With the fourth biannual Christ at the Checkpoint (CATC) conference about to take place in the Biblical town of Bethlehem (March 7-10), the stormy past of this evangelical Christian gathering is returning to the media. The conferences have been hotly debated in Christian,Jewish, Messianic and Israeli circles. They are scrutinized by watchdog organizations like Gatestone Institute, CAMERA and NGO Monitor. They are also defended by global groups like the Lausanne Movement and World Vision.
For those wondering what the fuss is about, here are some of the hot issues.
First is the politically charged name, chosen by the conference initiators at Bethlehem Bible College (BBC), an evangelical institution serving Christians in the areas ruled by the Palestinian Authority (PA). The Checkpoint refers to the Israeli security gates that monitor people passing through the barrier separating modern Bethlehem from southern Jerusalem. This barrier, built by Israel in 2003 to stop the frequent terror attacks coming from PA-ruled areas, has been confirmed by terrorists themselves as successful.
However, the residents of Bethlehem, a once-Christian town which is now 85% Muslim, publicly object to the barrier as unnecessary and humiliating. They also portray it as a wall completely surrounding and imprisoning their city another controversy.
Although this map from the human-rights organization Btselem shows the barrier running only along the north and west sides of Bethlehem, BBC spokesmen have repeated the surrounded fallacy, as did CATC speaker Bethlehem Mayor Vera Baboun.
Why is Christ at an Israeli checkpoint? It relates to the challenge on the CATC conference home page: What would Christ say and do if he were to stand in front of a checkpoint today? The CATC message is that if Jesus were to return to His birthplace today, he would be suffering from the barrier. Ironically, its true: like all other Jews, Jesus would be forbidden by the PA from making his home in the ancient City of David. Instead, CATC presents Jesus as suffering under Israeli security checks despite many other walls and restrictive checkpoints in many places around the world.
This is part of what the CATC conference calls the Palestinian narrative. Israeli-born CATC leaders like Yohanna Katanacho and Salim Munayer call themselves Palestinian rather than Arab Israelis. This narrative says that Israel is occupying the Palestinian homeland, an unbearable situation that must be reversed. That homeland is jointly defined by Fatah (which rules the West Bank), and by Hamas (which rules Gaza), as extending from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, which explains why the PLO was founded to liberate Palestine three years before Israel entered the West Bank.
The narrative also blames Israels occupation for all violence between Israelis and Palestinians and even for Palestinians abusing other Palestinians. After Israel ended the occupation of Gaza, Hamas began using its citizens as human shields, even listing this practice in an official policy manual. As these abuses reached new heights in 2014, the Bethlehem Bible College responded by denouncing Israel for its disregard of civilian life and for placing Gaza under siege, quoting the CATC Manifesto: For Palestinian Christians, the [Israeli] occupation is the core issue of the conflict.
CATCs stated goal is to challenge Evangelicals to take responsibility to help resolve the conflicts in Israel/Palestine by engaging with the teaching of Jesus on the Kingdom of God. This responsibility includes renouncing Christian support for Zionism (the Jewish goal of reviving their ancient nation). CATC says this support causes injustice. The Conference proclaims support of Israels right to exist, but only if Israel acknowledges Palestinian claims to the land. Christians are told that it’s a theological error to justify Jewish ownership of any part of Israel based on Bible promises.
What about those promises made to Israel, some of which say forever? CATC reinterprets them via a new theology of the land (presented at the 2010 CATC conference by Salim Munayer). This theology teaches that the blessing of the Promised Land has been stretched over the whole earth; God has gifted every people with a homeland, on condition that they behave morally. The Jews behaved immorally and lost their land to the Palestinians. If the Jewish people will become moral, God will let them share the land with the Palestinians.
Munayer admitted that both sides have failed to live up to the biblical standards of how to treat the other living among you, one of the qualifications for residing on the land, but he still awarded permanent land-rights to a nation whose government insists on a Jew-free Palestine.
To offset Palestinian injustices, Munayer charged that Zionism has actively pursued a policy of excluding non-Jews from the national, social, and political life in Israel. While discrimination sometimes occurs, this statement denies the 1.6 million Arab Israelis who (like Salim himself) live, travel freely and attend universities in Israel.
Some hold positions inthe Knesset, the Supreme Court, and even the IDF. Also absent from the CATC narrative is any mention of Israeli Jews and Arabs uniting to save lives and relieve the suffering of Syrian refugees. Israelis who dont know Messiah are fulfilling His command to love their enemies, including those trying to murder them.
CATCs goal to listen to diverse perspectives has excluded well-known Christian Arab voices, such as Father Gabriel Naddaf, Bethlehem refugee Christy Anastas, or Bethlehem pastors Naim and Steve Khoury. An especially controversial decision was the refusal to let Jewish terror survivor Kay Wilson speak on Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation, in memory of her Christian friend murdered in that attack.
CATC seeks to end the occupation non-violently, and its manifesto condemns all forms of violence. But although CATC leader Sami Awad preached on non-violence in 2012, he proclaimed elsewhere that peaceful resistance is not a substitute for the armed struggle declared by the PA against Israel.
The CATC manifesto also condemns anti-Semitism and delegitimizing of Israel. But British vicar Stephen Sizer, an organizer and speaker at CATC 2010 and 2012, is notorious for publishing information and attending gatherings which many consider anti-Semitic. The Kairos Document, which accuses Israel of practicing apartheid and calls the world to boycott the nation, is also endorsed by CATCs organizers.
This years conference theme of The Gospel in the Face of Religious Extremism features a Christian brand which most expect will be identified as Christian Zionism.
In the past, CATC speakers blamed the Hamas murder of Gaza Christians on those Christians in the West [who] support an occupation seen as evil. In other words, if Western Christians do not force Israel to surrender more land (Gaza was de-occupied in 2005), these Christians not Hamas will be responsible for the deaths of more Palestinian Christians.
In fact, in 2013 CATC leader Alex Awad went so far as to declare: I am afraid of all radicals, whether Christians, Jews, or Muslims. But I am far more afraid of Christian fundamentalists than I am of Hamas.
Many will be watching this years conference to see how that comparison develops.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the White House is considering drastic measures to reboot the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Among those measures is a UN Security Council resolution that would set the parameters for a two state solution and that would recognize East Jerusalem as the official capital of a Palestinian state.
BY MICHAEL SNYDER
The ceasefire in Syria is a joke. Turkish military units continue to mass along the border, and militants are pouring across the border to attack targets in northern Syria.
Will Obama’s disastrous foreign policy live on?
by Caroline Glick
The messages from Washington ahead of Vice President Joe Biden’s arrival in Israel next week show President Barack Obama’s hostile policies toward Israel will maintained until he leaves office.
In recent weeks, the administration has warned various government ministers that any construction of housing for Jews in Jerusalem will be viewed with hostility by the administration. In contrast, the administration is pressuring Israel to permit construction of homes for Arabs in its capital city and harshly opposes all moves by the government to destroy illegal construction in Arab neighborhoods and in Judea and Samaria.
In other words, it is the Obama administration’s policy to deny Jews our civil and property rights while it demands that Israel not assert its sovereignty over non-Jews.
Whether or not Obama’s anti-Israel policies will survive his tenure in office depends on who succeeds him. If Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton is elected to serve as the next president, there is no question that they will survive him.
During her four years as Obama’s secretary of state, Clinton was a full partner in Obama’s hostile policies toward Israel. Moreover, as her internal emails have shown, all of Clinton’s close advisers are hostile to Israel. The good news for Israel is that Clinton’s chances of election are not as great as they seem from the polls.
First of all, there is every reason to believe that in the coming weeks, the Republicans will unite.
Either party leaders will back front-runner Donald Trump, or his main competitors, Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, will join forces and win the nomination.
The latter alternative, which is gaining traction among Republican leaders and political commentators, involves Cruz, who is more popular with the party’s rank in file than Rubio, and has secured primary victories in four states whereas Rubio finished first only in Minnesota, leading a joint ticket.
But even if the GOP remains fractured, Clinton may still be too weak to win the White House in November. This is first and foremost the case because of the FBI investigation of her use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state.
The FBI probe has been going on since last summer. From what we have already learned, as secretary of state, Clinton and her aides sent thousands of classified emails over her private, unsecured server. Hundreds of those emails included top secret information and at least two dozen included information whose classification was above top secret.
Under federal law, each time Clinton and her associates sent classified information over the unsecured server they committed a separate and distinct felony offense.
The day after Clinton’s Super Tuesday primary victories in seven states, The New York Times and The Washington Post reported that Bryan Pagliano, Clinton’s aide who set up her private Internet server, has received immunity in exchange for his testimony to FBI investigators.
Although in order to minimize the sense that she is the subject of a criminal probe, Clinton refers to the FBI’s investigation as a “security review,” the Washington Post reported that the FBI’s investigation is a criminal investigation.
“There was wrongdoing,” one official told the paper.
The nature of the US justice system places Clinton’s fate in Obama’s hands. Acting through his Attorney-General Loretta Lynch, Obama has the power to decide whether to whitewash Clinton’s activities and so make a mockery of the rule of law, or to instruct Lynch to issue indictments.
Although it is hard to imagine Obama torpedoing Clinton’s campaign and so paving the way for a Republican victory in November, this week, the White House signaled that Obama feels no great commitment to Clinton.
On Sunday the Times published a 13,000-word, two-part investigation into Clinton’s role in the 2011 overthrow of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Published in the White House’s paper of record, the report makes no attempt to hide the fact that consequences of Gaddafi’s overthrow have been calamitous and that the decision to overthrow the Libyan strongman was Obama’s most visible foreign policy fiasco.
At the time the US overthrew Gaddafi, it was the position of the US defense establishment that he threatened no one outside his country.
Gaddafi had disavowed nuclear weapons and was assisting the US with its campaign against al-Qaida. Moreover, his regime kept Libya’s massive store of advanced weaponry secure.
Since Gaddafi’s overthrow, Libya has ceased to exist as a functioning state. Islamic State has taken over large swathes of the former country, which now comprises its largest base outside of Syria and Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of Libyans have been displaced and up to a quarter of a million Libyans have descended on Europe.
Libya’s storehouse of advanced weapons has fallen into the hands of jihadists. Huge weapons caches have been shipped to jihadists from Nigeria to Syria, from Algeria and Tunisia to Gaza and Sinai. Chemical agents as well as nuclear yellowcake and advanced anti-aircraft missiles were all to be found in Gaddafi’s Libya. The trail of many of these weapons and WMD agents has grown cold as ISIS in Iraq have made regular use of chemical weapons.
The Times’ investigation places the full blame for Obama’s decision to overthrow Gaddafi on Clinton. If it hadn’t been for Clinton, the story claims, Obama never would have gotten involved.
Clinton reportedly not only convinced Obama to join Britain and France in bombing regime targets, she directed much of the campaign from the State Department.
By the Times’ telling, it is all her fault.
For most Americans, Clinton’s central role in the Libyan catastrophe is just the icing on the cake of a story of disaster and defeat that reached its peak on September 11, 2012. That day, al-Qaida attacked US installations in Benghazi murdering ambassador Chris Stevens and four other Americans.
With the public’s preexisting sense that Clinton is to blame for Stevens’s assassination, the Times’ article represented a frontal assault against her central campaign narrative.
Clinton’s campaign is based on the proposition that the former first lady, senator and secretary of state is the most experienced presidential candidate and therefore the most qualified. By showing that the one major policy she led as secretary of state was a disaster of epic proportions, the Times’ report pulls the rug out from under the central rationale for Clinton’s presidential bid.
The White House’s decision to make Clinton the fall guy for Libya while she is running to succeed him signals that at a minimum Obama is far from invested in her victory. Even worse for Clinton, since she is dependent on Obama’s goodwill to evade an indictment for her transfer of classified information over her private server, Clinton cannot defend herself.
From an Israeli perspective, the lessons of Libya have little to do with Clinton’s woes. But they do need to be applied to future dealings with the Obama administration and its successor.
The main lesson for Israel from Libya is that in the era of al-Qaida, Islamic State, and Iranian- sponsored terrorist armies, there is no such thing as a stand-alone conflict in the Islamic world.
Obama and Clinton justified their decision to overthrow Gaddafi by falsely insisting that Gaddafi was about to carry out a slaughter of his opponents that rose to the level of genocide. They also falsely insinuated that a post-Gaddafi Libya would be a pro-American democracy.
At the same time, they refused to notice mountains of evidence that al-Qaida was a major force in the anti-Gaddafi rebellion and was well positioned to take control over large swathes of the country if he were overthrown.
The underlying assumption of the administration’s campaign in Libya was that what happens in Libya stays in Libya. As it turned out, this was the most disastrous assumption of its decision- making process.
The contagion of Islamic revolutions began in neighboring Tunisia a year before the US decided to overthrow Gaddafi. That contagion made clear that there are no isolated events in the Islamic world anymore. Every perceived victory for jihadist forces impacts jihadists regionally and throughout the world. The impact is massively escalated when jihadists gain actual ground – as was the case in Libya.
The implications for Israel in regard to the administration’s demand that Israel commit to withdrawing from Judea and Samaria and effectively end its sovereign rule over Jerusalem are dire. Every time Israel withdraws from territory, jihadists regionally and worldwide proclaim victory and – perhaps more important – are perceived as the actual victors.
So it was in 2000. In the aftermath of the IDF’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon in May 2000, Hezbollah was viewed in Lebanon and throughout the Islamic world as the victor. This is the main reason that Hezbollah, rather than the Lebanese armed forces, asserted its control over south Lebanon immediately after the IDF departed.
In 2005, the Palestinians and the larger Islamic world viewed Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza as a victory for Hamas. To a significant degree, it was this widespread conviction that jihad defeated the Jews that propelled Hamas to victory in the Palestinian elections held in January 2006.
Today ISIS and other jihadist forces are growing in power and influence along Israel’s borders and inside its sovereign territory. This week the Shin Bet revealed that it arrested two more Israeli Arabs who joined ISIS.
On Wednesday Jordanian security forces fought a pitched battle against ISIS terrorists in Irbid.
Seven ISIS fighters and one Jordanian policeman were killed. Five Jordanian security forces were wounded.
Since the Syrian war broke out five years ago, hundreds of Jordanians have entered Syria to fight on behalf of anti-regime forces, including ISIS.
Hundreds are also suspected of having returned to the kingdom. Moreover, ISIS is believed to have the support of a significant number of Jordanians.
The genocidal jihadist force is waging a major propaganda campaign against the Jordanian regime.
If Israel bows to US pressure and withdraws from Judea, Samaria and parts of Jerusalem, either in the framework of a peace deal with the PLO or unilaterally, these moves will be immediately perceived regionally as a massive victory for the forces of jihad. Not only will Israel be imperiled, the fate of the Jordanian regime will likely be sealed as empowered jihadists launch a war against the Western-allied regime.
In the world of ISIS and Iran, Israeli sovereignty over united Jerusalem and Israeli control over Judea and Samaria is only real, best guarantor of the survival of the Hashemite Kingdom in Jordan, and of what’s left of stability in the Middle East, after seven years of Obama’s – and Clinton’s – foreign policy.
This should be the message to Biden next week, and the basis for our policies in the months and years to come.