- Fuller Theological Seminary held an event titled “Christian Theology in the Palestinian Context” with several speakers who have claimed that Israel is an apartheid state and complicit in ethnic cleansing.
- One of the event’s speakers, Dr. Mitri Raheb, said Hamas is a “political movement,” claimed the “Church is in constant contact with Hamas” and said that he did not disagree with armed resistance against Israel’s occupation in 2016, according to the Times of Israel.
- “While we pray for a day when Palestinians and Israel find a mutually agreeable solution that helps all peoples of the region to flourish, bringing three Palestinian activists who’ve supported the adoption of BDS initiatives by churches around the world, will not promote the kind of dialogue that is needed,” Luke Moon, deputy director of the Philos Project, said.
A Christian seminary in Texas brought several speakers to an event titled “Christian Theology in the Palestinian Context,” that are known to be heavily critical of American evangelical support of Israel.
The event was held at Fuller Theological Seminary in Houston on Feb. 16 and was sponsored by the organization Church for Middle East Peace (CMEP), which claims Israel is occupying the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights, according to their website.” The three featured speakers were Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb, Rev. Dr. Munther Isaac and Rev. Dr. Jack Sara, who have all made critical comments about Israel. (RELATED: Is The University Of California System Becoming A Safe Space For Antisemitism?)
“Their talk will explore how Palestinian Christian theology engages with biblical notions of the Land and its inhabitants,” the CMEP event page read.
CMEP, “encourage[s] US policies that actively promote a comprehensive resolution to conflicts in the Middle East with a focus on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,” according to their website. While CMEP acknowledges “roots” to the “Holy Land,” and says that it advocates for a two-state solution, it also claims that Israel’s “national security challenges” are a result of the country’s alleged “occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Golan Heights.”
The three speakers at the CMEP event, however, have pushed a much stronger anti-Israel narrative, Luke Moon, deputy director of the Philos Project, said in a prepared statement.
“It’s disheartening to see Christian leaders rekindling the theology of hatred against Jews and the Jewish state of Israel and doing so at an Evangelical seminary and churches in Texas,” Moon said in a statement. “While we pray for a day when Palestinians and Israel find a mutually agreeable solution that helps all peoples of the region to flourish, bringing three Palestinian activists who’ve supported the adoption of BDS initiatives by churches around the world, will not promote the kind of dialogue that is needed.”
In 2010, Palestinian Lutheran pastor Raheb, founder and president of Dar al-Kalima University, promoted the idea that Jews have no ancestral claim or connection to the land of Israel during a “Christ at the Checkpoint” conference in Bethlehem, according to First Things.
“Israel represents Rome of the Bible, not the people of the land. And this is not only because I’m a Palestinian,” Raheb said.” [I]f you put King David, Jesus and Netanyahu, you will get nothing, because Netanyahu comes from an East European tribe who converted to Judaism in the Middle Ages.”
Raheb also said Hamas is a “political movement,” claimed the “Church is in constant contact with Hamas” and said that he did not disagree with armed resistance against Israel’s occupation in 2016, according to the Times of Israel. In 2017, Raheb criticized antisemitism being “used as a charge to halt any criticism of Israel” and compared this with the Nazi’s silencing of the Jews, according to an interview with Qautara.de.
“People who don’t want to enter into a debate about the Israeli occupation try to silence critics with these accusations. But there is only one lesson we can take from Auschwitz: we must have the courage to call the oppression of a people by its name and not immediately take the side of an unjust state,” Raheb said. “That’s why I’ll keep talking until we have a fair peace.”
More recently, he accused Israel of “settler colonialism, apartheid and ethnic cleansing,” according to a post on Raheb’s Facebook account.
Isaac, who is also Palestinian, is the Academic Dean at Bethlehem Bible College and, in December 2022, he blamed Christian support of Israel for “enabling the occupier,” according to Embrace the Middle East. He has shared articles on his Twitter account echoing Raheb’s comments about Israel being an apartheid state and said that he believes Israel is engaging in ethnic cleansing, according to a letter addressed to U.S. Christians.
The third speaker, Palestinian President of Bethlehem Bible College Jack Sara, has made similar comments to Raheb and Isaac and claimed that the Abraham Accords were a “whitewashing” attempt by the United Arab Emirates when they signed the treaty with Israel, according to the Mission Network News. Sara has also blamed Christians for turning a “blind eye” to Israel’s alleged human rights abuses after former President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, according to the Christian Post.
Sara told the Daily Caller News Foundation that the event was designed to “highlight the plight of Palestinian Christians, their reading of scripture in light of the conflict and their hopes for a better future.”
Sara also defended his claims regarding Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, stating that they were “certainly not my own,” but cited the United Nations, churches and “Israeli human rights groups “resolutions against Israel.”
“[The Christian Post article] referenced … is a blatant attack that is usually meant to discredit anything that someone want[s] to relate, ” Sara said. “Certainly as much as I’m proud of my evangelical identity and heritage, I have a zeal to clear our name and reputation, and certainly many (not all) evangelicals in the West need help to understand the issues of the Middle East from another angle and a better biblical response.”
Moon told the DCNF that events like CMEP’s are well on their way to bringing back a divide between Christians and Jews that existed for thousands of years until the Holocaust and the emergence of the Jewish state.
“There’s a dominant theology that came into place in Christian circles, really in the 500s, that became very normative which says that the church has replaced Israel and the Jewish people,” Moon said. “What I am concerned about here is for Christians to go back to our old ways because it was a tragic history that so much of what we know about Christians is what we did against [Jews].”
CMEP, Fuller and Isaac did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
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