March 5, 2014

Which Way Are Christian Attitudes About Israel Moving?

Recently the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) held its annual policy conference in Washington, and stated that when it comes to public backing for Israel, by some measures, U.S. evangelical Christians are even more supportive of Israel than in recent memory. Other research is showing that there is a growing movement of oldline Protestants who are voicing criticism of Israel.A recent study by Pew Research is indicating that 29 percent of Christians and 31 percent of Jews polled feel the United States should give more support to Israel. This survey has found that around 46 percent of white evangelical Protestants feel the U.S. is not providing enough support for Israel.

AIPAC also feels that “the evangelical Christian community plays an increasingly vital role” in supporting Israel.

A Pew Research survey asked whether God gave Israel to the Jewish people. According to this survey 55 percent of Christians said yes compared to 40 percent of Jews who also reported yes. According to the survey 82 percent of white evangelicals say that God gave Israel to the Jews, while 84 percent of Orthodox Jews feel this statement is true.

According to a survey done in March of last year, 72 percent of the white evangelicals side with Israel in conflict with the Palestinians, and 4 percent of white evangelicals favor the Palestinians. The survey found that among U.S. adults overall, 49 percent are in sympathy with Israel and just 12 percent support the Palestinians. The survey also found that half of white evangelicals feel there is no way for Israel and an independent Palestinian state to peacefully get along. According to the survey 33 percent of U.S. Jews and 41 percent of the general public feel that statement is true.

The Christian Post reports however, there is growing movement of criticism among mainline Protestants who are critical of Israel.

The article points out that although evangelical Christians have supported Israel because of theological, moral and political reasons, some oldline Protestants are critical of Israel.

“There has always been an undercurrent of anti-Zionism in parts of the Evangelical community. It was always there, but it was a marginal force,” Dexter Van Zile , Christian media analyst for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), told JNS.org.

The Israel-Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) of the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) has recently released a congregational study guide called “Zionism Unsettled.” An initiative called the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel will be considered at the biennial PCUSA General Assembly in Detroit this June. Some analysts feel that a byproduct of a growing trend among oldline Protestants to emphasize social justice  concerns has generated support for “anti-Zionism.”

Younger evangelicals are being targeted by anti-Zionist elements. In a recent article for Mosaic Magazine, Robert Nicholson, described a more liberal grouping of “New Evangelicals” such as Emergent Church guru Brian McLaren and Pastor Tony Campolo focused on social justice issues over traditional family and sanctity of life priorities that have been associated with Evangelical Christianity.

The Jerusalem-based group NGO Monitor says American philanthropist George  Soros has funded several organizations aimed at moving U.S. public opinion away from support for Israel.

Part of this program involves an effort to undermine support for Israel among the Evangelical Christian community.

“Thanks to funding from individuals such as George Soros, the effort to separate the Christian community from Israel has intensified in recent years,” Christians United for Israel (CUFI) Executive Director David Brog told JNS.org.

CUFI calls itself the largest pro-Israel group in the United States.

Brog also told JNS.org that the Soros-backed Telos Group tours of Israel are carefully calibrated to convince young people that Israel and Israel alone is to blame for the conflict and its human toll.

Todd Deatherage, executive director and co-founder of the Telos Group disagrees. He told JNS.org that his organization is committed to the “security, dignity, and freedom” for both the Israelis and the Palestinians.

“We who care about sharing the truth in the Middle East need to find the funds to compete with these very deep pockets,” Brog said.

Deatherage is an evangelical Christian who has worked in senior government positions in the legislative and executive branches and the U.S. Department of State.

CAMERA disagrees, claiming that Telos is a cover for anti-Israel bias.

CAMERA issued a statement saying that the Telos group has become a cover for “broadcasting information that invariably cuts against Israel.”

The Pew Research Center points out that there is ongoing debate in the U.S. Senate over a bill that would impose new penalties on Iran for its nuclear program. A 2012 survey asked Americans what the U.S. should do if Israel attacks Iran to stop Iran’s nuclear program. The survey stated 64 percent of white evangelicals said “support Israel,” while 39 percent of the general public agreed.


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