S. African Christians host pro-Israel parley

CAPE TOWN - Reaching out to Christian supporters of Israel in Africa, a group of conservative Israeli thinkers and the interim head of the Knesset's Christian Allies Caucus will take part in the first Jerusalem Summit Africa in Cape Town on Monday, in an effort to garner support for Israel at a time of increasing Islamic fundamentalism and anti-Israel sentiment in the continent. The conference, which is being hosted by the local branches of two Jerusalem-based Evangelical Christian groups, the International Christian Embassy and Bridges for Peace, is expected to attract about 1,000 people, including 300 pastors. The event, which aims to draw support for Israel by linking the two countries' common confrontation with radical Islam, is based on the model of the Jerusalem Summit, the annual gathering of international right-wing thinkers which debuted in Israel in 2003. "South Africa is a crucial state for the entire continent and is similar to a swing-state in the US because whatever direction South Africa takes will be taken by the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa as well," said Dmitry Radyshevsky, the executive director of the Jerusalem Summit. He noted that South African anti-Zionism was not rooted in nationalism and religion but was a remnant of the Soviet era, and the country's long ties with the Soviet-era bloc. The conference comes just five years after the UN's infamous 2001 World Conference Against Racism in Durban which turned into an anti-Israel bacchanal. "South Africans need to be informed that the story of the blacks and the story of the Palestinians are totally different, and that the accusations against Israel of racism, colonialism, and apartheid are a big fraud, and are outrageous lies which are reminiscent of Nazi-era propaganda," he said. He added that despite South Africa's longstanding pro-Palestinian leanings, he was surprised by the number of black Christian Zionists who were absolutely ignorant of the realities of the Middle East conflict - short of what they see on CNN - and yet support Israel solely for theological reasons. "Everybody knows the anti-Semites, but they don't know the philo-Semites," said MK Benny Elon (National Union-National Religious Party) who has been appointed as the interim chairman of the Knesset's Christian Allies Caucus in the wake of caucus founder MK Yuri Shtern's battle with cancer. Elon, who spearheaded ties with the Evangelical Christian world during his tenure as minister of tourism and is well-known within the community, said Israel's Foreign Ministry is still unaware of the full scope of possible ties with Christian supporters of Israel around the globe, especially in unfriendly terrain, such as Africa. "The best language between Israel and these nations around the world is the language of the Bible, and this is a language which is not utilized in its full potential by the Foreign Ministry," he said. Moreover, conference organizers stressed that what united Israel and Africa was the ever-increasing threat of radical Islam. "The bloodiest war of jihad is not for the Land of Israel but for the land of Africa," Radyshevsky opined, citing the killings in Darfur, Sudan and Nigeria which have been largely ignored by the world. Elon added that Israel was fast losing ground in Africa to growing Islamic extremism, at a time when it could be garnering friends. "By bringing Jews and Christians together in Africa, we can use it as a launching pad to bring Jews and Christians together around the world," said Knesset Christian Allies Caucus director Josh Reinstein. Israeli participants of the conference include the head of Palestinian Media Watch, Itamar Marcus, whose organization tracks Palestinian media coverage, and Tel Aviv University political scientist Dr. Martin Sherman. The leaders of the conference do not shy away from expressing their right-wing outlook. Their position, that the formula of land for peace has failed, stands in sharp contrast to the position of the current government. Yet, they stress, it is in complete sync with the worldview of their predominantly Evangelical supporters around the world. "There are enough think-tanks, organizations, and forums which stray to the left of the government; we are one of the few that takes a more conservative stand," Radyshevsky said. "People who have an acute revulsion to anything biblical will obviously not support out views," he added. The 38-year-old Moscow-born and US-educated Radyshevsky first conceived of the idea of a Jerusalem Summit, which is funded by the Michael Cherney foundation, while studying at the Harvard divinity school last decade. The increasingly global Jerusalem Summit plans additional conferences in Singapore, London and New Zealand during the course of the year.