Palestinian Authority Used Its ‘Christian’ Lobby to Push Its Agenda at the UN
Saeb Erekat, a senior Palestinian official, recently told US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley to “shut up.” His frustration highlighted a dramatic shift in the United States’ response to Palestinian Authority lobbying at the United Nations.
In April 2016, the PA and the Carter Center convened and co-hosted an Atlanta Summit in Atlanta, Georgia, to strategize against Israel and Christian Zionists, and to lobby the Obama administration on behalf of the PA’s UN agenda.
Over 100 top “Christian” anti-Israel activists and Palestinian Authority officials participated in the Summit, which was personally hosted by former president Jimmy Carter.
Then, a Summit delegation composed of the PA’s “Christian” lobby and a Palestinian official lobbied the Obama administration to refrain from using the US’s UN Security Council veto to block anti-Israel resolutions. In December 2016, the Obama administration did just that and failed to veto UN Security Council Resolution 2334.
While much ado is made in the media about the “pro-Israel lobby” and American supporters of Israel, these UN-focused lobbying efforts by the PA and its “Christian” collaborators in the West have gone largely unreported.
American supporters of Israel and their various organizations are generally open about their efforts to educate people about and raise support for the Jewish state. Their lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill are well-known and well-covered.
In contrast, American “Christian” supporters of the Palestinian Authority have decided to downplay their ties with the PA and the lobbying activity that they do on its behalf.
Unfortunately for them, the Palestinian Authority has not always gotten the memo. For example, the PA’s Hanan Ashrawi trumpeted on social media her meeting with the Telos Group — an anti-Israel organization posing as “pro-Israeli, pro-Palestinian, pro-peace” — to drum up support among American Christians and advocate for the Palestinian Authority’s agenda.
In April 2016, the Telos Group’s Co-Founder and President Gregory Khalil quietly participated in the Atlanta Summit. Former president Carter, a notable critic of Israel, personally hosted the summit and delivered the keynote address. Jeremiah Wright, former president Obama’s controversial, anti-Israel former pastor, also spoke.
The conference participants were a veritable “who’s who” of “Christian” anti-Israel activists. They signed an Atlanta Summit document, a Palestinian Authority propaganda piece designed not only to hoodwink Western audiences with peacemaking talk, but also to serve as a blueprint to guide anti-Israel organizations in their efforts to advance the PA’s talking points and agenda.
A delegation from the Summit, including a PA official, then lobbied Obama administration officials at the White House and the State Department on behalf of the PA’s agenda, delivering a letter from Christian patriarchs addressed to president Obama.
The patriarchs’ letter, notably signed by the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III, requested that president Obama instruct his administration to refrain from vetoing anti-Israel resolutions in the United Nations Security Council. This letter marked an important milestone in the PA’s push for implementation of their UN agenda.
Only a few months later, in December 2016, the president apparently honored their request, instructing National Security Advisor Susan Rice to tell US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power not to veto UN Security Council Resolution 2334.
But with the change in US administrations in January 2017 came a new US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, and a dramatic change in US policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In 2016, the US mission at the United Nations kowtowed to the PA’s “Christian” lobby’s requests at the expense of America’s relationship with Israel. Both through failing to veto Resolution 2334 and parroting the PA’s talking points, the US acceded to the PA’s attempt to delegitimize Israel’s territorial claims (Jerusalem and Israeli settlements) and dispute Israel’s commitment to peace.
In 2017 and 2018, the US has been standing up for Israel, and holding the UN and the Palestinian Authority accountable on behalf of the Palestinian people and the Palestinians’ benefactors — American taxpayers. The United States has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and announced the US embassy in Israel will move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May 2018. The United States has also begun tying Palestinian aid funding to the PA’s willingness to renounce violence and embrace peace not only through words, but also through actions and funding.
Haley has sought to hold the Palestinian Authority accountable at the United Nations for the discrepancy between the PA’s peacemaking talk in the West and their enabling of violent actions in the Middle East.
While a Palestinian Authority official at the UN has endorsed throwing stones at Israelis, “Christian” collaborators have parroted the PA’s “peacemaking” talking points when addressing Western audiences.
While the Palestinian Authority has handed over foreign aid — which comes from the pockets of the American taxpayer — to terrorists, “Christian” lobbyists have hidden behind their religious affiliations and organizations as they advocate for the PA’s purely political agenda.
The Atlanta Summit’s participants included churches and organizations who say that they represent their American church members and are involved in peacemaking. Instead, they co-hosted an event with a PA that endorsed violence — explicitly stone throwing and implicitly through salaries to terrorists — and lobbied on behalf of that foreign government.
The old adage “people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” holds true here. The Palestinian Authority may literally endorse stone throwing, but it appears that the PA has been largely unprepared for their “glass house” and those of their collaborators to be shattered by accountability — not only to their own people, but also to the American people.
Noah Summers is a specialist on Middle East affairs and American foreign policy.