Wanted: A Mideast Conference That Promotes Peace, Not Hate
Tehran we could understand. Perhaps even Berkeley. But why bring a conference to Oklahoma that preaches contempt for Jews?
Every two years, sponsors of the Christ at the Checkpoint (CATC) conference in Bethlehem try to recruit evangelical Christians to the Palestinian cause, largely by teaching them to despise the Jewish state. People in article after article show that CATC presents a wholly negative view of Israel, blaming it alone — to the exclusion of Hamas terrorism and Palestinian Authority kleptomania — for all the suffering in the Holy Land.
At the most recent CATC event, officials from the PA spoke several times — but no one from Israel did. Bishop Efraim Tendero of the World Evangelical Alliance called President Mahmoud Abbas “a man of peace,” ignoring Abbas’ remarks just days earlier when he blamed the Holocaust on the Jews’ “social function which relates to usury and banking and such.” Abbas’ commitment to peace includes spending seven percent of the annual PA budget on monthly stipends for families of terrorists — several times the average monthly wage of Arab workers.
Speaking at CATC in 2012, the Rev. Dr. Gary Burge, formerly of Wheaton College, described his encounter with Jews in the Old City using phrases such as: “Old, eccentric rabbi,” “His hat was all wrong,” “New York accent.” He also went on to mock the Jewish Sabbath.
Burge’s animus toward Israel led him to predict this about a Jewish state that refuses to accept Jesus: “The people of Israel … cannot be rooted in the vineyard unless first they are grafted into Jesus. Branches that attempt living in the land, the vineyard, which refused to be attached to Jesus will be cast out and burned.” Such imagery comes only one generation after the Nazi Holocaust — and is a very peculiar spin on John 15:6, which speaks of individuals, not a particular nation.
Burge will be speaking in Oklahoma City.
Rev. Stephen Sizer gave a presentation at a conference in Iran in 2014, alongside “experts” who spoke on “The Zionist Fingerprints on the 9/11 Cover-up.” He toured South Lebanon with terrorists from Hezbollah. His own Church of England condemned him for sharing material on social media that was “clearly anti-Semitic.” On Iran’s Press TV, he charged that a “Holocaust” has been “perpetuated” for the last half-century — against the Palestinians.
While Sizer is not yet listed on the CATC website, reliable sources indicate that he too will speak in Oklahoma City.
Why Oklahoma City? Why now?
In Bethlehem, where the Christian presence has shrunk to a miniscule number under the thumbs of their masters, there’s a growing awareness that the Palestinian cause is no longer the number one issue in the Arab world. Instead of encouraging the PA to stop complaining and actually negotiate, CATC is on the hunt for recruits to its anti-Israel agenda — especially from evangelical circles.
CATC is scheduled to take place from October 15-18 at Tower Hotel, 3233 NW Expressway. We count on the good people of Oklahoma to send them a clear message that in 2018 we need religious leaders dedicated to true peace, not theological bigots exhuming hateful ghosts of the past.
Abraham Cooper is associate dean and director of global social action for the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Yitzchok Adlerstein is the Center’s director of interfaith affairs. A version of this article was originally published in NewsOK.