April 12, 2006
A PROMINENT HAMAS member of parliament has explained why most American Christians support Israel. The churches are run by "converted" Jews who are exploiting Christians for Zionist purposes. "Even the churches where the Americans pray are led by Jews who were converted to Christianity, but they were converted to keep controlling the Americans," Sheikh Mohammad Abu Tir explained on an American radio show on April 7.
A Gallup poll released on April 6 shows that religious Americans tend to be more pro-Israel. But Gallup, according to Abu Tir, did not understand the real reason for this. "I made a study and I know very well that all this radicalism in some parts of the Christianity, [including] the Anglicans who are being led by Bush, is because of the control of Zionists," said the orange-bearded Abu Tir.
Jewish control of the media is, of course, old hat. Jewish control of the churches, however, is a new twist. Thanks partly to the antics of Hamas officials such as Abu Tir, Americans sympathize with Israel over the Palestinians by 59 percent to 15 percent, according to the latest Gallup poll. But 64 percent of regular churchgoers sympathize more with Israel, compared to 45 percent of Americans who never attend church.
Meanwhile, the Palestine Solidarity Movement (PSM) conference held at Georgetown University in March offered helpful advice on how pro-Palestinian activists can penetrate American church groups. A report from the American Jewish Congress provided an account of the PSM event.
Activists were encouraged to "look Christian," to "study Christian culture, understand it, so you can create Christian solidarity to then reach out to Palestinian solidarity," to dress conservatively, maintain proper grooming and a good social demeanor, and to "become the Ned Flanders (a Simpsons' character) of your church."
PSM activists were also instructed to avoid profane language, say "God blesses you" after a sneeze," and act "Christian like." They were told to provide gifts of Holy Land holy water and rosaries and talk about children dying at the hands of the Israelis. Above all, the PSM told their activists-in-training to speak in the language of spirituality and not politics, to ask the priest or pastor to pray for Palestinians during worship, and to hook up with anti-Iraq war groups.
As the Palestinian activist gains trust by becoming part of the church "family," they should "educate" the Christians about Zionist exploitation. Once the Christians understand, they will not stand for what is happening to the Palestinian Christians, the PSM activists were assured.
IN SOME WAYS, the PSM's work is unnecessary. Mainline Protestant officials in the United States have been repeating anti-Israel mantras for years. The PSM should be pleased by how "educated" these prelates already are.
But the anti-Israel bias of some left-wing church officials has not influenced most churchgoers. According to Gallup, American Christians are overwhelmingly pro-Israel, Catholics as well as Protestants--which rebuts the popular notion that pro-Israel Christians are simply evangelicals obsessed with the biblical end-times.
Some 64 percent of white Catholics sympathize with Israel, compared to 63 percent of white Protestants. Blacks were less pro-Israel, with whom they sympathized over the Palestinians by 40 to 24 percent. Only 12 percent of all weekly churchgoers more sympathized with the Palestinians, compared to 20 percent of those who never attend church.
Why are American Christians across the board inclined to support Israel more than those without strong religious ties? Certainly some religious Americans, especially--but not exclusively--among evangelical Protestants, may see Israel as the fulfillment of biblical prophecies. Other church goers may simply have a sentimental attachment to the besieged Chosen People of the Old Testament, of whom their Scriptures speak so powerfully, and around whose memory and symbols much of their worship still revolves.
It is also possible that religious Americans have an innately strong attachment to democracy and human rights. Most probably share the conviction, which President Bush often articulates, that freedom is a divine gift, not a conditional right granted by the state--which puts Israel's democracy in stark contrast with their Palestinian neighbors.
Whatever the reasons, Sheik Mohammad Abu Tir and the Palestinian Solidarity Movement will likely be disappointed if they believe that American Christians will turn against Israel in the near future.
Mark D. Tooley directs the United Methodist committee at the Institute on Religion and Democracy.
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