders in Jerusalem or those of many Christian movements and activists. They are more interested in their political and personal agenda.”
The foundation says that its mission is to “mobilize support for Israel” and notes that Christians see “the modern state of Israel as the fulfillment of the prophetic promises of God of the land of Israel to the Jewish people.” Allies for Israel aims at “building an active global network of pro-Isreal legislators, equipping communities of faith for political advocacy and Building direct lines of communication between the Israeli government and Christian leaders worldwide.”
Suheil Madanat the president of the Baptist Convention in Jordan says that the term evangelicals have become a wide term in the US. “Evangelicals represent different denominations and beliefs. One of them supports Israel based on mistaken and politicized interpretation of the Bible. On the other hand, there are many evangelicals whose numbers are increasing and who support Arab rights in Palestine.”
Madanat who was born in Jerusalem is proud of supporting the Arab cause while firmly believing in the literal interpretation of the Bible. “I am an Arab evangelical Christian and I believe in the literal interpretation of the Bible and at the same time, I am a national Arab and support Palestinian rights. As a youth growing up in Jerusalem under occupation I participated in a demonstration in my high school in Jerusalem (St. George’s) against the occupation.” Madanat says that his childhood position has not changed since while insisting that God is just. “Our God is a God of justice and rights and doesn’t accept injustice, violence, and the displacement of people.”
What surprised many Palestinian Christians was the publication among the top 50 Christian leaders who support Israel in the name of a Palestinian. Naim Khoury listed as the 26 top Christian supporters of Israel. Alex Awad said he was grieved to see Khoury’s name. “I knew Rev. Khoury for many years and I know that he will do and say anything to get Christian Zionist support. He shares with Christian Zionists not only an unhealthy love for Israel but also a great deal of Islamophobia.”
Awad objected fiercely to a claim in the introduction of Rev. Naim Khoury calling him the “founder of some of the largest Arab Churches in Israeli and PA Territories.” Awad calls the claim a “big lie” saying his own supporters know he provides them with false information. “Some of his Christian Zionists are aware of Khoury’s corruption but they stay silent like their brothers and sisters in the US when dealing with Trump.”
Isaac also had some sharp comments for the #26 individual on the list. “Rev. Naim Khoury only represents himself. He is not in line even with the leaders of the Palestinian evangelical community and Palestine and Israel, let alone the wider Christian community.”
Naim Khoury who is recovering from Covid-19 was unavailable for an interview, but he told friends that he knew nothing about his name is listed among the top Christian supports of Israel.