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Evangelicals for Hezbollahstan By: Mark D. Tooley
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, December 21, 2007

Evangelicals have long been a mainstay of U.S. support for Israel. But the Evangelical Left is trying to push Evangelicals into a more neutral position towards Israel.

“An Evangelical Statement on Israel/Palestine,” which seems to have originated mostly with Evangelicals for Social Action (ESA), benignly urges “all evangelicals, all Christians, and everyone of good will to join us to work and pray faithfully in the coming months for a just, lasting two-state solution in the Holy Land.”

Organizers of the Evangelical statement have couched their initiative in language of support for the Annapolis peace process. The prominent Religious Left endorsers, such as Jim Wallis, Tony Campolo and ESA’s Ron Sider, are better known for harsh condemnation of U.S. policies. But their stance is politically shrewd, as they posture as reasonable-minded Evangelicals in contrast to stereotypes about Evangelical Zionist zealots.

The statement reassuringly speaks of “our ongoing support for the security of Israel” and asserts that “unless the situation between Israel and Palestine improves quickly, the consequences will be devastating.” It notes that “Palestinians–especially the youth who have no economic opportunity–are increasingly sympathetic to radical solutions and terrorism,” which generates an enhanced “threat to Israel’s security.”

Threats to “America’s national security” are also greater because “so many of the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims see America through the prism of Israel-Palestine,” the Evangelical statement warns. The current situation will create greater “anti-American attitudes, policies, and terrorist activities will increase dramatically among Muslims worldwide.”

The Bible’s demands for “justice” have persuaded these Evangelicals to work “for a fair, negotiated solution for both Israelis and Palestinians” that will include peace, democracy and flourishing economies both for Israel and a Palestinian State. “We believe that the way forward is for the Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate a fair, two-state solution,” the statement equitably surmises.

From the Evangelical statement, it is not at all clear why this seemingly easy two-state solution is not already achieved. These Evangelicals note that the “Israeli and Palestinian governments have officially endorsed a two-state solution and that polls demonstrate that solid majorities in both Israel and Palestine embrace this path.” If so, then who is blocking the way? The Evangelicals mysteriously decline to say.

Instead, the Evangelicals conclude: “We are strengthened by the truth that Christ will return some day to complete his victory over sin and injustice, and we are empowered by the knowledge that until He comes again, He summons us to support the things that promote peace and justice for everyone in the Holy Land.” But what are the hindrances to this vision of peace and justice between Israelis and Palestinians? Again, the Evangelicals are silent. Seemingly, the acrimony between Israelis and Palestinians is mostly only a misunderstanding.

This November 28 statement from Evangelicals follows a July 27 letter to President from the same organizers, more explicitly asserting moral equivalence between Israel and the Palestinians: “Both Israelis and Palestinians have committed violence and injustice against each other. The only way to bring the tragic cycle of violence to an end is for Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate a just, lasting agreement that guarantees both sides viable, independent, secure states.”

A “viable, independent, secure” Palestinian state seems to be the magic solution to the chronic Israeli-Arab conflict, according to these Evangelicals. Who then stands in the way? As these Evangelicals admit, the Israeli government has accepted the principle, and the U.S. is pushing for a Palestinian state.

Perhaps the main obstacles to peace in the Middle East, in the minds of these Evangelical Left paladins, are conservative pro-Israel Evangelicals in the U.S. In their public media comments after their July 27 letter to Bush, Ron Sider and other organizers contrasted their reasoned stance to the Zionist zealotry of dispensationalist Evangelicals, who see Israel as an instrument of Christ’s Second Coming. Sider and other organizers told The New York Times earlier this year that they dreamed up their Middle East activism while visiting the U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Doha, Qatar, where supposedly Muslims were pleasantly “shocked” to meet Palestinian-friendly Evangelicals. Evangelical promotion of a Palestinian state will supposedly mollify Muslims enraged by traditional U.S. Evangelical partiality towards Israel.

Evangelical Left activists like to apologize for and stereotype pro-Israel Evangelicals as Scopes Monkey Trial naifs who want to ignite the Apocalypse. But in their eagerness to win public relations points with Muslims internationally and with America’s secular culture, they avoid addressing the unpleasant Islamist theologies that impede an Israeli-Palestinian settlement. Why are even Palestinian “moderates,” not to mention Hamas fanatics, so incapable for fully accepting Israel’s existence, except when talking to Western news cameras? Islamists believe that any territory “lost” to infidels must be retrieved for Islam. This helps explain the almost irrational rage throughout the Islamic world against Israel as the “crusader state.” Such Islamist doctrine, which genuine Muslim moderates dispute only at great risk to themselves, is not likely rebutted by endless concessions but by firm persuasion that their cause cannot prevail.

Many of the organizers of the Evangelical statement are pacifists, so their ostensible affirmation of Israel’s “security” rings hollow. But more revealingly, many of them are more distressed by pro-Israel Evangelicals in the U.S. than by anti-Israel and anti-U.S. Islamists in the Middle East. The former are largely comprised of SUV driving soccer moms who attend suburban churches. The latter are comprised of suicide bombers and terrorist-supporting theocrats. Who is really more disturbing? And who are the real obstacles to Middle East peace?

Mark D. Tooley is president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. He is the author of Taking Back the United Methodist Church.

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