Christian Pastor and Friends Double Down on Anti-Jewish Bigotry
Somebody needs to tell Rev. Frank Chikane and his friends that the first step to getting out of a hole is to stop digging. Yet, in their efforts to absolve the pastor of inciting hostility toward Israel and Jews, Chikane and his friends are adding sin upon sin.
Chikane, as readers of The Algemeiner will know, is the South African pastor and politico who serves as “moderator” of the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA) of the World Council of Churches (WCC). He portrayed Israelis as “demons,” and declared that the world will seek “blood” from people who support Israel during an online event on February 6. He also declared that “the sins of the past which were committed against the Jews must not be used as a way to and reason to allow more sins to be committed against the Palestinians.”
After Christians and Jews in South Africa responded forcefully to Chikane’s abusive rhetoric in an February 18, 2021, article in the “South African Jewish Report” (SAJR), the reverend and his friends doubled down with more ugly polemics in the following weeks.
Chikane spoke in conciliatory tones while speaking with the SAJR, but the overall message he and his supporters offered in interviews with a Muslim radio station was that Chikane’s comments were taken out of context; that Christian Zionists are evil; that Jews abuse others because they themselves have been abused; and that the Palestinians, who have done no wrong, are entitled to a state of their own without any preconditions (even as they deny Jews the right to self-determination).
During his attempt to prove that he is not “anti-Jews,” Chikane declared that he supports the two-state solution and the right of Palestinians to return to their “homes.” Ironically enough, Chikane missed the contradiction when he denied the right of Jews to return to their homes. (More about that below.)
When the story of the reverend’s February 6 anti-peace rant broke in South Africa, Chikane tried to sound a bit conciliatory, telling the SAJR that while he should have used simpler language, he didn’t mean what he said literally, and he doesn’t support violence or terrorism: “People can disagree with me, but they don’t have a right to distort what I said.”
Chikane and his friends took a harder line in subsequent interviews on Salaamedia, an Internet radio station that caters to the Muslim community in South Africa. In a February 24 interview on the station, Chikane defended his rhetoric by declaring that European Christians who feel guilty about what happened to the Jews at their hands, can’t “allow the person you sinned against to commit sins and you keep too quiet,” adding, “Then the blood of the people who are dying will be sought from you.”
The reverend also declared himself innocent of being anti-Jewish.
“I’m not anti-Jews,” he said. “I’m on the side of Jews if they are on the side of justice.”
The reverend had harsh words for Christian Zionists, declaring that they “have used enormous resources, to penetrate into the churches to sell theological perspectives that make innocent Christians begin to support the brutalization of other peoples. I am saying it doesn’t matter what the scriptures say. If any piece of scripture would justify the killings of people and violation of their rights, I will not be on that side.”
Earlier in the interview, Chikane defended himself from the charge that he is obsessed with Israel and ignores the misdeeds of other actors, such as the Assad regime in Syria.
“Remove your knee [from] the neck of the Palestinians, then we can talk about other people,” he said. “They are saying I’m not balanced, I’m not talking about Syria and other places. I’m saying, ‘No sir, remove your knee [from] the neck of the Palestinians. Then I will talk about other people.’”
While Chikane says he and others find the Oslo Accords “difficult,” he does support a two-state solution. “You need to accept that the refugees must come back,” he said. “You need to make sure that people are returned to their homes.”
If a two-state solution is not possible, it will be necessary for Palestinians and Jews “to live together in one place when they’ve got all their rights and there’s not limitation,” he said.
“The laws in Israel-Palestine generated by the Israeli government are like apartheid laws,” Chikane said. “They dictate who you become. Even if you are a citizen of Israel there are laws that govern you as an Arab-Israeli or a Palestinian Israeli, and we cannot allow an apartheid system to develop in the face of the world when, in fact, apartheid was rejected as a crime against humanity.”
Interestingly enough, while Chikane affirms the right of Palestinians to return to their homes, he denied Jews that right by condemning Christian Zionism for treating the Palestinians as if they are the Philistines in the Bible to justify Jewish settlement in the land of Israel.
On March 2, Rev. Moss Ntlha, general secretary of the Evangelical Alliance of South Africa, came to Chikane’s defense, declaring that Chikane was using “a very Christian idiom” when he spoke on February 6.
Jesus always talked about how Jews “always refused to listen to their own prophets and that those who come alongside Israel support Israel for all of the things that they are doing that are clearly quite evil and unjust,” Ntlha said. “The blood of those innocent Palestinians would be required of Israel, and so that was what was taken out of context by pro-Israel lobby groups and made it seem like he was praying for blood.”
Ntlha said Chikane was just reminding Christian supporters of Israel of their “Christian duty to blow the whistle on the atrocities that have been perpetrated [in Israel] in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The suffering endured by the Jews in Europe has rendered Israelis “irrational in conceiving of what their security needs should be,” Ntlha said. “We can understand how abused people can actually abuse other people. You know it happens in families. It happens with politicians who come out of oppression … What we don’t understand is why the world should join Israel in perpetrating the abuse and the injustices of others.”
On March 2, the BDS Coalition in South Africa also issued a statement in Chikane’s defense, declaring that he was “speaking as a Christian cleric and using Biblical language.” In an interview on Salaamedia the following day, Salim Vally from the BDS coalition declared that the charges leveled at Chikane are part of a “very clear trend” of “spurious” charges leveled at activists, “even those who are mildly critical of Zionism, which is a racist ideology” and who are critical of Israel, which “has violated every international law that exits and continues to do that.”
The criticism of Chikane, Vally said, was part of an orchestrated campaign which started in The Algemeiner, which he described as “a pro-Israeli rag … in Germany.”
For the record, The Algemeiner is headquartered in New York.
Dexter Van Zile is Shillman Research Fellow for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA).