Aaron David Fruh

Christ at the Checkpoint Dupes Gullible Evangelicals with the Nakba Lie

In a few weeks, the evangelical, vehemently anti-Zionist organization Christ at the Checkpoint (CATC) will host Christians from around the globe at their bi-annual conference in Bethlehem. Because of the war in Gaza after the brutal assault in southern Israel by Palestinian terrorists on October 7, 2023, this year’s conference will more than likely be superfluous in its condemnation of Jews, a message happily endorsed—required actually—by uniformed Muslim members of the Palestinian Authority who in conferences past have controlled the messaging of the meetings from their seats on the front row.

There is a smoking gun behind Christ at the Checkpoint’s Palestinian nationalism—what some call “Palestinianism.” At the top of CATC’s website is a call for repentance that was published two weeks after the October 7 massacre. In this open letter from Palestinian Christians to Western church leaders and theologians, you would think they would be calling for repentance from Palestinians who raped, burned, and beheaded Jewish men, women, and babies. Instead, they were demanding that Western churches repent of supporting Israel’s right to defend herself from further acts of terrorism by Islamic extremists. The letter was signed by Christ at the Checkpoint, Bethlehem Bible College, and the Sabeel Ecumenical Center for Liberation Theology, among other organizations.

There is an interesting paragraph in the letter that exposes the basis of Christ at the Checkpoint’s misguided narrative that lifts Palestinianism over the Biblical, historical, and legal rights that Jews have to their ancestral homeland, where they have had a presence for thousands of years. CATC states, “We categorically reject the myopic and distorted Christian responses that ignore the wider context and the root causes of the war: Israel’s systemic oppression of the Palestinians over the last 75 years since the Nakba, the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestine, and the oppressive and racist military occupation that constitutes the crime of apartheid.”

The revealing line is “over the last 75 years since the Nakba.” Nakba is the Arabic word for “catastrophe,” and Nakba Day is celebrated by Palestinians on May 15 of each year. The date itself is actually the impetus behind the concept of Nakba. Enraged over the United Nations adaptation of Resolution 181 that recognized the state of Israel and the Jewish state’s declared independence on May 14, 1948, five Arab nations rebelled against the UN resolution and called for the immediate evacuation of all Arabs living within Israel’s new internationally recognized borders. Azzam Pasha, the secretary general of the Arab League, proclaimed in the first part of 1948, “This war will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongol massacres and the Crusades.”

In his memoir A Tale of Love and Darkness, Israeli novelist Amos Oz, gives a first-hand account of the unfolding of the war in Jerusalem:

“All the Jewish settlements that were captured by the Arabs in the War of Independence, without exception, were razed to the ground, and their Jewish inhabitants were murdered or taken captive or escaped, but the Arab armies did not allow any of the survivors to return after the war…The settlements were obliterated, and the synagogues and cemeteries were razed to the ground.”

Many have rightfully called the Palestinian myth of Nakba the “big lie.” Yet the lie of Nakba is the driving force behind Christ at the Checkpoint and other Palestinian liberation theology organizations that foment the historic European Christian Antisemitic heresy known as Replacement Theology —the false notion that Christians have replaced Israel. It was Replacement Theology that inspired baptized German Christians to become Hitler’s willing executioners of European Jewry. These German Christians—driven by Replacement Theology mixed with National Socialism were Germans first and Christians second. It is Replacement Theology that inspires baptized Palestinian Christians to proclaim the idea they have replaced Jews as the rightful owners of the land of Israel. Patterned after the German Christians before them, Palestinian Christian contempt toward their Jewish neighbors mixes Replacement Theology with Palestinian Nationalism—Palestinianism. Sadly, many Palestinian Christians are Palestinians first and Christians second.

This year’s Christ at the Checkpoint conference is scheduled one week after the annual Nakba Day on May 15. The false myth that Jews were responsible for driving Arabs from their homes in 1948 has become part of the national identity of Palestinians, gives voice to the false accusation of Israeli occupation, and is the match that lights the tinderbox of Palestinian violence against Jews. The truth is that Arabs fled their homes with the gleeful expectation their Jewish neighbors would be slaughtered and that they would soon return to an Israeli state void of Jews. In actuality, these Arabs accepted the planned genocide of the Jews. In a May 19, 2022 article entitled “The ‘Nakba’ Myth Hijacks Congress,” syndicated columnist Moshe Hill writes,

“In the time that led up to the establishment of the State of Israel, the army that would one day become the Israel Defense Forces prepared themselves for the invasion that they knew would come. The Arabs who lived in the area knew it would come as well, so they did what they were told to do—they got out of the way. The Palestinian refugee situation was a crisis of their own making because they assumed that the Arab armies of Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Egypt would wipe out all the Jews, and they would return to their homes, now Jew-free. They believed this because their leaders told them so over and over again. “We will smash the country with our guns and obliterate every place the Jews seek shelter in,” said Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Saif. “The Arabs should conduct their wives and children to safe areas until the fighting has died down.” The Jordanian newspaper Filastin admitted the same after the ceasefire that ended the war: “The Arab States encouraged the Palestine Arabs to leave their homes temporarily in order to be out of the way of the Arab invasion armies.” It was the Arabs’ failure to slaughter the Jews that the Palestinians came to call their “catastrophe.” All Arabs that remained in Israel became citizens with full rights. Those who fled were left to the tender mercies of their new host countries.  After the war, the Arab refugees went to other Arab nations: 100,000 to Lebanon, 75,000 to Syria, and 70,000 to Jordan. 280,000 went to the West Bank, which Jordan annexed, and 190,000 went to the Gaza Strip, over which Egypt maintained military control. Not one of these Arab nations resettled these people. At the same time, Arab nations expelled their Jewish populations in droves without the pretext of war in their lands. Morocco expelled 260,000, Iraq expelled 129,000, and so on. This is not to mention the hundreds of thousands of European Jews who were displaced after the Holocaust. None of these people languished in camps and demanded to be returned to their homes. They made their way to Israel, where a nation in its infancy—and still reeling from an existential war—resettled them and gave them full rights as citizens.”

Christ at the Checkpoint endorses the Nakba myth in order to enlist a growing number of evangelicals to their agenda of delegitimizing the Jewish state. The real reason Nakba Day is celebrated on May 15 is that it is the day after Israel declared independence on May 14, 1948. This shows that the actual catastrophe (Nakba) in the minds of the Palestinians, as well as for the leaders of Christ at the Checkpoint, is the establishment of the Jewish state—an event they must demonize at all costs.

This year’s upcoming CATC conference is rife with speakers who continue to push the Nakba lie. Palestinian liberation theologian and lecturer at Bethlehem Bible College, Yousef Alkhouri, participated in a September 28, 2022, podcast entitled The History of Zionism and Nakba with Yousef Alkhouri. Reverend Munther Isaac, also a speaker at the 2024 CATC conference, is pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem. Rev Isaac actually went so far as to justify the October 7 massacre of 1,200 Jewish innocents in southern Israel, excusing the atrocity as a result of the Nakba. In a sermon on October 8, Isaac proclaimed, “What is happening is an embodiment of the injustice that has befallen us as Palestinians from Nakba until now. Frankly, anyone following the events was not surprised by what happened yesterday.” In a May 14, 2022, Community of Christ Podcast entitled Grounds for Peace—Nakba Day, Daniel Bannoura—a scheduled speaker in the upcoming CATC conference and a March 13, 2024, guest lecturer sponsored by the Bible and Theological Studies department at the flagship evangelical Wheaton College—shares his view in the Community of Christ broadcast that it was Jews who, being weaponized by the Holocaust, created the Nakba:

“Now, historically speaking, the Holocaust led to the Nakba, and this is very clear. We see the influx, the massive influx, and the increase of the number of Jewish migrants into Palestine during the Second World War, and especially right after the Holocaust, as hundreds of thousands of Jews migrated to Palestine. Eventually, the Jews desired to have that independence that they wanted, and that led to the Declaration of Independence and, therefore, to the Nakba. So, these are not inseparable. And we have to recognize that those who survived the Holocaust, the descendants of the survivors, and the survivors themselves initiated the war and the conflict that led to the Palestinian event. Now, this is a very sensitive issue where, like we were saying, the victims have been victimizers, but those who were oppressed and horribly treated in Europe now have suddenly become powerful and dominant…So that is kind of a tragedy that the Holocaust has become a weapon.”

Reverend Jack Sara, President of Bethlehem Bible College, will also speak at this year’s Christ at the  Checkpoint’s May 21-26 conference. He, too, preaches the myth of the Palestinian Nakba. In a May 15, 2020, article entitled “Christians Should Take a Stand to Stop Another Nakba,” Sara states, “I do not have time to delve into all of the issues here, but suffice it to say that without a resolution to the wider situation, our nakba [sic] has not yet come to an end.”

Last year on Nakba Day, Friends of Sabeel in North America (the Sabeel organization was one of the signers of the Call to Repentance mentioned above), in an online Newsletter to their followers entitled Ongoing Nakba, wrote, “As we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Nakba of May 15th, 1948, many commentators have pointed out that the Catastrophe did not simply occur on that date or a year but rather that it is an ongoing catastrophe, beginning prior to 1948 and continuing to the present day.”

The name Christ at the Checkpoint also implies it is Israel oppressing Palestinian Christians. Christ is pictured as a Palestinian who is oppressed by Jewish soldiers at an Israeli border checkpoint. Mark Tooley, President of the Institute of Religion and Democracy, called out the deception of the leaders of CATC when he wrote in Front Page Magazine on February 19, 2012, “Christ at the Checkpoint is primarily a public relations scheme to dissuade American evangelicals from pro-Israel views. To succeed, they (CATC) will have to put blinders on cooperatively gullible evangelicals, guiding their eyes towards disruptive Israeli checkpoints while hiding the rest of the surrounding reality.” The surrounding reality to which Tooley refers, and the continuing Nakba spoken of by Friends of Sabeel and upcoming Christ at the Checkpoint speakers, is the crushing oppression of Palestinian Christians, not by Israel but by militant Islamists within their communities.

Not surprisingly, when Bethlehem was in Israeli territory, the Christian population of the city was 87%, but after Israel gave Bethlehem to Arafat and the Palestinian Liberation Organization in 1995, the Christian population, according to a 2016 National Catholic Reporter survey of the Christian population in Bethlehem, has dwindled to 12%. Rev. Jack Sara, President of Bethlehem Bible College—the host of CATC—in a Fox News report on December 26, 2023, rather than point out the brutal treatment of Christians in Bethlehem by Islamic Jihad and Hamas terrorists, instead blamed the dwindling numbers of Christians in Bethlehem on Israel:

“Christians have had families immigrate or leave the country since 1948, so they have relatives all over the world, and that connection makes it easier for them to immigrate. Christians, in general, like anyone else, fear for their children’s future living in a conflict zone under occupation, so they opt to find a safer place with no fear of uninvited violence.”

If Reverend Sara is committed to the peace and justice he promotes through CATC, why is he silent about Muslim hostilities toward Palestinian Christians? The answer is obvious: it is an inconvenient truth that does not fit his narrative that Israel is the evil oppressor of Palestinian Christians. In his statement in the Fox News report, he deceptively blames the “uninvited violence” against Palestinian Christians on the Israeli occupation—for him, the cause of the ongoing Nakba.

In a December 25, 2022, article in the Gatestone Institute entitled The Death of Christianity in Bethlehem, Egyptian Coptic Christian, and Distinguished Senior Shillman Fellow at the Gatestone Institute, Raymond Ibrahim writes,

“The bread and butter of the Palestinian Authority and its supporters, particularly in the media, is to portray Palestinians in general as victims of unjust aggression and discrimination from Israel. This narrative would be jeopardized if the international community learned that it is Palestinian Muslims who are persecuting their fellow Palestinian Christians—solely on account of religion. It might be hard to have sympathy for a professedly oppressed people when one realizes that they themselves are oppressing the minorities in their midst—and for no other reason than religious bigotry. . . . Finally, the Palestinian Authority does not merely suppress news of Christian persecution; it actively advertises a false picture.”

This year, as Christians from around the globe attend the Christ at the Checkpoint conference in Bethlehem of Judea, they will hear endless emotional lectures about the Jewish persecution of Palestinian Christians, and they will leave with a profound contempt for Jews. The myth of the Palestinian Nakba will be at the core of every lecture, massaged and kneaded at a deep emotional level as CATC exacerbates an antipathy towards Jews while manipulating an oblique audience. It seems the organizers are shamelessly willing to disregard historical reality. What the gullible attendees will fail to realize—what they will obstinately refuse to see—will be the monitors from the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad stationed throughout the crowd who are there to ensure the truth is never told.

About the Author
Aaron David Fruh is a Research Fellow at The Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy (ISGAP) and the President of Israel Team Advocates, whose mission it is to change the growing anti-Israel narrative on college campuses. Aaron is the author of five books including The Casualty of Contempt: the alarming rise of Antisemitism and what can be done to stop it (editor), and Two Minute Warning: why it’s time to honor the Jewish people before the clock runs out. Aaron has written for The Jerusalem Post and The Algemeiner.