By DAVID LAZARUS, ISRAEL TODAY—
Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has issued a last-minute statement suggesting Christians steer clear of the “Christ at the Checkpoint” (CatC) conference that opens tomorrow (Monday) in Palestinian-held Bethlehem. The statement, which came in response to an investigative inquiry by Israel Today, regards the CatC conference as a serious long-term threat to Israel’s security.
In a personal correspondence with Israel Today, an MFA official said that “unfortunately, we well know about the conference,” explaining that for the Israeli government, the event “is particularly problematic, because it is designed for the evangelical Christian leadership – an extremely important audience to us.”
The official provided statement from the MFA is as follows:
“The attempt to use religious motifs in order to mobilize political propaganda and agitate the feelings of the faithful through the manipulation of religion and politics is an unacceptable and shameful act. Using religion for the purpose of incitement in the service of political interests stains the person who does it with a stain of indelible infamy.”
“Using religion for incitement”
In this unprecedented advisory, the Israeli government has taken the dramatic step of warning Christians that an Evangelical Christian event is “using religion for the purpose of incitement.” The Israeli government issued the warning as it became clear that Palestinian evangelicals at CatC are misusing Christian teachings to inflame anti-Israeli passions. Government officials are concerned that the “blame Israel” propaganda coming out of events like CatC ultimately serves, even if unintentionally, to encourage violence and stir up even more radical Islamic terror.
The Israeli government recognizes that depicting Christ suffering at the Bethlehem checkpoint under the heavy-booted and trigger-happy Jews is just the type of religion-fueled imagery that has in years past resulted in the worst kind of Christian anti-Semitism.
“Stains the person with indelible infamy”
When the government of Israel needs to put out an official warning about a group of evangelical Christians saying that they are “stained with indelible infamy,” they mean business. The government of Israel has made it clear that those who participate in this type of religious manipulation to incitement are marked, both figuratively, and as a focus of further action on the part of the authorities in Jerusalem.
“We have already actively targeted specific participants in the conference, as well as leaders of the groups who will attend the event, in a coordinated effort to expose them to our side of the story,” the MFA told Israel Today.
Furthermore, the government has indicated that it considers certain people involved in CatC to have a reputation for being involved in malicious acts against the state. For example, it was recently revealed that some of the leading figures at CatC have very close ties to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement that aims to delegitimize and ultimately to undermine entirely the Jewish state. (See the Bethlehem Call, which was co-authored by one of the CatC organizers and is linked to from the conference’s website)
Evangelical Friend or Foe?
That Jerusalem is so aware and concerned about CatC should be encouraging news to Evangelical Christians around the world. The government of Israel finds them “an extremely important audience,” and the goal of the conference is clearly to drive a wedge between Christians and the State of Israel. Christians around the world should continue to heed the government’s call to distance themselves from the dangerous and politically-motivated propaganda of Christ at the Checkpoint.