Israel’s battle of the Burge

At a time when jihadists are not only slaughtering innocents, but also advancing their media war by using religious dupes in America to advance their political goals, it is distressing — catastrophic, really — to see Israel’s old enemies in the American church continue to blame the victim.

Gary Burge, a professor of theology at Wheaton College, the storied evangelical institution in Chicago (and home of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism), has penned another polemic that distorts the situation in Gaza.

Curiously, Palestinian apologists like Burge accept the label “evangelical” when in fact their ideologies align far more with mainline, liberal/leftist denominations. Others who fall into this camp are Tony Campolo, Brian McLaren, and Bill and Lynne Hybels. In fact, I believe they accept the evangelical label in order to dupe real evangelicals.

In an August 26 piece for The World Post (“A Partnership of the Huffington Post and Berggruen Institute on Governance”), Burge once again castigates Israel. An important initial reaction to note when reading “Gaza: Some Secrets Few Will Say Aloud” is that Burge never tells his readers that Gazans elected Hamas. An avalanche of such inconvenient facts is meaningless to a propaganda hack like Burge, whose animus for Jews and for Israel is now legendary.

(In a bizarre introduction to his post, Burge described sitting in a Phoenix airport and overhearing men advocate bombing Gaza “back to the stone age.” Burge then decided to move a few seats over because: “Besides. This was Arizona and I was in ‘conceal-carry’ central.” Did he really think he might be shot? This little aside allows Burge to caricature conservatives as wild-eyed loose cannons, literally.)

Much of what follows in his post is garden-variety Israel-bashing, as Burge begins by alleging that Israel, during the War of Independence, forced 750,000 Arabs from their homes. Comically, he cites Benny Morris and Ilan Pappe as authorities on this subject. No mention of the Jews forced from Arab countries in the same period, either. 

He then gets into the numbers game regarding casualties since Operation Protective Edge began, telegraphing his lack of empathy over Jewish deaths: “And on the Israeli side: 67 (mostly) soldiers have died.”

Burge ends that section of his post with this:

“The bottom line: Israel has been actively bombing Gaza for a long time.”

Does Burge know this is factually not true? Would it matter if he did?

His next diatribe was especially odious:

“Israel also limited the importing of food and has been accused of calculating calories in order to keep Gaza’s economy on the brink of collapse. To make life miserable, inexplicably at one point shaving cream and soda were blocked. And chocolate. Chocolate? Most of the tunnels that Israel decries are not ‘terrorist tunnels’ used to attack Israel. They are economic. They sneak in everything from cars to chocolate. I even saw a photo of donkeys coming through the tunnels from Egypt.”

Wow. The charge about daily caloric intake is one also peddled by popular evangelical author Donald Miller. I’ve asked Miller many times for documentation, but he won’t even respond. And notice that Burge frames it this way: “has been accused…” He knows that his war crimes allegation doesn’t have to be true; he simply has to introduce the idea to a readership that doesn’t need another reason to hate those dirty, scheming Jews.

(If anyone would care to inquire of Dr. Burge about the evidence for his claims, please consider my personal experience with him. A few times I’ve asked Burge to comment on a devastating critique of his Palestinian views, written by Malcolm Lowe. Burge dodged every inquiry. Why? Because the emperor has no clothes.)

Burge’s “tunnel analysis” is equally absurd. Notice too that he “saw a photo…” He wasn’t there, doesn’t know if it’s true. Besides, isn’t it plausible that the donkey was being used to transport weapons?

The answer is yes.

Burge also tells us he has seen photos of children from Gaza who have been “shredded by Israeli shrapnel.” I have two questions: how does he know the photos depict children killed by Israeli fire and not, say, children being slaughtered in Syria and Iraq? This type of propaganda device — it’s called lying — is the stock-in-trade of jihadists who want to demonize Israel.

Burge is helping them.

My other question is, why doesn’t Burge mention 4-year-old Daniel Tragerman, an Israeli boy shredded by shrapnel from a Hamas rocket?

The Wheaton prof asks one final question, and I’d like to answer it:

“What if the situation was reversed and Gaza was filled with Jews who were surrounded by an aggressive Arab army and a crushing blockade. Would the world’s reaction be different?”

Yes, Dr. Burge, the reaction would be different. Rather than uninformed accusations against Israel, in your scenario, the world would react with something even worse than anger:

Chilling indifference.


About the Author
A researcher, writer, and speaker, Jim Fletcher has a degree in journalism and spent 15 years in the book publishing world. He is director of the Christian apologetics group Prophecy Matters, and is a member of the executive committee for the National Christian Leadership Conference for Israel (NCLCI).