A new evangelical film, “With God on Our Side,” is coming out this month in an attempt to persuade pro Israel Christians to champion the Palestinian cause.
Porter Speakman, the movie’s producer, has explained that it “takes a look at the theology of Christian Zionism, which teaches that… the Jews are G-d’s chosen people have a divine right to the land of Israel… This film demonstrates that there is a biblical alternative for Christians who want to love and support the people of Israel, a theology that doesn’t favor one people group over another but instead promotes peace and reconciliation for both Jews and Palestinians.”
Speakman said that the film’s title was inspired by the incident in the Book of Joshua (5:13-14) in which Joshua asks an angel who appears at the battlefront, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” and the angel answers, “Neither. I am the commander of G-d’s army.” Speakman said, “We believe this verse is still true today, that G-d does not take sides with certain people groups, nations or agendas.”
The film’s trailer claims, “Palestinian Christians lived here for centuries in this land. Suddenly they meet Christian groups of people who say you are obstacles to the second coming of Jesus. You need to move out to make room for the Jewish diaspora to come here.”
Christian Arabs living in Israel have equal rights and complete freedom of religion. Those living in Palestinian Authority controlled areas lack basic rights and many have left for this reason.
Writing for Front Page magazine, Mark Tooley, President of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, notes that “anti-Israel activists rightly see American evangelicals as key to U.S. support for Israel. That is why they are targeting evangelicals with messages of pro-Palestinian solidarity as supposedly central to Christian compassion.”
Most of the millions of Evangelical Christians in the United States are staunch supporters of Israel politically.
Tooley explains that the film is an attempt to undermine Christian beliefs about modern-day Israel: “Here, of course, is the simplistic stereotype about pro-Israel evangelicals the film hopes to perpetuate. American evangelicals self-servingly only support Israel because a Jewish presence there is central to their bloody thirsty, apocalyptic dreams about the Second Coming. The film soothingly implores evangelicals to consider a nicer path.”
Tooley writes that the film’s main message to evangelicals, is that the “Old Religious Right crassly imposed a pro-Israel U.S. foreign policy based on its end-times theology, creating untold suffering among largely innocent Palestinians,” whereas “more thoughtful, more compassionate evangelicals” must instead stand with the Palestinians as “the victim group most needing Christian compassion.” Tooley calls this a “new mythology that the Evangelical Left hopes to perpetuate about the Middle East.”
The film interviews Ben White, an anti-Israel British journalist; Stephen Sizer, a Church of England priest and anti-Israel author who infamously has taken his message to Iran; Gary Burge, a professor at evangelical Wheaton College outside Chicago who is a critic of pro-Israel evangelicals; and Salim Munayer, a professor at Bethlehem Bible College, which markets Palestinian Liberation Theology.
Munayer says that American evangelicals must be more concerned about their self-image. “You need to understand how American Christians have been perceived by Middle Easterners,” Tooley quotes him as saying. “We stand for wars, we want to be richer, we don’t care for the poor, we want only our interests, we stand for moral values that stand for our desires. We stand for power and not stand for peace.”
Tooley sums up:
“ ‘With God on Our Side’ wants increased U.S. pressure on Israel to accommodate Palestinian demands, facilitated by reduced U.S. evangelical support for Israel. And the ultimate goal is what? A Palestinian state based on the unstable 1967 borders and ruled by Islamists like Hamas or kleptocratic secularists like Fatah? Or is it to dismantle Israel altogether in favor of a single nation, where an unrestricted ‘right of return’ for Palestinians leads to a collapse of Jewish democracy? How are the dwindling numbers of Palestinian Christians faring under Palestinian rule now, and how would they fare under a victorious new, Islamic-dominated Palestinian state?
“Mostly, the Evangelical Left would prefer not to answer these questions, instead preferring guilt trips about supposed evangelical and American imperialist sins, and fantasies about a newly liberated and Christian friendly ‘Palestine.’ Fortunately, most evangelicals will remain un-persuaded, despite the saccharine appeal of a film like...’”