By Jan Markel
Here we go again. Another Christ at the Checkpoint(CATC) conference is set to launch March 10-14. It’s another tragic event that tells half-truths and hardly the entire story. The theme is “Christ at the Checkpoint III: Your Kingdom Come.” It’s based on the Lord’s Prayer and how Christ would approach the Israeli-Palestinian conflict today.
Topics covered will include the Palestinian church, religious radicalism, Christian Zionism, Jesus’ teachings amid conflict, the Kingdom of God, peacemaking, and reconciliation. There will also be optional visits to the Bethlehem checkpoint every morning, as well as field trips around Bethlehem, Hebron and East Jerusalem.
On the Christ at the Checkpoint website they state, “Thus theCATC manifesto begins with: ‘The Kingdom of God has come. Evangelicals must reclaim the prophetic role in bringing peace, justice, and reconciliation in Palestine and Israel.’ We invite you to join us in Bethlehem this March to pray, worship, study scripture and seek this Kingdom come together.”
The event, sponsored by theBethlehem Bible College, is really all about blaming Israel and her evangelical supporters for most of the problems in the region. It is about hammering away at the “occupation” by Israel of the Palestinians. Those who criticize Christian support of Israel will get applause and even standing ovations. Theology that stresses Israel’s important role in biblical prophecy will be put down. Replacement Theology, which teaches that the church is the new Israel, will be an underlying theme although the leaders will deny that.
The group will gather frequently at the partition wall that separates Israel from the Palestinian territories to mourn the persecution of the Palestinians whose lives have been interrupted by this “checkpoint.” There will be little explanation that the wall was built to stop the brutal Palestinian terror incursions into Israel to slit the throats of innocent Israeli citizens. Or to plant bombs on buses that have taken scores of Israeli lives.
What you will hear will be empathy for Islamists and rhetoric about pacifism. There will be endless calls for peace at theCATC conferences but no acknowledgment that Israel has negotiated for peace for decades. It’s just that she does not have a peace partner. Her Islamic neighbors want her pushed into the sea. She offered to accept 95% of Yaser Arafat’s demands at Camp David in 2000. He returned to Palestine rejecting the offer and chose more war.
There are certain voices the CATC folks don’t want to hear. One is Kay Wilson, a British born Israeli tour guide. She and a friend were brutally attacked by Palestinian terrorists in 2010. Kay, miraculously survived. Her friend, who was a Christian, did not. She writes in both The Times of Israel and Israel Today that she approached one of the Christ at the Checkpoint organizers about speaking at the 2012 convocation, only to be rebuffed because for the hundreds of other participants, to hear her story was “not what the Lord wants.”
The Israel Today publication states, “This revelation by Kay Wilson, is further evidence of what some in the Israeli Messianic body have been saying all along. The reconciliation most of those involved with Christ at the Checkpoint want involves the Jews, on bended knee, begging for forgiveness for daring to hold fast to God’s promises regarding their inheritance of this land. Any voice that would too strongly challenge that outcome is, apparently, unwelcome.”
Wilson believes that at the CATC, they have little concern for Israel’s innocents, Israel’s murdered, and Israel’s maimed. She wanted to recognize her murdered friend who was a Christian.
Wilson states in The Times of Israel, “The CATC manifesto also states, ‘All forms of violence must be refuted unequivocally.’ However, they have no qualms about inviting violence into their room by giving the platform to the likes of personalities from the PA, that hateful organization which overtly sponsors terrorism. They also have no reservations in inviting Victor Batarseh, the mayor of Bethlehem. Batarseh is a supporter of the savage, Marxist terrorist group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The PFLP’s armed division is the Abu Ali Mustapha Brigades, which has carried out many suicide bombings in Israel, murdering civilians.”
You also will hear little about the masses of Christians who have fled Bethlehem at the CATC event, the host city of this event. It is not the Israelis who have driven them out.
I ask where are the voices at this event of Pastors Naim and Steven Khoury, evangelical Arab pastors in Bethlehem who believe and teach Israel’s rightful inheritance of the land? Naim Khoury has been shot three times and the church bombed fourteen times. Steven Khoury has been beaten bloody on more than one occasion. Following the 2012 Christ at the Checkpoint, the Khoury’s church received various sanctions from the Palestinian Authority that limited their ministry. Was this instigated by the folks running the CATC?
But you will very often hear the voice of Vicar Stephen Sizer at this event. He has a checkered history of troubling associations. He has authored blatant anti-Semitic books.He has even befriended the daughter of the Ayatollah Khoumeni, Zahra Mostafavi. She translated his anti-Christian Zionist book into Farsi.
Like all the conference protagonists, Sizer claims that he is a peaceful Christian activist advocating for justice on behalf of the Palestinians. History has not been kind or fair to the Palestinians he claims. It has not been kind to the Jews, either. It would be nice if the whole CATC crew paid a visit toYad Vashem, the memorial to those who died in the Holocaust. Let’s learn of fairness there.
The film “The Stones Cry Out” will be shown at this year’s CATC. It talks about the “Nakba of 1948.” That’s the “catastrophe” of 1948, or Israel’s re-birth. If this doesn’t reveal the true heart of those behind this event, I do not know what does.
The coordinators of the 2014 Christ at the Checkpoint do not know they have empathy for evil. They are deluded that peace is possible with further Israeli concessions and that the whole political climate would change if evangelicals would get off their pro-Israel soapbox. They will not talk about Palestinian terrorism. It’s “see no evil, speak no evil,” when it comes to that topic. They reflect the essence of what goes haywire when one’s eschatology, or doctrine of the last days, is off base.
And they are winning. More than ever, evangelicals are abandoning Israel for the pro-Palestinian agenda. Call it delusion, deception, or a sign of the times. The fact is it’s the tragic truth. The distortions presented by outfits like Christ at the Checkpoint have been effective.
The CATC group wants Christ’s Kingdom to come. That’s the title and theme of the 2014 event. Yet Christ’s Kingdom will be headquartered in Jerusalem. It will be a very Jewish experience. It will center around the Jewish Messiah. It’s called the Millennium. And while the Palestinians need the Messiah just as much as all people do, they are not God’s Chosen People. The Land of Israel was never promised to any descendents of Ishmael. It was promised to the Jewish people as an everlasting covenant (Genesis 17:7-8). And “Palestine” is hardly the focus of Christ’s Kingdom to come.
The conference is supposedly all about “reconciliation.” True reconciliation between Arab and Jew is likely possible only through the blood of Jesus and praying towards this goal would be wise.
You can change history if you want but you cannot re-write the Bible and get away with it. Outfits like this try to do this with regularity.
The evangelical church needs to stand up, and speak up, and not capitulate. Someone needs to checkmate the Checkpointevent.