Israel Unfairly Attacked in the News
March 19th - Two days before the Easter holiday, the Wall Street Journal published an article that portrayed Israel as a country that discriminates against and persecutes Palestinian Christians. The article was inaccurately reported and employed erroneous facts and figures, which were not vetted by the Wall Street Journal before going to print. The article was a clear-cut example of a politically motivated attempt to damage Israel’s reputation; it was slander. Our Director of Outreach, Jordanna McMillan, immediately responded to the Wall Street Journal, highlighting the outrageous bias in the article. Jordanna's response, published in the March 19th WSJ, can be read here.
This article is just the tip of the iceberg in a wave of recent media coverage focused on Israel’s supposed mistreatment of Christians– both in Israel and in the West Bank. This campaign is being spearheaded by the anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian, pro-BDS movement and their Christian sympathizers, who are successfully executing a sustained smear campaign, designed to damage Israel’s credibility as a tolerant, democratic society. This aggressive campaign has culminated in such events as the vehemently anti-Israel “Christ at the Checkpoint” earlier this year. The goal of this initiative is to dislodge Christian support for Israel. So far it has been unsuccessful, however it is a worrying trend which seems to be gaining momentum.
Israel is no stranger to a biased, anti-Israel media; however, generally the bias is subtler, harder to point at. The bias usually manifests in an unfavorable choice of words, distorted imagery, subjective story telling, skewed narratives… rarely is the bias so blatant, so pronounced as reveals itself in Richard Stearns’s piece in the Washington Post, entitled "A dark Easter for Palestinian Christians." However, when Israel is defamed so overtly, it presents an opportunity for Israel’s advocates to draw attention to this insidious strategy, and to set the record straight. Israeli Ambassador to the United States Dr. Michael Oren did so in a response to the Washington Post article, which was again reported by the Religious News Service (with no apparent apology) and was picked up and posted by the online newspaper, the Huffington Post. Ambassador Oren declared the Washington Post article as “libelous” and wrote:
“Israel has provided more than 20,000 permits this year for Palestinian Christians to enter Jerusalem for the Good Friday and Easter holidays. Five-hundred similar permits have also been issued to the remaining Christians of Gaza, though the area is under the control of the terrorist organization Hamas.
"With the exception of the very few individuals who have raised security concerns, and not withstanding the measures we must take to protect our citizens, any Christian from the West Bank can reach Jerusalem on Good Friday and Easter. All allegations to the contrary are flagrantly untrue and represent a reckless attempt to defame the Jewish State.”
The problem is this: The Washington Post has a daily circulation of over 500,000 and that does not come close to it’s on-line readership. How many people read the libelous Washington Post article? And out of those who were exposed to Stearns’s slander, who consumed the unchecked and undeniably false information published by the Washington Post, how many of those readers saw the correction deeply imbedded in the culture section of the Huffington Post the next day? My point is that the damage has been done and Stearns will suffer little, if any, repercussions for the character assassination perpetrated against the Jewish homeland, and therein lies a profound injustice.
To their credit, the Israeli Diplomatic Corps has been proactive in stepping up efforts to reach out to Israel’s Christian friends in order to defuse some of the misunderstandings, false accusations and straight up lies that have been thrown at Israel of late. Ambassador Oren has played a leading role in tackling this poisonous campaign against Israel. Oren is especially qualified to lead this effort, as he is keenly aware of the important role Christians have played in realizing and safeguarding the Zionist dream. In fact this was the very thesis of his 2007 best selling history “Power, Faith and Fantasy”. Thankfully, the Government of Israel seem to have finally come to understand that Christians have a huge stake in the future of the Jewish state, not only because the Christian Bible explains, in no uncertain terms, that the destiny of the Jewish and Christian peoples are inextricably linked, but because the Christians have a legacy in the land of Israel that dates back to long before the formation of the modern State of Israel.
The efforts of Ambassador Oren, the Israeli diplomatic corps and Israel’s Christian friends have been a voice of reason amidst the confusion caused by the repeated attempts by Israel’s enemies to damage the alliance between Israel and the world’s Bible-believing Christians. Israel’s defenders, battling in the war of ideas, suffered a small loss this Easter, with Stearns’s successful perpetration of a blood libel, however the war to defend Israel and ensure her future wages on and there is work to be done.
Therefore I ask you to pass this message on to as many people as you know so we can begin to get the record straight. Please pray that our collective efforts may help to secure the only democracy in the Middle East – Israel – where Israeli Christians worship freely and Palestinian Christians, along with Christians from all over the world, are welcomed to enjoy the religious freedoms championed by the Government of Israel.