Last month I spent four days attending the Christ at the Checkpoint Conference held in Beit Jala in the West Bank. It was the third time I attended the event, which has been held every even-numbered year since 2010. At the 2012 and 2014 conferences, I came home appalled by the lies and misinformation broadcast at the conference, which is organized by Bethlehem Bible College, a non-denominational school supported by Evangelicals from North America and Europe that is a hotbed of anti-Israel agitation in the West Bank.
At the 2012 and 2014 conferences, speakers blamed radical Islam’s violence against Christians in the Middle East on Christian support for Israel, as if Muslims had no moral agency of their own. Speakers condemned Jews for having rejected Jesus as the messiah, suggesting that this rejection rendered Jews unfit to run a sovereign state of their own. On a more practical level, speakers falsely reported that the security barrier completely surrounds Bethlehem, the city of Christ’s birth, in an attempt to portray the Jewish state as an obstacle to God’s purposes for peace in the Middle East.
I was stunned that the speakers defamed the Jewish people so brazenly and that the audience of 600 Evangelicals from North America and Europe listened so happily to it all.
Similar messaging was broadcast at the 2016 conference. I should be in a high dudgeon about what I heard, but instead I feel pity.
Spreading lies about the Jewish state, as unsavory and self-destructive as it is, is the price Palestinian Christians pay for staying in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. It’s what they have to do.
Jews stay in the land through the force of arms and diplomacy. Palestinian Christians stay in the West Bank by shilling on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, one of the most corrupt and incompetent set of elites in the world.
Palestinian Christians have to pretend that their fellow Palestinians are ready for statehood, jihadism in the Middle East is not the fault of Muslim radicals but the West, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is all Israel’s fault and that Palestinian leaders can be trusted to make peace with the Jewish state even though they can’t be trusted with the money thrown at them by Western governments.
Repeating these messages is the tax, or jizya Palestinian Christians must pay to maintain peaceful relations, precarious as they are, with their Muslim neighbors in the West Bank. In previous epochs, Christians paid protection money to Muslim rulers to ensure their safety, but today they pay the jizya by telling lies to their fellow Christians in the West.
The Christian Mayor of Beit Jala, Nicola Khamis, paid the jizya when he told an audience of about 300 Westerners (down substantially from previous years), “Ladies and Gentlemen, it makes no sense to fight the Islamic State of Abu Bakr Baghdadi while supporting the Jewish state of Netanyahu.”
This is simply clownish rhetoric that as the years progress, will be a great source of shame for Khamis’ children and grandchildren.
Khamis wasn’t the only one who paid the jizya at the Christ at the Checkpoint conference. Munir Kakish, president of the Council of Evangelical Churches in the Holy Land showed his submission to the Palestinian Authority (whose uniformed representatives were sitting in the front row) by declaring that Evangelical churches in the Holy Land “are working on the intellectual and ideological rejection of modern Zionism and racism against our people.”
True Christian prophets and peacemakers would lambaste the Palestinian Authority for its corruption, its use of torture and its demonization of Israel and Jews. But the Christians who organize the Christ at the Checkpoint conference do nothing of the sort.
Instead they serve as puppets for PA officials.
Conference director Rev. Dr. Munther Isaac, who also serves on the faculty at Bethlehem Bible College, did exactly this when he translated the speech made by Hanna Amira, chairman of the PA’s Higher Presidential Committee for Christian Affairs. During his speech, which Isaac submissively repeated, Amira described PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who has incited hostility toward Jews and Israel throughout the stabbing intifada” that began last fall as a peacemaker. The Palestinians, he said are “giving a historic example of coexistence and the rejection of violence and hatred.”
This is simply a lie and everyone knows it. Isaac wasn’t speaking truth to power, but repeating lies put forth by a thuggish regime.
For the next few months, PA officials will look upon Isaac and his colleagues at Bethlehem Bible College as reliable dhimmis who can be counted on to assist in their demonization of the Jewish state. The thugs who control the West Bank will conclude that Palestinian Christians are not a threat to their regime and can be deployed to spew more lies and hate on their behalf.
All this raises an important question.
Is it worth it?
Is staying in the land worth the damage Palestinian Christians do to their reputations — and their souls — by misinforming their co-religionists in the West about the nature of the Palestinian cause and by shilling for the thuggish, inept and corrupt Palestinian Authority?
Is the Palestinian Christian presence in the land really worth the bad example they are setting for their fellow Christians in the West and the disgraceful legacy of dishonesty and submission they are passing on to their children?
Is it worth it, really?