What We Thought of the Rev. Billy Graham: Jonathan S. Tobin, JNS, Feb. 23, 2018— Perhaps the saddest thing about the death of the Rev. Billy Graham on Feb. 21, at the age of 99, was the fact that virtually every obituary gave prominent mention to what was arguably his worst moment.
Mike Pence’s Faith, Israel and Middle East Policy: Ron Kampeas, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 24, 2018— When Mike Pence moved to Washington earlier this year, he and his wife took with them a framed phrase they had for years hung over their fireplace in their Indiana home, and then over the fireplace in the governor’s mansion in that state.
Restoring Persecuted Middle East Christians’ Faith in America: Johny Messo, Gatestone Institute, Jan. 21, 2018— Without urgent action on the part of the United States, Christianity in biblically historic lands, such as Iraq, Syria and Turkey, will be clinically dead before the year 2030.
Dealing with the Devil: Pope Francis, Erdogan, and Jerusalem: Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Times of Israel, Feb. 18, 2018— The sudden explosion of hostilities between Iran and Israel points to the seemingly permanent instability of the Middle East – which makes the recent 50-minute meeting between Pope Francis and Turkish President Erdogan all the more disturbing.
Jewish Leaders Mourn the Passing of Reverend Billy Graham, Friend of Israel: Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz, Breaking Israel News, Feb. 21, 2018
Infidel Women: Spoils of War: Raymond Ibrahim, Gatestone Institute, Feb. 17, 2018
Closing Down Christianity at its Source: Paul Merkley, Bayview Review, Dec. 21, 2018
America’s 20 Most Influential Pro-Israel Evangelical Christians: Eliana Rudee, Breaking Israel News, Dec. 24, 2017
Jonathan S. Tobin
JNS, Feb. 23, 2018
Perhaps the saddest thing about the death of the Rev. Billy Graham on Feb. 21, at the age of 99, was the fact that virtually every obituary gave prominent mention to what was arguably his worst moment. Graham was a giant of American evangelism, whose worldwide fame as a preacher eclipsed that of any American religious figure of the 20th century. But it was impossible to do an assessment of a life full of achievements without also talking about the fact that he was caught on tape expressing antisemitic sentiments while speaking with former President Richard Nixon.
The comments — in which he spoke of his negative feelings about his many Jewish friends and his belief that a Jewish “stranglehold” on the media was destroying the country — were indeed despicable. Graham said those words in 1972, not knowing that Nixon’s taping system would preserve them for eternity. When former Nixon aide H.R. Haldeman first revealed them in 1994, few believed the kindly churchman was capable of speaking in that fashion. Years later, when the Nixon library released the tapes in 2002, there was no denying what he said. Graham publicly apologized and asked the Jewish community for forgiveness. The real damage here was not so much the hurt feelings that the comments caused as much as the way it confirmed the negative opinions that so many in the community already held about Evangelical Christians.
The profound distrust among liberal American Jews bordering on contempt for Evangelicals in general and Christian conservatives in particular is so pervasive as to be unremarkable. That it often crosses over into religious prejudice is something few in the American Jewish community — which tends to think of religious bias as something only done to them, rather than what they can possibly do to others — think actually occurs. Most Jews also rarely consider the vital role these same Christians play in maintaining support for Israel and opposing antisemitism.
While his message of faith inspired countless numbers of people who flocked to hear his sermons at his “crusades,” Graham was not a profound religious philosopher. His homespun, God-centered philosophy and strict views about sex was not the sort of things most liberal Jews contemplated with respect. So in that sense, Jewish opinion about Graham, which was often negative even before the public learned of his conversation with Nixon, illustrates both the difficult nature of the relationship between Jews and Evangelicals, as well as the need to rise above negative attitudes that are rooted in the prejudices of the past, rather than on the needs and realities of the present. The salient point about Graham is not so much what he was taped telling the president, but that in his public life he was an important friend of the Jewish people, even though most Jews often dismissed him as the epitome of a “holly roller” who hated Jews.
Graham was an early and impassioned supporter of Israel. A much-publicized tour of the country in 1960 helped galvanize support for the Jewish state among Evangelicals at a time when sympathy for Zionism in this country was far greater among liberals than among conservatives, who were Graham’s base of supporters. He was willing to stand with Israel when it was both popular and unpopular, publicly urging it not to endanger its security and even producing a film about it that’s still popular among Christian audiences. He was also an early and influential supporter of the cause of freedom for Soviet Jewry.
There will be those who will look back on his antisemitic remarks as “proof” that Evangelicals are not sincere about their love for Israel and their friendship for the Jews. But such reasoning ought to be rejected by thinking people. As George Will pointed out in a not particularly sympathetic appreciation of Graham in The Washington Post, the famous preacher’s predilection for fawning over world leaders (including Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, as viewers of Netflix’s series “The Crown” learned) may have been the real reason for his comments to Nixon. One can, as he put it, “acquit him of anti-Semitism only by convicting him of toadying.”
But there was more to the man than that gaffe or any other foolish statements uttered in several decades in the limelight. Born in North Carolina in 1918 and the grandson of two Confederate soldiers, Graham was a product of an era in the American South in which antisemitism and racial bigotry were commonplace. But Graham was able to transcend those prejudices to become an opponent of segregation, as well as a very public supporter of Jewish causes.
His willingness to embrace Israel is significant because the world in which he made his mark as an international religious celebrity was not one in which Jews were widely accepted. Nor was his advocacy for Zionism rooted in dispensationalist beliefs about Jews being converted and bringing on the end of days. Unlike some Evangelicals — and in spite of the fact that conversions were a prominent part of his ministry — Graham opposed proselytizing Jews, reminding Christians that seeking to impose faith on those who resisted such overtures was wrong.
Seen in that context, a Jewish rejection of Graham and the tens of millions of other Evangelicals not only makes no sense, but also is deeply self-destructive. Why continue to question the good intentions of people who not only think well of Israel, but also donate generously to charities that help Jews (as Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein’s International Fellowship of Christians and Jews has proved) and who only vote for candidates that support Israel with a single-minded mindset that most Jews reject.
In remembering Billy Graham, Jews can acknowledge his flaws, but they must also understand how much good he did not just for his own flock of believers, but for them as well. At a time when Israel remains beset by hatred and many are urging boycotts rooted in antisemitic animosity, friends like Billy Graham — and all the many other evangelicals who followed in his footsteps in support of Israel — should be embraced, rather than disdained. To do otherwise says more about our own prejudices against Christians than it does about the shortcomings of Evangelicals.
Jerusalem Post, Jan. 24, 2018
When Mike Pence moved to Washington earlier this year, he and his wife took with them a framed phrase they had for years hung over their fireplace in their Indiana home, and then over the fireplace in the governor’s mansion in that state. Now it hangs over the mantle at the vice president’s residence at the Naval Observatory in Washington D.C. The words, from the Book of Jeremiah, read: “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you, and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope, and a future.”
The “you” is the people of Israel, and Pence, an evangelical Christian, makes that clear when he addresses pro-Israel audiences. “They’re words to which my family has repaired to as generations of Americans have done so throughout our history, and the people of Israel through all their storied history have clung,” Pence said last August at the annual conference of Christians United for Israel. Pence took that message to Israel this week on a trip ostensibly aimed in part at reviving the prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace. He is seen as a key Trump administration figure when it comes to Israel policy and reportedly helped nudge the president to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital
Pence’s first visit to Israel as vice president led some to ask to what degree are his views — and the administration’s policies — shaped by the brand of evangelical Christianity that invests his faith? Pence, a convert to evangelical Christianity from Roman Catholicism, has spooked some liberals with his insistence on rooting his pro-Israel bona fides in faith as much as realpolitik considerations of the United States’ national security. Their fear is that a messianic outlook might run riot over one of the most delicate dilemmas facing successive US governments, namely stability in the Middle East.
“Trump has handed Israel policy to Evangelicals,” The Forward’s Jane Eisner wrote last week in an editorial as Pence headed to Israel. “That’s terrifying.” Like many liberals, she worries that policy will be driven by evangelical beliefs that certain conditions — like Jewish control over the West Bank and sovereignty in Jerusalem — fulfill biblical prophecies.
Republicans and conservatives say that it is reductive to believe that Pence shapes his views solely according to the tenets of his faith. “They always highlight the fact that he’s an evangelical, as if that’s a pejorative when in fact [Pence and other evangelicals] are motivated first and foremost by shared values with Israel,” said Matt Brooks, the director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, who has known Pence for years. “And not just by the shared values, but the important efforts of collectively standing up to threats of Iran, pushing back on ISIS, and on radical Islam, or whether it’s being a critical democratic foundation in a very dangerous place. There are so many places where US and Israel’s interests intersect.”
Pence began his speech to the Knesset by outlining the shared values Brooks described. “We stand with Israel because your cause is our cause, your values are our values, and your fight is our fight,” he said. “We stand with Israel because we believe in right over wrong, in good over evil and in liberty over tyranny.” But he quickly pivoted to depict support of Israel as both biblical (Deuteronomy 30:4, to be exact) and rooted in an American strain of Christianity. “Down through the generations, the American people became fierce advocates of the Jewish people’s aspiration to return to the land of your forefathers, to claim your own new birth of freedom in your beloved homeland,” he said to applause. “The Jewish people held fast to a promise through all the ages, written so long ago, that ‘even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens,’ from there He would gather and bring you back to the land which your fathers possessed.”
Pastor John Hagee, the founder of Christians United for Israel, described a natural trajectory for evangelical supporters of Israel from biblical belief to the more practical modern reasons for supporting the state. “The promises of the Hebrew Bible are the foundation of Christian Zionism, but our motivations for supporting Israel do not end there,” he told JTA in an email. “We see in Israel a democracy that shares Western values and is a force for stability in the Middle East. While standing with Israel is a Biblical mandate, it is also a moral imperative and in the national security interests of the US. I am confident that all three of these considerations inform the Vice President’s approach to the Middle East and I believe that is perfectly appropriate.”
Pence has since the outset of his political career made it clear that his support for Israel is first grounded in biblical precepts. “My support for Israel stems largely from my personal faith,” he told Congressional Quarterly in 2002, a year after he was first elected to Congress. “God promises Abraham, ‘those who bless you, I will bless, and those who curse you, I will curse.’” Sarah Posner, a journalist who for years has tracked evangelicals, said Pence’s faith seemed to be preeminent in his consideration of Israel. “I don’t think he is thinking about that in terms of shared democracy or not shared democracy, he’s thinking about it providential terms, that these missions are God’s plans for Israel,” said Posner, a reporting fellow at The Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Gatestone Institute, Jan. 21, 2018
Without urgent action on the part of the United States, Christianity in biblically historic lands, such as Iraq, Syria and Turkey, will be clinically dead before the year 2030. The current administration in Washington has expressed, in words, that this situation cannot be tolerated. It is time now for deeds, as well, to reverse the previous administrations’ virtual abandonment of Christians in the Middle East to the fate of persecution at the hands of Islamists.
In September 2007, then-Senator Obama wrote a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, expressing “concern for Iraq’s Christian and other non-Muslim religious minorities, including Catholic Chaldeans, Syriac Orthodox, Assyrian, Armenian and Protestant Christians, as well as smaller Yazidi and Sabean Mandaean communities.” Obama warned: “These communities appear to be targeted by Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish militants… And according to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, ‘violence against members of Iraq’s Christian community occurs throughout the country’… Such violence bespeaks a humanitarian crisis of grave proportions. The severe violations of religious freedom faced by members of these indigenous communities, and their potential extinction from their ancient homeland, is deeply alarming… and demand an urgent response from our government.”
In spite of Senator Obama’s having addressed the growing threat to Christians and other ethno-religious minorities in Iraq, their situation would only deteriorate during the eight years of his presidency. While President George W. Bush may have opened the gates of hell for Iraq’s Christians, President Obama not only widened them, but unleashed the demons on Syria. The following give some idea of this downward spiral: Before the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, after earlier underreported exoduses of Christians from the country, there were 1.4 million Christians in Iraq, making up 5.4% of its overall population of 26 million. Today, 15 years later, Iraq’s Christian population stands at less than 250,000, a drop of 82%, and a mere 0.65% of Iraq’s general and much larger population of 38 million. In 2011, there were 1.8 – 2 million Christians in Syria, who made up 8% of the country’s total population of 23 million. Today, less than seven years later, no more than 500,000 Christians, out of a total population of 18.2 million can be found in their war-torn homeland — a drop of more than 72%.
The classical Christian populations in the Middle East consist of Copts, Greeks, Armenians and Arameans — the latter being the indigenous people of Southeast Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. As a stateless Semitic people, who live in a global diaspora, the Arameans include the traditionally Aramaic-speaking churches of the Syriac Orthodox, Syriac Catholics, Chaldeans, Nestorians (also known as Assyrians), Maronites, Melkite Orthodox and Melkite Catholics. Their incessant pleas and cries for help from the international community seem to have fallen on deaf ears for more than a decade; these Middle Eastern Christians feel abandoned and betrayed by both the United Nations and America. Statements emerging from the Trump administration, however, have given rise to new hope. Addressing the “In Defense of Christians” summit in Washington at the end of October, Vice President Mike Pence delivered a message that “help is on the way.” Declaring that the U.N. “has too often failed to help the most vulnerable communities… [and] too often denies their funding requests,” Pence promised that “from this day forward, America will provide support directly to persecuted [Christian] communities through USAID.”…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Rabbi Abraham Cooper
Times of Israel, Feb. 18, 2018
The sudden explosion of hostilities between Iran and Israel points to the seemingly permanent instability of the Middle East – which makes the recent 50-minute meeting between Pope Francis and Turkish President Erdogan all the more disturbing. Why would the Pope appear so relaxed, collegial and accepting of one of the most volatile leaders of our day? Why did he let stand Erdogan’s claim that the two of them see eye to eye about Jerusalem?
Ostensibly, this new strange alliance grew out of President Trump’s recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Neither of these two leaders is a friend of Donald Trump. But Erdogan is a supporter of Hamas and a frequent demonizer of the Jewish State. Pope Francis is not. Trump’s Jerusalem announcement simply does not suffice to explain this new apparent geopolitical partnership. The US President made clear that the final map of Jerusalem would be left to Israel and the Palestinians to figure out. He did not recognize Israeli sovereignty over any part of the city. Indeed, the reaction of the Arab world was generally muted. Calls for another Intifada fell on deaf ears. So why would the Pope, in effect, encourage a leader who constantly strives to ignite the flickering embers of Palestinian violence in the crucible of faiths that is Jerusalem?
Does the Pontiff believe that weakening Israel’s control of the holy places, in place since 1967, would strengthen Christendom? In all those decades, Israel has been a protector of religious freedoms. It is her police who are called in by disputing Christian denominations to restore peace when physical violence breaks out between factions. In 2018, the Church bells ring throughout the Holy City and the Vatican’s flag flies atop its properties across all sectors of Jerusalem, something that was impossible to conceive of when the Ottoman Empire was in charge. And while the Ottomans were not particularly into religious fanaticism, Erdogan has been pushing Turkey– once the role model of a Muslim secular state– down the road towards extreme Islamization. Does this pope believe that Christian interests will be safer with an Islamist state with which Israel’s enemies want to replace Israel?
Hard to believe when the Pope daily reads reports on the fate of the shrinking presence of threatened Christian minorities in many Arab and Muslim countries, where Christians face discrimination, persecution, and even death. Could it be about taxes? Israel has attempted to tax the property of churches that is not used for religious purposes, and Rome is not happy about that. But Israel is hardly alone. The same conflict has taken place in Italy, Maryland, Maine, Massachusetts, and Montreal. In fact, taxation in the United States of church-owned property that does not serve a religious function is the rule, not the exception.
Getting cozy with the tyrannical Erdogan is a strange way to jockey for a tax break for the Vatican. Perhaps the Pope was blind-sided by the wily Turkish leader. No. Even before their meeting, Erdogan announced that the two of them were of a common mind regarding Jerusalem. If the Pope was walking into a trap, he could have politely but firmly used the meeting to create some distance between the two. This never happened. The ugliest possibility is that the Vatican has signaled a shift from its policies of the last decades. There are conservative elements in the Vatican who are unhappy over the rapprochement with the Jews that was engineered by the last few popes. These forces would lose no sleep if the current occupant of the Throne of St. Peter will jeopardize that relationship.
There are those in the Church hierarchy who would argue that the Vatican stands more to gain by currying favor with Muslims. Let Jewish concerns be damned; Israel won’t turn around and persecute the Christian faithful, while Muslims, they fear, are more likely to do just that. It is difficult to fathom, however, that any Church leader could think that such an approach would do anything but hasten and seal Christian dhimmitude in a Middle East. Sometimes, even the inscrutable ways of G-d make more sense than the decisions of those who speak in His name. Aquinas, Maimonides, and Ibn Rushd together would not be able to make sense out of the Pope’s dangerous Middle East move. Getting in bed with the Erdogan will not serve the Divine. It will only strengthen the devil.
CIJR Wishes All Our Friends & Supporters: Shabbat Shalom!
Jewish Leaders Mourn the Passing of Reverend Billy Graham, Friend of Israel: Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz, Breaking Israel News, Feb. 21, 2018—Reverend Billy Graham, a powerful advocate of Israel and one of the most influential Evangelical leaders of the era, passed away on Wednesday at the age of 99. In a career that spanned six decades and reached all corners of the world, his message of faith was listened too by over 215 million followers. Recently, Newsmax voted Reverend Graham one of the most influential Evangelicals in America, praising him for his influence that crossed all boundaries.
Infidel Women: Spoils of War: Raymond Ibrahim, Gatestone Institute, Feb. 17, 2018—One aspect of radical Islamist aggression that is overlooked – or purposely ignored – by Western liberals is that non-Muslim women tend to be its greatest victims. According to a recent Open Doors study, “Christian women are among the most violated in the world, in maybe a way that we haven’t seen before.” The study revealed that six women are raped every day simply for being Christian.
Closing Down Christianity at its Source: Paul Merkley, Bayview Review, Dec. 21, 2018—The Muslim campaign to extirpate Christianity has been inaugurated at the place of the birth of Jesus– and no one seems to have noticed. The Mayor of Bethlehem, has decreed that, in protest of President Trump’s recent declaration that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, it is necessary for him to close down Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus. The result has been catastrophic for Bethlehem’s Christmas trade.
America’s 20 Most Influential Pro-Israel Evangelical Christians: Eliana Rudee, Breaking Israel News, Dec. 24, 2017—Newsmax has recently published its 100 Most Influential Evangelicals in America list, ranking pastors, teachers, politicians, athletes, and entertainers “from all walks of life whose faith leads them to live differently and to help others in a variety of ways.” Breaking Israel News wondered: How many of these prominent Christians use their influence to support Israel through investment and advocacy? Below, find BIN’s exclusive list of the top 20 pro-Israel Christians in America.