There are several ways to look at Israel’s right to exist. Historically, Israel was reborn as a modern nation on May 14, 1948 when Ben Gurion declared statehood at Tel Aviv Independence Hall. This was the result of a November 1947 vote by the United Nations. But there is also the biblical context that cannot be ignored. Israel and the Jewish people are mentioned on almost every page of the Bible. Israel’s boundaries are drawn out by G-d Himself and given to Abraham and his descendants as an eternal and unconditional covenantal promise (Genesis 12:1-3, 7, 17:7-8; 25:5-6, 26:3; 28:3-4; 35:9-15.) Yet, the very existence of Israel–while it depends exclusively on G-d’s promise–is at times put in question by various Evangelical groups. When the BDS movement was started by Mahmoud Abbas about a decade ago, it created a platform for various groups to express their opposition to Israel’s current “occupation” of “Palestinian Land.” The trend continues as BDS still finds supporters across the very wide Evangelical spectrum.
On one hand, there are plenty of Evangelical denominations supporting and loving Israel such as the Southern Baptist Convention, the Calvary Chapel movement, the Assemblies of God and many more. On the other hand, Israel has been treated as a pariah by several mainline Evangelical groups for years. The Presbyterian Church USA (PC(USA)) voted to divest from Motorola, HP and Caterpillar at their last General Assembly in 2014 and they are about to vote further into BDS at their 222nd General Assembly in Portland, OR this June. A resolution has been written that is so biased in favor of the Palestinian narrative that is is hard not to see traces of antisemitism through it all. Statements such as “Hamas has arguably offered long-term truces to Israel in the past, but it also promotes an antagonistic ideology, which mirrors the extremist Israeli settler parties” comparing Hamas’ terrorist violence to Israeli settlers are simply outrageous. Further down in the document, it said that “In solidarity with those who suffer, the General Assembly encourages Presbyterians to read and reflect on documents like Kairos-Palestine that come from our Palestinian brothers and sisters and to support programs like Christ at the Checkpoint (CaTC). Again, the bias for the Palestinian narrative and demonization of Israel in both the Kairos Palestine document and the biennial CaTC conferences is evident. Here we have antisemitism parading as Christian justice in the Middle East. Amongst many contributors from various fields, people like Omar Barghouti and Munther Isaac also contributed to the drafting of this new resolution, adding their bias to the pool.
But even within the PC(USA) denomination, the disdain for Israel isn’t unanimous. Presbyterians for Middle East Peace recently put out a document in defense of Israel. The document titled “Two States for Two People” offers a more balanced hope for peace in the Middle East, even though it is lacking historical accuracy at times. And in all fairness to PC(USA) we must note that the BDS resolution of 2014 was passed by a very narrow margin. It remains to be seen if the 2016 General Assembly will pick up more momentum.
Another denomination that isn’t necessarily known for its support of Israel is the United Methodist Church. Quite possibly the largest mainline Protestant denomination, the United Methodists have been struggling with their support for Israel in an age of social justice and political correctness. They already turned down two divestment proposals in 2012. Like the PC(USA) members, United Methodists are far from unanimous on their support for Israel. Many would rather see BDS being enforced. Yet, they recently suffered a major setback when all four proposed BDS resolutions were turned down at their May 2016 General Conference. It is interesting to note that the vote came just a few days after Hilary Clinton, who belongs to the Methodist denomination, wrote a letter strongly denouncing BDS. But before I get too excited I need to remind myself that we are in an election year!
It is clear that the BDS movement, while still a force to be reckoned with within Evangelicalism, isn’t equally embraced across the whole spectrum of all Christian denominations. A full list of BDS advocates and/or opponents would take too much space here. Suffice it to say that the recent move by the United Methodist Church proves that BDS isn’t a clearly defined victory. It might even be experiencing an early demise as people within Evangelical denominations and even outside of Christian circles are starting to see its one-sidedness towards the Palestinian narrative. This recent vote against BDS by United Methodists and the attempt at a more balanced approach to the Middle East crisis by some within PC(USA) is a breath of fresh air. But for all this to continue from the momentum created by some, more people need to voice their outrage at BDS. As a matter of fact, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s decision to “Boycott BDS” might become a game changer. For those who fight BDS like Cuomo and myself, we realize that the movement is not only bad for Israel and the Jewish people but in most cases it also hurts the very people it claims to be helping like in the recent case of the closing of SodaStream.
People need to grab hold of the biblical truth about Israel’s place in G-d’s plan (without turning a blind eye on any possible injustice committed by Israel towards her neighbors.). But we must also seek factual truth about the Middle East crisis, something that conferences like Christ at the Checkpoint and documents such as Kairos Palestine are not interested in. Unfortunately, since most contemporary Christians do not spend enough time in their Bible, they do not always have the proper arguments to debunk BDS lies. I am convinced that in due time all BDS proponents will suffer the curse of Genesis 12:3. BDS often shows signs of disdain or even hatred for Israel and the Jewish people. It could even be argued that BDS is simply another branch on the tree of antisemitism. I wonder how those who promote BDS and call themselves believers reconcile their actions with Psalm 83?
Psalm 83:3-5 They make shrewd plans against Your people, And conspire together against Your treasured ones. They have said, “Come, and let us wipe them out as a nation, That the name of Israel be remembered no more.” For they have conspired together with one mind; Against You they make a covenant.