Evangelical Christians cautioned against 'either-or' stance on Israel-Palestine

(Photo: Unsplash/Cole Keister)

Evangelical Christians should not take an 'either-or' stance on support for Israel or the Palestinians, American-Israeli bestselling author Joel Rosenberg warned at the 9/11 and New Middle East Conference in New York over the weekend.

Mr Rosenberg was being interviewed by Mitch Glaser, president of Chosen People Ministries, co-organiser of the conference, on its second day on Saturday, held to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the terror attacks on the World Trade Center.

An Israeli citizen, Joel Rosenberg is a founder member of the other Jewish Christian organisation behind the conference, the Alliance for the Peace of Jerusalem.

The New York Times best-selling author of The Last Jihad said: "God is not an either-or God. He doesn't love one side to the exclusion of the other. He is a both-and God.

"Too much of evangelicalism has split into camps. They are either pro-Israel and therefore they feel they don't even need to talk about Palestinians or their language or their tone is hostile."

In the other camp, he said, some evangelicals "can be hostile to Israel. They consider Israel an apartheid state or colonialist, imperialist".

The right way forward for evangelicals, he said, is to "love the Palestinian people and want dignity and the protection of their human rights and their religious freedom without wanting the destruction of the State of Israel".

He denied that Israel is an apartheid state.

"Arabs serve on our Supreme Court. They serve as judges, as police officers, as the heads of our banks. They can form political parties, they can vote, we have members of the Knesset who are Arabs. That is not apartheid," he said.

Mr Rosenberg called on the Church to "take the lead in loving Israel and her neighbours and not thinking that it is a zero-sum game".

"That is not the way Jesus played it. That is not what he teaches us," he said.

A Saudi Arabian convert to Christianity from Islam also addressed the conference. Coming to the US as a graduate student, he was influenced by a Christian family who befriended him. In the US, he attended church for the first time in his life in May 2001 and went regularly.

The Sunday after September 11th, he was afraid to go to church "because I was so worried that people would be upset with me given that 15 out of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi".

But he went to the church and heard a transformative message from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew's Gospel. He became a Christian two months later.

He said "my own feelings towards the Jews that I used to hate with a passion growing up as a Muslim" were transformed because he realised the central place of the chosen people of God, Israel, in the Bible's unfolding story of salvation for all people.

"My attitude towards the Jews has changed," he said. "I am so thankful to be able to call the Messianic Jews my brothers and sisters in Christ."

Esther Allen, senior director of communications at the Alliance for the Peace of Jerusalem, told the conference about a study the group did of American evangelical views on Israel in 2017. The report found that "there were a growing number of evangelicals, particularly those among the younger generation, who did not have a concern for or a biblical conviction of God's role for Israel".

"As a rising generation seeks to care for the oppressed, many see the only victims as Palestinians. Many of us don't know our history and as we read our Bibles for ourselves we dangerously apply promises only to ourselves, forsaking God's larger story and losing God's heart and plans for Israel and the Jewish people," she said.

Other speakers on the second day included Dr Michael Rydelnik, Professor of Jewish Studies and Bible at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and Dr Darrell Bock, host of Dallas Theological Seminary's Table Podcasts.