Are evangelicals turning against Israel?Sep 29, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 03 • By MARK TOOLEY
Senator Ted Cruz’s vigorous defense of Israel at a recent conference for persecuted Middle Eastern Christians in Washington, D.C., provoked jeers from a loud minority in the audience, made up largely of Catholics and Orthodox, many of them from the region or of Middle Eastern background. In June, the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted to divest from three firms doing business with Israel to protest Israeli policies towards Palestinians. More politically significant than those events, however, is a shift underway among some evangelicals, who traditionally have been Israel’s strongest Christian boosters in America.
The late Rev. Jerry Falwell, a founder of modern conservative religious activism, often boasted that America’s Bible Belt was Israel’s safety belt. But Falwell’s zeal for conservative red meat causes has become passé for much of the current generation of evangelical elites, who eschew the confrontational politics of the old religious right.
Polls show that evangelicals remain strongly pro-Israel and are America’s strongest pro-Israel demographic by far, with the possible exception of Jews. But there are few if any pro-Israel evangelical leaders today as outspoken and prominent as Falwell. And an increasing number of evangelicals in parachurch groups and evangelical schools are endorsing pro-Palestinian activism or at least a more neutral stance between Israel and its foes. Often the new evangelical perspective is premised on concern for Palestinian Christians, who number about 50,000, or just over
1 percent of the West Bank and Gaza Palestinian population.
One relatively new voice for evangelicals is the Telos Group, based in Washington, D.C., and winsomely advocating a “pro-Israeli, pro-Palestinian, pro-American, pro-peace movement.” Its founder is a U.S.-born Palestinian Christian attorney, and its executive director is Todd Deatherage, who was chief of staff to Senator Tim Hutchinson, the Republican senator from Arkansas, and later worked in the State Department under George W. Bush. Two evangelical bishops, one of whom is Hispanic, serve on the Telos board.
Deatherage belongs to a large orthodox Anglican church outside Washington attended by many prominent conservatives. Part of Telos’s mission is to send “influential Americans from across the political and theological spectra on high-touch, multi-narrative pilgrimages to the Holy Land,” where they are exposed to sympathetic Palestinians.
“The work of Telos is to contribute to the creation of a new paradigm, one in which Americans get to know real Israelis and Palestinians, respect them as individuals, and take in their stories,” Deatherage explained earlier this year. “There are some who believe our pro-Israel, pro-Palestine approach is nothing more than slick marketing, covering a more sinister (and one-sided) agenda,” he admitted. “Not only has our methodology been questioned, but so has our funding,” he added, obviously referring to grants to Telos by George Soros’s Open Society Institute. “And we make no apologies for welcoming financial support from any who will affirm freedom, security, and dignity for Israelis and Palestinians alike.”
During the recent Gaza conflict, Deatherage benignly blogged that a “ceasefire is needed immediately.” Neither “acts of terrorism nor aggressive military campaigns” can displace the need for “addressing the fundamental issues underlying the years of violence,” he noted, as “each side needs friends who will challenge them to do what is best for their own people, and, at the same time, who will encourage visionary leadership which realizes that the future of the two people is interconnected, that neither is going away, that the pain of grieving mothers is always the same, and that freedom and security for one people cannot be found at the expense of the other.”
Such agreeable appeals for peace and security for both Palestinians and Israelis from the new-style melodious evangelical activism are different from the denunciations of Israel by harder-line critics on the old religious left, especially the curia of Mainline Protestant agencies, whose constituencies are limited and lack political influence.
2:31 PM, Sep 16, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
ISIS is a threat to world peace and the U.S. has reason, the president has said, to “degrade" and, then, to “destroy” it. The threat, for some, is much closer. Right next door, in fact.
9:25 AM, Sep 16, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Over the weekend in Iowa, President Bill Clinton got caught on a hot mic at the Harkin Steak Fry agreeing that Israel prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu can't bring peace between the Israelis and Palestinians:
“If we don’t force him to make peace, we won’t have peace,” a spectator at the Steak Fry told Clinton.
5:31 PM, Sep 15, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
At an event today at Tufts University in Massachusetts, Democratic senator Elizabeth Warren said it was "fair" when an activist compared Israel’s actions in Gaza to the Holocaust.
“Eva Moseley, I’m not a student, I’m not an alumnae, but was in faculty life. I was also a Holocaust refugee and I’m extremely concerned that Jews don’t do to another people what was done to them,” said the activist.
6:11 AM, Sep 3, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Steven Sotloff, an American journalist who was savagely beheaded by ISIS, was also an Israeli citizen. Paul Hirschson, an Israeli diplomat, says on Twitter: "Cleared for publication: Steven S[o]tloff was #Israel citizen RIP."
Who won the Gaza war? Sep 8, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 48 • By ELLIOTT ABRAMS
For the moment, the Gaza war of 2014 is over. Anyone trying now to figure out who won and who lost should recall the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah. Then, Israelis had a great sense of letdown because they had not “won.” They had not destroyed Hezbollah, and the organization loudly claimed a triumph: “Lebanon has been victorious, Palestine has been victorious, Arab nations have been victorious,” said Sheikh Nasrallah. An estimated 800,000 Hezbollah supporters gathered in Beirut for a rally celebrating the “divine victory.”
Sep 1, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 47 • By LEE SMITH
During the six weeks of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, Hamas has used human shields—women and children—to protect its infrastructure in Gaza. This tactic is meant either to deter Israel from striking at the rockets, attack tunnels, and terrorists that threaten it, or—and for Hamas this is much preferable—to force the Israeli military to fire on Palestinian civilians.
8:33 AM, Aug 21, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Speaking at a recent town hall meeting, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont tried to have it both ways on Gaza. Wrong, he said, to shoot rockets. But Israel overreacted. This is the progressive equivocation. The precise, moderate, and acceptable reaction by a nation that his under rocket attack has, so far, not been outlined with any precision.
3:11 PM, Aug 7, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
While a ceasefire between Hamas and Israeli military forces continues, a Thursday rally in Gaza City organized by the terrorist group featured plenty of young children, some of whom were carrying toy guns. Associated Press photographer Lefteris Pitarakis captured the scene:
AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis
AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis
4:02 PM, Aug 6, 2014 • By LEE SMITH
Now into its second day, the 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian factions continues to hold. With Hamas’ missile arsenal depleted by roughly 50 percent and, according to Israeli assessments, 32 attack tunnels destroyed, Israeli officials are claiming a clear victory. “The IDF won big time in Gaza,” says one commander of an elite unit. “Stop staying we lost. We won.”
Hosted by Michael Graham.5:35 PM, Aug 5, 2014 • By TWS PODCAST
The WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with senior editor Lee Smith on the ceasefire agreed to in Gaza by Hamas and Israel.