The contrast between Christian friendship and Muslim enmity towards the Jewish state was stark throughout various panels at the recent 2015 American Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference in Washington, DC. Minnesota state senator and pastor Dan Hall and former Hamas member Mosab Hassan Yousef recently in Washington, DC assessed, respectively that Israel is a “wonderful place” while Islamic Palestinian culture is stuck in the seventh century.
Hall spoke before about 60 in a packed capital convention center room during the March 1 panel “Friends of Faith: Evangelical Christian Support for Israel.” Moderator Tim Carscadden, a Louisiana pastor, described the panel’s focus on the “importance of the Christian community coming together with Israel.” Hall said he and his Christian friends “are very passionate about praying for Israel.”
“It’s easy for us to be pro-Israel,” Carscadden said, “because everything about our Bible has Israel in it.” “If you just read the scriptures,” Tennessee pastor Tony Crisp said, “you are always going to come out a lover of Israel.” He recalled that among Bible-reading lay Christians he met in Africa, none of them believed that “God is finished with Israel.” He had devoted his life “to understanding the Jewish roots of Christianity,” including numerous trips to Israel. “Who we are as Christians is based on who you are as Jews,” said John Sandager, a Christian advocate of Jewish-Christian understanding, “we are grafted into you.”
Crisp emphasized that Jews and Christians “have far, far, far more that unites us than divides us,” making Christian anti-Semitism for Sandager the “ultimate oxymoron.” Indeed, Crisp said that often “anti-Semitism is just like the canary in the coal mine,” as persecution of Jews will precede persecution of Christians. He estimated that 90% of America’s 75 million evangelicals have pro-Israel sentiments and discussed how his church, like many evangelical congregations today, flies an Israeli flag under the American.
Crisp rejected Replacement Theology’s substitution throughout the Old Testament of Israel with the Christian church as “way above our pay grade” for God’s followers. He recalled how his love for Israel came from his upbringing by his foster parent grandmother, who stated that the “Jewish people are the apple of God’s eye” while watching the Six Day War on television. Sandager agreed, stating the Jews’ Old Testament “covenants are either eternal or they are lies,” something that Bible readers cannot merely allegorize.
Hall discovered in his trips to Israel a society in some ways “almost a better America” concerning the treatment of minorities such as Israel’s Arab Muslims, two of whom are members of Israel’s parliament (Knesset). A subsequent March 2 panel on “Minorities in the Middle East and Israel” before an audience of about 50 unanimously agreed with him. Retired Israeli Brigadier-General Eival Gilady said that Israel’s Arabs are “are totally equal to me” before Israeli law, except that they are exempt from conscription and being forced into fighting their Arab brethren. Currently a college chairman in Israel’s majority Arab Galilee region, where about half of the 20% of Israel’s population that is Arab lives, Gilady predicted that these Arabs will over time “become good citizens of Israel.” Most of them are interested in improving their lives, in contrast with an Israeli Arab leadership often inciting animosity towards Israel.
Israel, AIPAC’s Jerusalem research director Stefanie Raker said, is an isolated bastion of human dignity in a region where an “already tenuous situation” for human rights has only worsened. United States Commission on International Religious Freedom Chair Katrina Lantos Swett did not shy from identifying the “very dangerous contagion threatening minorities” in the Middle East as “supremacist, apocalyptic, violent Islamism.” Although the majority of Muslims reject this understanding of Islam, it has “nonetheless a pedigree” in Islamic canons, as Graeme Wood’s Atlantic essay on the Islamic State (IS) demonstrated. “To say that this article is sobering,” she said, “is an understatement.” In defeating this Islamist threat, there is a “long and arduous road ahead of us, but it is not unprecedented,” she noted with analogies to the long containment struggle against Communism.
Partly to suppress Islamism, a “broad authoritarian pushback” has occurred in Arab countries following dashed Arab Spring democracy hopes, Freedom House’s Middle East and North Africa programs director Charles Dunne said. In a “really difficult and truly depressing situation,” some Arab countries are today even less free than they were before the Arab Spring. An exception is Tunisia, which Freedom House has ranked as an electoral democracy for the first time, yet Tunisia “has emerged as a major pipeline” for IS jihadists.
With increasingly suspect arguments, Dunne cited socioeconomic factors such as deficient economic opportunities as influences inciting jihad. “Corruption is a huge component to radicalization,” he noted in particular. Swett pointed out that many jihadists were not disadvantaged, saying that “economic opportunity alone will not lead us out of this” in the face of a canonically anchored Islamist ideology.
Following Swett’s panel, the Palestinian Youssef also emphasized how current jihadist atrocities by IS and others have Islamic justification in a conference hall before a standing room only audience of about 400. Youssef’s event featured a screening of The Green Prince, a documentary about his rejection of violent Islamic hatred of Israel while in Israeli prisons and subsequent lifesaving anti-terrorism collaboration with Israeli security forces. He described how after the 2010 publication of his autobiography he largely lost touch against his will with his family members who “live in a different world” of continued Islamic allegiance.
Palestinians like his relatives suffer from a “very dangerous, severe state of delusion,” Youssef said. He called Palestinian statehood a “crazy idea” in light of poor human rights records in 22 Muslim-majority Arab states and rejected mixing modern Israeli with backward Palestinian culture. His former Israeli Shin Beth handler Gonen Ben-Itzhak, meanwhile, equated a Hamas terrorist group dominant in Palestinian territories with Lebanon’s Hezbollah Shiite militia and IS as the “same thing, they have the same ideology.”
Ben-Itzhak and others at AIPAC belied modern attempts to posit a “Judeo-Christian-Muslim” religious tradition among the three monotheistic faiths claiming descent from Abraham. Such feel-good, politically correct multiculturalism simply cannot overcome the reality of polar opposites in Christian and Muslim attitudes towards Judaism and its nation-state Israel. While Christianity regards Judaism as its cherished root, orthodox Islam claims a right to use force against non-Muslims, including Jews and Christians whose faiths Islam judges as corrupt. Where Christianity blesses Judaism, Islam curses in a contrast with biblical ramifications for the modern world.