The keys to Palestine

A popular symbol of the plight of the Palestinian refugee can be found for sale in the Jerusalem marketplace.

palestinian keys 521 (photo credit: JIM FLETCHER)
palestinian keys 521
(photo credit: JIM FLETCHER)
On a recent rainy outing in Jerusalem’s Old City, I was amused to see a bowl of ancient, rusting keys a shopkeeper was attempting to sell.
I bought one.
Why did I want a rusting hunk of metal? Because it reminded me of a key plot point in the so-called Palestinian narrative. It goes something like this: A sad Palestinian produces a rusty key and tells his misty-eyed American guest about the family home stolen by the Jews either in 1948 or 1967.
The family has no recourse, due of course to the “occupation.”
The oft-told story usually unlocks a room of credulity in the mind of the listener. This kind of heart-tugging yarn is but one propaganda tool the Palestinians are now employing as they seek to win over younger generations of American Evangelicals.
The Evangelicals are only too eager to help them.
When RELEVANT magazine publisher Cameron Strang told me that the magazine will have “coverage” of the situation in Israel/“Palestine” in the January 2013 issue, it became obvious that the efforts of Palestinian propagandists like Sami Awad are taking root in the American church.
After anti-Israel attitudes – extending back even to the time of Harry Emerson Fosdick – incubated in American seminaries, they were picked up by “bridges” to the Evangelical world. These bridges have included men like Jim Wallis, Tony Campolo and Brian McLaren.
In a June 2011 blog post, McLaren reproduced a letter from Naim Ateek to Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in which the head of Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center took Williams to task for not being more vocal in advocating for the Palestinians.
McLaren felt so strongly about Ateek’s rebuke that he emphasized in bolded type the following: “With candor the last two groups of extremists, i.e.
Jewish and Western Christian Zionists are a greater threat to us than the extremist Islamists. In fact, these extremists have more military power and clout to uproot all Palestinian presence both Christian and Muslim from our homeland.”
When I pointed out to McLaren in an email that this was hate speech and beyond the pale, he didn’t concede the point. Yet he has become a guru of sorts for younger Evangelicals. He has been featured at Catalyst conferences – a major training ground for new Evangelical leadership – along with such “Christ at the Checkpoint” veterans as Bob Roberts Jr., John Ortberg, Lynne Hybels and Shane Claiborne.
In mid-November, as Hamas rockets rained down on Israelis (I watched Palestinians celebrating by shooting off fireworks in Bethlehem), Roberts – pastor of North Wood Church in Keller, Texas – felt compelled to tweet the following message: “Pray for Gaza – 1.4 million people crammed in living in harsh conditions & tons of suffering regardless of your political views.”
Not a word about the murder of Israelis from rocket fire. This is the new face of American Evangelical leadership with regard to Israel.
Until recently, Israel would have been supported in such a crisis by a host of American pastors, but no more. The million-plus member Christians United for Israel, headed by John Hagee, is still a juggernaut and looks to remain that way for the foreseeable future. Yet Palestinian propaganda in the form of university and church lectures, advocacy tours and blogging and book writing is making deep inroads.
This infiltration of American churches is in no way limited to the traditional critics of Israel; it is now across-the-board, affecting the Southern Baptist Convention, the Assemblies of God, and various Pentecostal and Charismatic churches.
Mark Tooley of the Institute for Religion and Democracy noted: “The Evangelical Left is eager to dissuade Pentecostals, Charismatics and Evangelicals from their traditional support for Israel.”
In myriad ways, Palestinian propaganda is fundamentally transforming the Evangelical church from pro-Israel to pro-Palestine.
The still-viable pro-Israel community must act now to reverse this disturbing and well-organized trend.
There isn’t a moment to lose. Those who love Israel hold the key to repelling this assault on God’s people.
Jim Fletcher is a longtime Israel activist, writer and blogger. He can be reached at