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What Is Causing the Sudden Worldwide Shift in Support for Israel?

On September 15, 2020, the ministers of foreign affairs for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain joined Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel at the White House for an event that would bring about a profound change to the Middle East. The ceremony, formally known as the Abraham Accord, normalized relations between the two Arab countries and Israel. The occasion was nothing less than historic, as the UAE and Bahrain became the third and fourth Arab countries to have normalized relations with Israel.

These two nations are not the only ones to stand on the frontline of the new paradigm shift. At the press conference immediately before the Abraham Accord, President Trump said he expected five or six other countries to normalize relations with Israel. Within weeks of the peace accord, Kosovo’s Muslim-majority Balkan nation moved to recognize Israel’s statehood and normalize ties. On the same day, Serbia announced plans to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Sudan announced plans to normalize relations with Israel, a country that had sworn never to make peace with Israel 53 years ago. Malawi, Honduras, Guatemala, and Serbia have all broadcasted intentions to move their embassies to Jerusalem. So the real question is, what events transpired that are leading to a changing worldview of Israel?

Mutual Regional Threats

For decades, Israel has waged a tiresome battle to preserve its existence in light of Iran’s global and regional aggression. Hezbollah militants in Lebanon, Iranian drones flying into the country from Syria, and an emboldened Hamas presence in the Gaza strip are a few examples of Iran’s persistent attempt to destroy Israel. But Israel is not the only country with its Iranian woes. 

Israel and the Arab world are threatened by an advancing Iranian nuclear program that has forced the region into a cold war. States adjacent to the Persian Gulf, such as Bahrain and the UAE, face threats to their national security and private sector from an aggressive Iranian navy. Saudi Arabia wages war against Iranian backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. This goes without mentioning other shared threats such as ISIS, al-Qaida, and other Islamic extremist groups in the region. In all, Israel and the Arab nations have developed a shared view of regional threats that have pushed the countries to cooperate in the security and intelligence sectors, which developed the foundation for the diplomatic bridge between both worlds.

An Opportunity for American Embrace

As a result of the Abraham Accord, the United States announced plans to sell F-35 fighter jets to the UAE, a move that would strengthen the Emirati military in light of Iranian aggression. The move would be somewhat controversial, as some Israelis fear their qualitative military edge (QME) over other Middle Eastern countries would be adversely affected. In the meantime, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz has continued discussions with US leadership to ensure this doesn’t become a major issue. From a bigger perspective, this potential move has sent a message to other countries around the world: those who embrace peace with Israel will invite possibilities of further military cooperation from the United States. 

Alternatively, from a diplomatic perspective, countries that have moved to normalize ties with Israel or simply recognize Jerusalem as her capital have found themselves in the American spotlight. Guatemala, Honduras, Serbia, and Kosovo—countries with seemingly insignificant world influence—have enjoyed being hailed as advocates for peace as they have taken major steps to warm relations with Israel. Sudan, which has been on America’s list of state sponsors of terrorism for 27 years, was finally removed from the list, largely a result of normalizing ties with Israel. Like Israel’s steps to create peace, these smaller countries have been able to act boldly out of an understanding that the United States will be there to support them despite potential opposition from the world.

Coronavirus

Israel is accepted by many as a world leader in the world of medical technology and coronavirus research. That is why the foreign affairs ministers of both the UAE and Bahrain spoke about coronavirus research and partnerships as one of the first priorities of the new alliances. Additionally, the UAE’s tourism and oil exports have slowed down as demand for both has dipped due to the pandemic. Opening these countries’ economies to Israel will expand economic growth despite the coronavirus recession. 

Major Diplomatic and Economic Benefits Are the Adornment

At the ceremony for the Abraham Accord, Foreign Affairs Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed of the UAE asserted, “The aim of all of these treaties . . . is to work toward sustainable development.” Within hours, these words came to fruition. Bank Hapoalim, the largest bank in Israel, signed a major cooperation agreement with the National Bank of Dubai to allow more opportunities for business and trade between both countries. A day after the Accord, Emirati logistics company DP World partnered with Israeli Shipyards to open a direct shipping line between the two countries, with DP World CEO bin Sulayem stating the deal will “help our customers to do business in the (Middle Eastern) region more easily and efficiently.” Direct flights, telephone communications, and an eventually post-coronavirus tourism boom are also expected to bring economic growth to Israel and the Persian Gulf region.

To refocus on Europe, Serbia and Kosovo found opportunities to warm up to one another and toward Israel at the White House in early September. Although both states—part of ex-Yugoslavia—have been at odds with one another for decades, the two reached a basic agreement to recognize one another’s sovereignty (the main issue dividing them). They have also committed to economic normalization, which has reopened the dialogue between the two Eastern European countries. Simultaneously, the countries agreed to move their embassies to Jerusalem, not to mention the beginning of normalized ties between Kosovo and Israel in the first place. President Trump stated, “By focusing on job creation and economic growth, the two countries were able to reach a major breakthrough.” Similarly, strengthening ties between the East European countries and Israel will create more investment opportunities, diplomacy, and tourism.

Peace Comes from Strength

Thanks to her ingenuity and a robust alliance with the United States, Israel has maintained a qualitative military edge (QME) that gives its military a winning advantage against threats from Palestinian aggression and throughout the Middle East. Because of Israel’s strength, they are in a position where they may take risks for peace. On the day of the Abraham Accord, Hamas operatives retaliated by firing 15 rockets at southern Israel. Thanks to missile defense technology, such as the Iron Dome, Arrow, and David’s Sling, Israel can continue seeking peace with Arab countries without paralyzing fear or desperation caused by terrorism. The same sense of strength is what gave Israel confidence when they first normalized ties with Egypt in 1979.

A Generational Shift in the Arab World

At the advent of the digital age, much of the developed Arab world has been exposed to Western ideas for peace and prosperity, particularly younger generations. Thanks to various social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, many throughout the Arab world have access to the same information available throughout the West. Furthermore, much of the developed world was enabled to follow President Trump’s recent deal for peace between Israelis and Palestinians and see how the Palestinian Authority responded in a typical fashion of rejectionism and violence. Witnessing these events live and unfiltered has motivated many to move forward with peace despite the Palestinians’ refusal to come to the negotiating table.

Global Fatigue from Palestinian Refusal

Since the first day of Israel’s statehood, the Palestinians have continually refused every peace offering from Israel that could have resulted in a two-state solution between the nations. In fact, the Palestinians have traditionally responded with violence against Israelis when peace deals were offered, with minimal or no negotiating in many cases. As discussed, the growth opportunity for many countries to normalize relations with Israel is great. To continually delay building these ties comes at an expense, especially for the Arab people, and the pain from doing so is exacerbated in times of war and disease. The idea that a two-state solution must be achieved for further peace throughout the Middle East has been proven incorrect by the Abraham Accord. If anything, the recent events have put more pressure on the Palestinians to return to the table, as the Arab voice of sympathy has been hushed by active, innovative forces for peace. This new understanding has partially opened the floodgates of prosperity between Israel and countries throughout the world.

Concluding Thoughts

There is much to accredit for the substantial progress made for peace between Israel and the rest of the world. Positive forces such as the United States’ strength and Israel’s innovative spirit, have enabled Israel to reach a position of strength to take risks for peace. A pro-Israel Trump administration has served a vital role in brokering peace between Israel and the Arab world, as well as leading the way with the Jerusalem Embassy move, inspiring countries from Central America and Eastern Europe to follow suit.

On a darker note, the world has experienced much hardship amid a global pandemic and recession, and an aggressive Iranian terror threat has threatened stability throughout the Middle East. All this and other unmentioned global issues have catalyzed extraordinary progress for Israeli peace, incentivizing countries such as Bahrain and the UAE to accept Israel’s help in the cold war against Iran and bring life back to their respective economies.

In the new digital age, the advantages of forging relationships with Israel outweigh the costs of siding with a Palestinian Authority that continually refuses to negotiate peace. Although recent peace initiatives are far from ending the Israeli-Arab conflict, the shift has certainly begun an era of growing peace between Israel and the world.

 —by Susan Michael, ICEJ USA Director, creator of Israel Answers, and the American Christian Leaders for Israel (ACLI) network

What the Abraham Accord Means for Israel

 The presence of United Arab Emirates officials earlier this year at the announcement of President Trump’s plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians hinted at a growing collaboration between Israel and the Emirates. The two have now struck a historic deal, dubbed the Abraham Accord, which is perhaps the most significant step ever towards regional peace for the Jewish State. The United Arab Emirates joins the short list of Middle Eastern countries with normalized diplomatic relations with Israel—alongside Jordan and Egypt. However, this agreement also signals a new alliance in the Middle East in response to heightened tensions with Iran.

The peace agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates will reap significant diplomatic and economic benefits for the two parties as they sign several agreements regarding investment, direct flights, technology, agriculture, security, tourism, the exchange of embassies, and robust people-to-people relations. Considering the advancement of both countries within a war-torn, undeveloped Middle East, the deal is expected to bring region-wide economic growth, technological innovation, increased stability, and respect for human rights. 

Moreover, normalized relations between the two countries are expected to encourage other Gulf countries to follow suit, notably Bahrain and Oman, which could happen as soon as in a few weeks. Even Saudi Arabia is quiet and may be awaiting their turn at the table.

What about the expansion of sovereignty in Judea and Samaria?

President Trump’s peace deal for Israel and the Palestinians allowed for the expansion of Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Although the  United Arab Emirates approved of the deal, there was widespread opposition to the expansion of sovereignty. Consequently, as a part of the peace agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Israel will suspend expansion efforts, at least for the near future. 

When questioned by reporters about reneging on his promise to expand sovereignty, Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel promised that expansion is still very much “on the table.”  US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman emphasized all parties understand it to be a temporary “suspension” of sovereignty and not a cancellation. He could not say how long this suspension would last but explained it was to allow time to negotiate other peace agreements.

How might this compare to previous international agreements for Israel?

Although this agreement is the third of its kind between Israel and an Arab country, it is an occasion of its own in different respects. Foremost, the deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates did not involve surrendering any land between the two countries—only the “suspension” of Israel’s planned extension of sovereignty. Israel gave up the entire Sinai Peninsula in 1979 to Egypt in exchange for peace and had to negotiate territorial disputes with Jordan in 1994 to normalize relations. 

Furthermore, unlike with Egypt and Jordan, Israel has never been at war with the United Arab Emirates. This history void of direct conflict opens up the possibility of warmer people-to-people relations. 

Strategically, the deal is larger than itself and is the beginning of an expansion of alliances to the Persian Gulf in order to face a regional foe—Iran.

How do the Palestinians feel about the deal?

Not unexpectedly, the Palestinian leaders are virtually unanimous in their opposition to the peace agreement, or put in the words of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, an act of “treason.” Nonetheless, the United Arab Emirates still possesses a robust relationship with the Palestinian Authority and can thus speak to the Palestinians in ways the United States or Israel cannot. 

Undoubtedly, the deal will hinder the Palestinians’ ability to leverage the Arab League against Israel in times of conflict or negotiations. Amos Yadlin, former general for the Israeli Air Force, recently asserted on television, “America is sending a clear signal to the Palestinians: ‘You have no veto power, you have no Arab support; don’t miss another opportunity, don’t ignore Trump’s peace plan.’” 

What does this mean for President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu?

Without a shadow of doubt, the success achieved between the countries would not have occurred without the bravery and boldness of US President Trump, Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel, and Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the United Arab Emirates. This is a major foreign policy success for President Trump, who was responsible for brokering the deal between the two countries. 

On the other hand, Prime Minister Netanyahu enjoys the accolade of being the first leader of Israel to normalize diplomatic relations with a Gulf country successfully. As this regional alliance takes shape, and should Saudi Arabia come to the table, it will not just be another accomplishment for Netanyahu but another miracle in Israel’s story.

—by Susan Michael, ICEJ USA Director, creator of Israel Answers, and the American Christian Leaders for Israel (ACLI) network


Listen to the podcast hosted by Charisma about the Abraham Accord with special guest Susan Michael.

Why Christians Care about Annexation

I have engaged with a number of reporters lately, both on and off the record, concerning the Trump peace plan. And one question keeps coming up: Why should Christians care about whether or not Israel annexes more territory in the West Bank? So for the record, here are some valid, sincere reasons why Christians should—and—do care about Israel and its current debate over whether to annex parts of Judea/Samaria in the context of the Trump plan. 

 

Standing for Fairness 

Because so many Christians were hostile to the Jewish people down through history, we view it as our moral duty as Christians today to stand with Israel and against those who are hostile to the modern Jewish state and its people. There are simply too many nations and peoples who treat Israel unfairly and even loathe its existence without just reason or cause. So we are determined to stand against the rising tide of anti-Semitism, the rampant anti-Israel media bias, the stone-hearted threats of sanctions and violence, and the outright bullying of Israel in international forums. 

 

We are simply standing for fair treatment of the Jewish nation and people in hopes it will create a more level playing field for Israel. The UN Security Council’s adoption of resolution 2334 in December 2016 is a prime example of the lopsided and prejudicial decisions routinely made against Israel. By declaring that the entire West Bank and eastern Jerusalem are “occupied Palestinian territory,” the international community ran roughshod over four millennia of Jewish claim and connection to the Land of Israel. 

 

So when Israel is debating whether to assert its rightful historic claim and title to the biblical heartland of ancient Israel, Christians are interested—and we have every right to be. 

 

Standing for Right 

Israel is a democratic state whose legitimate historic right and claim to the Jewish homeland was duly recognized by the international community not so long ago. Thus, “annexation” is not really the proper word for what Israel is considering, as it normally connotes the hostile taking of another’s property. Rather, Israel would simply be asserting sovereignty on lands it currently possesses and over which it already has a valid historic claim. Yet the world blithely treats it as an attempt to steal someone else’s lands. 

 

Admittedly, there is a rival Palestinian claim to these same areas but of such recent origin that it pales in comparison to the longstanding Jewish title over eretz Israel. The people of Israel must decide whether to compromise on their superior land claim for the sake of peace. And as Christians, we respect Israeli democracy and the right of its people to make this decision free of outside interference or threats. Thus, with great empathy and care we will be watching the annexation debate and will stand with Israel as it wrestles with this complex and consequential decision. 

 

Standing for Truth 

To build their rival nationalist claim to the historic Land of Israel, the Palestinians have found it necessary to deny any Jewish connection to the Land, and particularly, to Jerusalem. In doing so, they have decreed our Bible—both Old and New Testaments—to be full of falsehoods concerning the ancient Jewish presence in this land. This would mean King David did not rule over a large Israelite kingdom from his palace in Jerusalem, as recorded in the Hebrew Bible, and that Jesus did not enter and teach in the courts of the Second Temple as the Gospels all say.  

 

That should capture Christians’ attention, and rightly so! The Palestinians also have routinely damaged and destroyed important biblical sites that bear the archaeological proof that ancient Israel once inhabited the land. So Christians are standing for truth and the preservation of history when we partake in the debate over the fate of the disputed territories. 

 

Standing for Justice 

Christians believe God made a covenant promise to Abraham to deliver the entire Land of Israel as an “everlasting possession” to his descendants. How and when God ultimately fulfills that promise is up to Him. But we do believe the modern-day return of the Jews to the Land of Israel, including the mountains of Judea and Samaria, is part of God keeping His covenant promises to the Jewish people concerning their land inheritance.  

 

Our Bible also says that God scattered them from the Land for corrective and redemptive purposes, while at the same time vowing that He would always regather them to the Land of Israel one day. Thus, we consider it a matter of historic justice that the Jews have returned to their homeland in modern times. And since Christians also serve the same God as the Jewish people, our own faith is strengthened when we see Him being faithful to His promises to Israel concerning the Land. 

 

So to answer the question, Christians have plenty of reasons for why we care so deeply about the annexation debate and how the Jewish people hope to maintain their enduring connection to their biblical homeland.   

The Strategic Importance of the Jordan Valley

President Trump’s proposed peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians allows for Israel’s annexation (extension of sovereignty) of the major settlement blocks in the “West Bank” as well as the Jordan Valley. While the overall plan has been touted as the best plan presented thus far, it does allow for an eventual Palestinian State should the Palestinians come to the table. In the meantime, indications are that Israel can go ahead and begin extending sovereignty over those areas she requires in any future agreement.

 

 

The Trump administration previously recognized Jerusalem as the eternal capital of Israel as well as Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, both recognitions that Israel had long-awaited. This peace plan seems to be opening another historic door for Israel to solidify the defensible borders she needs. 

 

Is Annexation the Right Word?

Some analysts argue it is incorrect to use the term “annex” for territory to which Israel already has a legitimate claim. It is even dangerous because the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court defines “annexation by the use of force of the territory of another State of part thereof” as “constituting the grave Crime of Aggression.” To describe Israel’s extension of sovereignty as “annexation” implies the territory belonged to another State and Israel is committing an illegal act, making her vulnerable to claims and legal rulings by the ICC. 

 

 

Neither the settlement blocks nor the Jordan Valley were territories of another State. They were Ottoman Empire territories that the British mandate, ratified by the San Remo conference in 1920, designated for a Jewish state. Jordan illegally occupied them from 1948–1967 when Israel took control of them. It is therefore disputed territory belonging to Israel that the Trump plan allows Israel to “extend sovereignty” over.

 

 

Last month’s Israel Answers article discussed this issue as it relates to the settlement blocs, and in this article, we will discuss the importance of the Jordan Valley specifically.

 

Jordan Valley

The “Jordan Valley” is used here to include the lower course of the Jordan River, from the spot where it exits the Sea of Galilee in the north, to the end of its course, where it flows into the Dead Sea in the south. The valley is a long and narrow trough roughly 65 miles long. This valley includes the lowest elevation in the world, and on both sides—to the east and west—it is bordered by steep cliffs rising as high as 3,900–5,600 feet high. 

 

 

The majority of the Jordan Valley is already administered by Israel, as it forms part of the West Bank’s “Area C” as outlined in the Oslo peace accords of the 1990s. Eighty-six percent of the land is Israeli farmland due to its year-round agricultural climate, fertile soils, and water supply. It is strategic militarily because it forms the border between Jordan to the east and Israel (and the West Bank) to the west and is regulated by the Israel-Jordan peace treaty of 1994. 

 

Israeli Security

The Jordan Valley has long been considered Israel’s preferred eastern border, and sovereign control over it will ensure Israel’s ability to respond to security threats from both Jordan to its east and the Palestinians to its west. Strategic positioning of this kind will prove far more effective and peaceful in the long run than the intervention of foreign military assistance or military technology used in conflicts in the past.

 

Keeping the Palestinians Demilitarized

Israel’s requirement that a prospective Palestinian state be demilitarized has been known since the 1993 Oslo process and the establishment of the Palestinian Authority (PA). The requirement is a means of safeguarding Israel’s security by preventing the development of military threats against Israel—including conventional warfare, terrorism and guerilla warfare—from and via the Palestinian territories. The only way to keep illegal weapons from entering the demilitarized Palestinian zone is for Israel to maintain control of its borders. 

 

Jordan’s Security

Jordan gave lip service to cutting ties with Israel in response to the “annexation” but has no interest in conflict with Israel. It is Israel and the United States, not the Palestinian Authority, that bring peace and stability to Jordan. One senior Jordanian official reporting to Israel Hayom newspaper asserted:

 

 

We prefer an IDF presence west of the kingdom in the Jordan Valley over any other alternative. Contrary to the poor diplomatic relations with Israel, the security relationship is excellent. We have no interest or intention of damaging our security relations with Israel on behalf of the Palestinians.

 

 

As expected, Jordan will beat its chest loudly in support of the Palestinian people while treasuring its strategic ties with Israel in a quiet manner. 

 

 

In conclusion, the chance to extend sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and major settlements is a unique opportunity. Everything, at least momentarily, is in place for such a move: the strong support of the White House; developing security and economic ties with Sunni Arab countries that will prevent legitimate pushback; and a strong Israeli security presence that is capable of deterring Palestinian unrest. This stated, Israel’s local friendships are not guaranteed tomorrow, and American support for such action rests on a shaky reelection bid for President Trump. If Israel desires to obtain defensible borders for the future, now is the time to act swiftly.

Does Israel Have the Right to Annex Settlements?

The Trump administration unveiled the long-awaited peace plan between Israel and the Palestinian people in January 2020. Perhaps the most realistic and balanced of any peace plan to date, it was rejected by the Palestinian Authority in less than two hours. 

One of the most controversial pieces of the so-called “Deal of the Century” included the annexation of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, recognizing the land as part of the State of Israel. Thus the quagmire brings old questions to light regarding the legality of the settlements and Israel’s right to annex them.

Biblical Foundation

The book of Genesis records God’s promise of the land of Canaan as an “everlasting possession” to Abraham and his descendants through Isaac and Jacob. Several hundred years later, the law was given at Sinai, and one of the conditions of disobedience would be exile from that land—however, exile with the hope of return. After centuries of exile, the Jewish people saw that hope realized and returned to reestablish sovereignty in their God-given land in 1948.

International Legal Foundation

The ancient land of Canaan, referred to as Judea under Roman occupation, had been renamed Palestine in AD 135 and then occupied by one foreign entity after another until the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in WWI. Leaders of the Allied nations and their German counterparts divided up the Empire, not for occupation but to set up self-rule. 

The Balfour Declaration of 1917 supporting the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine was endorsed by the leading world powers at the San Remo Conference in 1920 and affirmed by the League of Nations in 1922. Israel had a right to the land just as Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq—all created out of the same legal agreements—had rights to theirs. This legal foundation has not been annulled and is still in place today. 

The Defunct UN Partition Plan

After 25 years of conflict between the Jews and Arabs living in the land, the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 181 in 1947, calling for the partition of the land and the establishment of both a Jewish State and an Arab State. The Jews immediately accepted the plan and established their state, but the Arab world rejected it and instead attacked the newborn Jewish State in an attempt to take all of the land. The UN Partition Plan was never implemented because the Arabs had rejected it just as they have rejected numerous other offers of statehood. 

The Failed Peace Process

Since the Madrid Peace Conference of 1991, various initiatives and peace plans have offered more and more to the Palestinians and seemed to validate the claims by Israel’s antagonists that the Jews were giving back illegally occupied land owned by the Palestinians. But Israel’s willingness to negotiate and possibly even give away land did not mean the international legal claims to the land were now not applicable. Instead, Israel was negotiating with the land that rightfully belonged to her to obtain a peace agreement.

Palestinian Obstinance  

The increasingly generous offers of various peace initiatives under four US Presidents since 1991 were all rejected by the Palestinian leaders who seemed to be holding out for a better deal. What Western negotiators failed to recognize was Palestinian rejection is not about the details of any one offer but a refusal to sign an agreement with the Jewish State. 

Signing an agreement with Israel means recognizing Israel exists, and that would be a betrayal of the Palestinian dream of return to all the land from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. It would also be a betrayal of the Islamic world that refuses to accept Jewish sovereignty on land that was once Islamic. Thirty years of Palestinian obstinance has created facts on the ground that need resolving, such as that of the Jewish communities in the West Bank.

Time to Annex the Settlements

Israel’s annexation of the settlements as allowed by the Trump peace plan is entirely legal. It recognizes the rulings of the San Remo Conference and League of Nations some 100 years ago. It should also be a wake-up call to Palestinian leaders that their continued rejection of peace agreements with Israel will mean less for them in the end—not more. 

Why Pandemics Are Dangerous for Jews

Abundant conspiracy theories and misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic have elevated fear and anxiety levels for many. We have had to sift through benign misinformation and intentional disinformation to understand the potential dangers of this virus and the best practices to avoid it. Even the US government's Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has become controversial and many question whether it is the place to go for information one can trust.

Government Misinformation

Other countries have even less trustworthy and helpful governments. They are at the mercy of corrupt leaders attempting to hide their own mishandling of the crisis and place blame elsewhere through their state-controlled media.

Case in point: a Chinese government spokesman set off a disinformation frenzy in China when he tweeted the self-serving lie that it was the US army that brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Russian media then chimed in accusing both the United States and the United Kingdom of developing the virus to harm Russian ally China.

Iranian Revolutionary Guard generals claimed the virus was an American biological weapon aimed at both China and Iran, while Iranian state media also blamed the “Zionists.” Throughout the Muslim world, rumors abound that the Jews developed the coronavirus to gain power, kill a large number of people, and make a fortune selling the antidote.

Conspiracy Theories

These lies have infiltrated the internet in the United States and are used by conspiracy theorists to advance their anti-Semitic theories. The Anti-Defamation League is tracking and documenting the proliferation of these lies on both fringe internet platforms as well as mainstream platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and Reddit.

Conspiracies abound about the origin of the virus that blame everyone from the US government to Bill Gates to Israel. Some are using the virus as proof in their case for—or against—vaccination, immigration, or imposition of martial law. Racists are denigrating all things Chinese, while anti-Semites blame Jews for the virus as a means to manipulate the stock market to their financial advantage, bring down President Trump, or profit from a vaccine they developed beforehand.

Why the Jews?

Why the Jews? They are suffering from the virus like everyone else and trying to develop a vaccine just as fast as the rest of the world. Their religious leaders called for prayer at the Western Wall for the entire world to be spared this pandemic. Yet, they are blamed for creating it, using it to kill masses of people and then profit off of its treatment.

As wrong as it is, the proliferation of false accusations against the Chinese people is because the virus started in China. But what do the Jews have to do with this virus? Why the lies about Israel and the Jews? Because age-old anti-Semitism will use every opportunity to spew hatred on the Jewish people.

The danger for Jews during pandemics is not just the disease but also the conspiracy theories it spawns. One of the greatest catastrophes to afflict the human race was the fourteenth-century bubonic plague—known as the “Black Death”—that swept through Europe. Historians estimate that up to 50 percent of Europe’s population died in the pandemic, with rates of death as high as 75 percent in Italy, Spain, and France.

The Jewish minority had already been demonized by church and state, so they were an easy scapegoat. They also fared better than the general population, possibly due to their dietary and religious practices or the fact many were confined in walled ghettos. Their lower death rates, however, fueled suspicions they were behind the pandemic, and many Jews who survived the plague were then massacred in pogroms.

We should not dismiss conspiracy theories as mere craziness. Conspiracy theories produce anger, and anger moves quickly from words into actions; verbal insults often result in physical attacks. It is, therefore, our responsibility to speak up against these lies and point people to reliable sources of information.

Flattening the Curve

While seeking to flatten the curve of the coronavirus, we must do the same with the pandemic of anti-Semitism. It is a deadly virus that poisons hearts and minds, eventually destroying those it infects along with those they hate.

We must take the necessary steps to identify and isolate it, protect others from becoming infected, and develop educational “vaccines” against it in our churches, schools, and society.  

by Susan Michael, ICEJ USA Director, creator of Israel Answers, and the American Christian Leaders for Israel (ACLI) network

Article originally published April 2020 and was updated in July 2020 to reflect controversy regarding CDC handling of the coronavirus. 


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Does Christian Anti-Semitism Exist?

Many Evangelical Christians will argue that there is no such thing as “Christian anti-Semitism.” For them, it is a contradiction of terms—an oxymoron. They do not believe a “true” Christian can be anti-Semitic. Unfortunately, history has proven otherwise.

Jews and Christians have had a history of contentious relations. What started in the first century as an internal squabble among Jews over the messiahship of Jesus became a split into two separate religions, both struggling to differentiate from the other and survive under brutal Roman rule. Once Christianity became the official state religion of the Roman Empire in the fourth century, anti-Jewish theology paved the way for degrading laws and state-sanctioned persecutions, ghettos, and expulsions.

Centuries of this type of religiously motivated and state-empowered anti-Semitism prepared the way for the Nazi Holocaust. While Christianity did not cause the Holocaust, Christian anti-Judaism and the centuries of anti-Semitism it spawned made the Holocaust possible.

What Is Christian Anti-Semitism?

Let me be clear that Christianity is not anti-Semitic. Hundreds of millions of Bible-based Christians around the world today love Israel and the Jewish people. They understand that Christianity would not exist were it not for the Jewish people and their everlasting covenant with the God of Israel.

But the Bible can be used by twisted minds to say all sorts of things. Hateful people can interpret and quote Scripture in hateful ways and use it to support their anti-Semitic sentiments. When the Christian Scriptures are used by a professing Christian to denigrate the Jewish people and support anti-Semitic tropes and conspiracy theories, then it is referred to as Christian anti-Semitism.

What Is It Based On?

The theological foundation for Christian teaching against the Jewish people is what is known as replacement theology. Replacement theology posits that the Jews were cursed by God for their rejection of Jesus’ messianic credentials and therefore have been replaced by the church in the plans and purposes of God. Historically, this theology often led to the teaching of contempt for the Jews as “Christ-killers” and gave sanction to their maltreatment.

Where Is It Today?

Not everyone who holds to a form of replacement theology is anti-Semitic. Some theologians simply interpret the New Testament in this way—and therefore spiritualize much of the Old Testament to support it—but have absolutely no ill intent toward anyone. Many pastors hold replacement views as a theological assumption yet have never been taught the ramifications of such faulty hermeneutics required to support it.

This more benign form of American Evangelical replacement theology may not be the anti-Semitic version of the past that went on to call for the persecution and demonization of the Jews. Nevertheless, it is the same theological foundation from which Christian anti-Semitism sprouts, and we need to correct it in all its variants.

A well-known pastor of one of the largest churches in America has been publishing his concerns about the loss of Christian faith among young people. He blames the influence of Judaism and the Old Testament, which he describes as irrelevant and having been replaced with the “brand-new and different” teachings and ethics of Jesus. He portrays Judaism as hypocritical, self-righteous, and exclusivist, and claims the apostle Paul considered it an eroding influence on the beauty, simplicity, and appeal of the early church. He even goes so far as to blame the sins of the church throughout history on the influence of Judaism and the Old Testament.

Many scholars agree that the Holocaust could never have happened had it not been for the centuries of Christian anti-Semitism rooted in this type of theology. Therefore, we need to be very concerned about its growth and learn to refute it.

Another lesser-known Evangelical Christian preacher has gone further than theology and is espousing anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Pastor Rick Wiles of the TruNews broadcast has a history of blaming the Jews for everything from the failure of the Iowa Democratic primary app to the impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump—or what he called a “Jew coup.” He also claimed the coronavirus began at the mostly Jewish AIPAC Policy Conference and is spreading via synagogues because God is dealing with “false religions” and “people who oppose His son, Jesus Christ.”

Conclusion

While this generation is privileged to be part of a historic correction in the church’s relations with the Jews, it cannot be taken for granted. Anti-Semitism is on the rise, and dangerous trends within American churches need addressing to protect this budding relationship. It is the American church that can stop anti-Semitism from gaining more ground in the country, but we must begin at home and relegate “Christian anti-Semitism” to the dustbin of history.
 

by Susan Michael, ICEJ USA Director, creator of Israel Answers, and the American Christian Leaders for Israel (ACLI) network


Send a Blessing to the Jewish People

Why does anti-Semitism still exist?

The evil pursuit of the Jewish people has continued for millennia, which is why historian Robert Wistrich called anti-Semitism "the longest hatred." Every time this irrational vitriol seems to be dying out, it reinvents itself with a different look and a different name. But the goal is always the same: to rid the world of the Jewish people.

In the ancient world, classical anti-Semitism was a clash between pagan rulers, who demanded obedient homage, and their Jewish subjects, who could only worship and obey the God of Israel. The Jewish people could not bow down to any other god and were bound by the Sinaitic Law to certain behaviors and observances that set them apart and incurred the wrath of tyrants.

This was the situation described in the book of Esther where the King’s consort Haman demanded the Jews bow to him, and when they would not, he turned the might of the Persian Empire against them. The Hanukkah story takes place under the rule of the Seleucid Emperor Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who attempted to make the Jews into Hellenistic pagans by banning their religious practices and desecrating their temple. 

Religious anti-Semitism

One would think that once Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire, this problem would go away. Instead, anti-Semitism took hold in the heart of Christian Europe, and among those who persecuted and hated the Jewish people were professing Christians. Space does not permit a full treatment of this sad story, but centuries of state and church-backed denigration, persecution, forced conversions, and expulsions actually paved the way for the Holocaust.

Proof of this is found in the fact that Martin Luther’s anti-Semitic writings were published and distributed by the Nazis to justify their anti-Jewish laws and eventually, their extermination program. Hitler admitted as much when he told two Catholic Bishops who questioned his policy that he was only putting into effect what Christianity had preached and practiced for 2,000 years. 

Racial anti-Semitism

The form of anti-Semitism found in Nazi ideology was not based on religion, however, but on racial theories promoting the superiority of the Aryan race. Whereas Christianity had sought the conversion of the Jews, and state leaders had sought their expulsion, the Nazis sought the “final solution” to the Jewish problem—the murder of all Jews and their eradication from the human race. 

Political anti-Semitism

The modern form of anti-Semitism that has found a stronghold and large-scale acceptance today is political. It is against the Jewish state and is called anti-Zionism.

Not all criticism of Israel can be considered anti-Semitic. However, criticism of Israel becomes anti-Semitic when it: 1) delegitimizes the state and questions its right to exist; 2) uses anti-Jewish rhetoric and stereotypes or compares Israelis to Nazis; 3) judges Israel by a different standard than any other nation; or 4) becomes an excuse to attack local Jewish individuals and institutions.

During the 2014 war in Gaza, a defensive war on Israel’s part to prevent further missile launches from Hamas, there were attacks on synagogues and Jewish citizens in France, refrains such as “Jews to the gas” in Germany, the use of swastikas at anti-Israel demonstrations, and anti-Semitic caricatures in newspapers and social media. 

The Face of Evil

While anti-Zionism is the new “socially accepted” expression of anti-Semitism, it is important to note that racism and religious bigotry do still exist. Widespread religious anti-Semitism is found throughout the Muslim world. Interestingly, the secular globalists in the West will not condemn it because of their own anti-Semitic biases.

Anti-Semitism is likened to a virus that never entirely dies but mutates and begins growing again as a new strain needing new treatments. There is no explanation for this but a biblical one. Anti-Semitism is at its root spiritual—the ugly face of evil.

Psalm 83 describes it as a war against God Himself in which the Jews are the target. Revelation 12 describes it as war by spiritual forces depicted as a dragon.

It is, therefore, imperative that Christians stand up against this evil influence vocally, politically, and aggressively—but also with much prayer.

by Susan Michael, ICEJ USA Director, creator of Israel Answers, and the American Christian Leaders for Israel (ACLI) network


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How Anti-Semitic Alliances Unite Enemies

One of the first lessons we learn in the history of anti-Semitism is that hatred makes strange bedfellows. The oddest of partnerships have been formed around a common enemy. 

Nazi Alliance with Islam

An example of this friendship between enemies is that of the Nazi regime, which believed in Aryan supremacy, and the Muslim world, which seeks to assert Muslim supremacy. The two worlds would have collided over much of their respective ideologies but found a common bond that overshadowed all points of disagreement.
 
That unifying bond was their hatred for the Jew. The same paranoid worldview and irrational anti-Semitism that drove the Nazis then drives Islamist terrorism today. While it is true that Islamist ideology has theological foundations found in the Koran, the modern militant and delusional obsession with anti-Semitism was birthed during the Nazi period.
 
The conduit for this ideology was Haj Amin El-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, and the movement that he helped to lead—the Muslim Brotherhood. Haj Amin El-Husseini’s anti-Semitism pre-dated Nazism, but from 1941 onward, he lived in Berlin, overseeing a staff of 60 Arabs who worked night and day promoting Nazism in the Arabic-speaking world. The German leaders were enamored with the Mufti and provided a steady stream of funds and arms to his followers in Palestine. Scholars debate whether he had the idea first or not, but the Mufti clearly backed the plan to exterminate Europe’s Jews to keep them from fleeing to their ancient homeland.
 
After the fall of the Nazi regime, El-Husseini found asylum in Egypt where he served in the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood. Through that organization, he converted Nazi ideology into a militant, Islamic one and took the call for Jihad and martyrdom throughout the Muslim world. 

Islamic Anti-Semitism

The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in 1928 in Egypt, and by the end of the Nazi regime in 1945, they already had 500,000 sympathizers.  Their manifesto is “Allah is our goal, the prophet our model, the Koran our constitution, the Jihad our path, and death for the sake of Allah the loftiest of our wishes.” 
 
They are credited with birthing the jihadist culture of death and the various groups committed to it, including Hamas, Khomeini’s revolution in Iran, and Al-Qaeda. This history explains the Hitler-like rhetoric of Muslim leaders today, for example in Iran, and their espousal of the same delusional and paranoid worldview, dehumanizing of Jews, and calls for their annihilation. 

Anti-Semitic Alliances Today

The lesson for us today is hatred makes strange bedfellows indeed! In our own country, we see the illogical alignment of the Progressive, secular left with the religious, Islamic movement led by the Muslim Brotherhood—a union that would be absolutely impossible were it not for their shared hatred of Israel. It is the classic example of the saying, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
 
We see this alliance in many ways, such as anti-Israel ideologues who blame Israel for security measures but refuse to address the abuse of the Palestinian people by their own corrupt and failed Arab leadership. In the same way, the women’s movement condemns Israel—where women make up 25% of parliament and serve in the military—and ignore the oppression and outright abuse of women in the Muslim world. Secular Human Rights activists do not speak out on behalf of Christians around the world suffering persecution and martyrdom for their faith, because most of this takes place in Muslim countries.
 
This alliance will also never speak out against the rising anti-Semitism in America, so we must. Christians in America are THE voice against anti-Semitism in the United States, and with your help, we intend to make it loud and clear

by Susan Michael, ICEJ USA Director, creator of Israel Answers, and the American Christian Leaders for Israel (ACLI) network


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How ‘Righteous’ Does One Need to Be?

The historical account of the Holocaust would not be complete without the amazing stories of the brave individuals who risked their lives to save Jews. This is why Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Memorial, works tirelessly to locate and honor them as “Righteous Among the Nations.”

While it can be said the majority of Europeans turned their backs on the Jews, there was an amazing minority who helped them. They are rays of light in an otherwise very dark era. They restore our hope in humanity.

Many studies have been conducted to determine what gave these brave souls the courage and moral strength to be rescuers. And while we evangelical Christians would like to think that they were all very spiritual Christians who understood the biblical significance of the Jewish people, nothing could be further from the truth.

Yes, there were those lovely Christian saints such as Corrie ten Boom’s father who read from the Bible every day and was motivated to rescue Jews by his strong Christian faith. We think of the ten Boom family as truly being “righteous.” But most rescuers were just regular every day people.

The 27,362 Righteous documented by Yad Vashem so far come from 51 countries; they are Christians (from all denominations) as well as Muslims, religious and agnostic, men and women, people from all walks of life, of all ages, educated professionals and illiterate peasants, rich and poor. Some were even anti-Semitic. The only common denominator between these brave souls is the humanity and the courage they displayed by standing up for their moral principles.

What gave them the courage and moral strength to do what they did? What made them risk execution, or imprisonment, and endanger their own families?

Most studies agree that the rescuers all exhibited strong individuality. They were independent and did not need the approval of others. They also had strong convictions about helping the weak. Most said that the fact that the needy individual was a Jew had no bearing on their decision to help. They simply felt they should help those needing their help.

So how righteous does one need to be to rescue Jews? Actually, not righteous at all. We just need to care about those around us who are suffering and needy. How could something so basic to humanity as caring for others have been so rare?

How could there not have been more evangelical Christians in their ranks? That is the real question.

- by Susan Michael, ICEJ USA Director, creator of Israel Answers, and the American Christian Leaders for Israel (ACLI) network


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